Chief Engineer Approves Plan for Water Conservation in Wichita County

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The Kansas Department of Agriculture’s Division of Water Resources has announced that Earl Lewis, chief engineer, signed an order approving the Local Enhanced Management Area (LEMA) plan for all of the area in Wichita County lying within the boundaries of Western Kansas Groundwater Management District No. 1 (GMD 1). The LEMA was signed on December 30, 2020, and will be effective for a five-year period beginning January 1, 2021.

The LEMA plan was proposed by the GMD 1 board of directors in March 2020, and calls for reductions in water use in specified areas of Wichita County in GMD 1.

Details in the plan were set to meet the goal of extending the usable life of the Ogallala Aquifer for the long-term benefit of the area, by addressing excessive water level declines and withdrawal rates exceeding recharge rates. The plan was approved by the chief engineer following an extended hearing process.

A LEMA is a tool that allows GMDs to set goals and control measures to aid in water conservation, at the approval of the chief engineer. One of the guiding principles of the state’s Water Vision is that locally driven solutions have the highest opportunity for long-term success, and LEMAs were created to give local stakeholders a tool to act on their shared commitment to ensure a reliable water supply.

The Wichita County LEMA will be the third LEMA in Kansas, and was motivated by local users’ desire to conserve water and ensure continued economic viability of the region. This LEMA follows the notable successes achieved by the LEMA plans in northwest Kansas. Results from the state’s other two LEMAs show that the reduction in water use slowed the rate of groundwater level decline and extended the life of the aquifer with little to no economic harm caused by the reduction during the same period.

For more information about the Wichita County LEMA approval process, go to the KDA–DWR web page at agriculture.ks.gov/WHCL. For specific questions about the Wichita County LEMA, call the GMD 1 office at 620-872-5563.

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