Water leaders from across the western United States convened in Manhattan this week for the fall meetings of the Western States Water Council. During the 3.5 days of meetings, the organization, which consists of leaders from state government, federal government representatives, and industry, held policy-related business meetings and educational sessions. The group also had the opportunity to tour Kansas’ largest lake, Milford Reservoir.
Established in 1965, the WSWC seeks to provide a platform for cooperation among western states on water-related issues and analysis of state and federal laws and regulations while maintaining individual state priorities.
“Conserving water resources and providing water users across Kansas with innovative water development and management tools is a top priority. But water issues do not stop at our state’s borders, and participation in groups like the WSWC allows us to better cooperate with our partners in the western United States,” said Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Jackie McClaskey. “As federal laws and regulations become more complex, and sometimes overly burdensome, and as demands increase on water supplies, it is important to understand the challenges our neighboring states may face and also find areas of common agreement where we can work together.”
A significant portion of the fall meeting was spent developing a better understanding of the nexus between water quality and water quantity issues. Kansas Water Office Director Tracy Streeter said as Kansas and our partners throughout the western United States advance conservation, management and development priorities for water resources, focus must be put on water quality as well as water quantity. Pointing to specific policy initiatives and water project initiatives, Streeter highlighted how Kansas works to balance the issues.
“Reduction of sediment and nutrient runoff into our reservoirs is the cornerstone of our efforts to protect our water supply storage and reduce the occurrence of harmful blue-green algae outbreaks,” said Streeter. “There are many strategies in the Water Vision to address sediment such as increasing stream bank stabilization, riparian area restoration and encouraging filter strips above the reservoirs to reduce the sediment and nutrient impacts.”
On Wednesday, Oct. 7, the WSWC group traveled to the Milford Reservoir, which provides water resources for flood control, navigation, recreation and fish and wildlife. The reservoir also provides water supply to communities and industry in northeast Kansas. Like other Kansas reservoirs, Milford Reservoir has lost capacity due to sedimentation, which has had a compounding effect of increased outbreaks of harmful algae blooms. The group also toured the Milford Fish Hatchery, one of only a few warm water, intensive-culture fish hatcheries in the country.
During subcommittee meetings, WSWC members heard from federal officials, including Shaun McGrath, Environmental Protection Agency Region 8 administrator. Administrator McGrath will provide an update on EPA issues during the final day of the WSWC meeting, but EPA’s Waters of the United States Rule, including discussions related to the multiple lawsuits filed over the rule as well as implementation guidelines, was a topic during multiple subcommittee meetings. In addition to the EPA, representatives from agencies within the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of the Interior provided updates on issues ranging from drought response, the Endangered Species Act, water transfers, tribal water rights and more.
For more information about the WSWC, visit http://www.westernstateswater.org/.