The second annual Governor’s Conference; The Future of Water in Kansas took place in Manhattan Kansas at the end of October. The Conference drew over 500 participants from across the state including several state officials and agricultural producers as well as numerous vendors and exhibitors. The conference itself centered around water usage in the state of Kansas, and what we may be able to expect in coming years. Three main speakers took the stage including author Charles Fishman, who has written books such as the “Wal-Mart Effect” and “The Big Thirst.” In addition, The Southern Nevada Water Authority ‘s Director Pat Mulroy, was also in attendance discussing the severe water shortages Nevada has experienced in recent years. She also touched on the ways in which the authority has dealt with and solved resource issues such as municipal water supply security, and implemented water use reduction policies. The final speaker was Dr. James Stack, who is currently serving as the Director of The Great Plains Diagnostic Network while continuing his work as a Professor for Kansas State University in Plant Pathology. Dr. Stack is responsible for coordinating a 9-state project, enhancing the rapid detection and diagnosis of high consequence plant pathogens and pests. All three speakers provided tremendous insight on relevant water issues.
The two day conference also included several breakout sessions, providing wonderful opportunities for individuals from across the state to update one another on current events happening in different regions. A topic which was touched on several times throughout the conference was the concept of Local Enhanced Management or the LEMA law, and how this tool could now be used in the effort of prolonging the life of the Ogallala Aquifer. Throughout the presentations, breakout sessions and guest lectures, one thing became even more apparent to the audience, that the State of Kansas as a whole has only become increasingly concerned with the future of the state’s water resources. During the Governor’s opening speech on Thursday morning, he called for the development of a 50 year water plan for Kansas to be completed by November 2014. In this plan, he hopes to see several ways in which each region of the state will address future water resource concerns and present issues, as well as to set goals indicating what the state of Kansas would like to see for their future. With such a great task at hand the Kansas Water Office indicated that they would immediately begin working with several state agencies and focus committees as well as the state’s five Groundwater Management Districts in order to accomplish this undertaking. In all, the 2013 Governor’s Conference provided an incredible opportunity for ideas and research to be shared, making it clearer than ever that this precious water resource will remain to be one of the most important issues of our lifetime.