Protect the Ogallala Aquifer


Target: Jan King, General Manager of the Western Kansas Groundwater Management District

Goal: Applaud efforts to preserve groundwater in Kansas and encourage further conservation plan proposals

The Ogallala Aquifer, one of the largest aquifers in the world and the primary water supply for America’s Great Plains region, is shrinking rapidly. In June 2014, five counties in Western Kansas rejected a set of rules proposed to help conserve this finite resource. Although the measure was voted down, policy makers of the Western Kansas Groundwater Management District (GMD) remain optimistic, committed to reworking the conservation plan and facilitating its success.

Water conservation is an urgent matter in the Great Plains. The Ogallala Aquifer currently provides 30% of the groundwater used for irrigation in the United States and sustains the $30 billion agriculture and livestock industry in its region. Its supply is dwindling, however: far more water is pumped out each year than filters back into the ground. The aquifer formed through slow geological shifts over millions of years and does not simply fill up again after a season’s rainfall. Certain areas of the Ogallala are already empty and could take up to 6,000 years to replenish, and in many others, including western Kansas, only a couple of decades worth of water remain. Thus, immediate action to conserve this resource is of the utmost importance.

The measure in western Kansas was an attempt to implement a “water diet” for the district, as directed by a 2012 conservation law signed by Governor Sam Brownback. The law encourages water regulation by allowing each district to set its own conservation plan, which is then enforced by the state when it passes. Western Kansas’ proposed plan would have reduced water use by farmers in the district by twenty percent. Research supports such action, showing that restrictions are necessary in order to maintain farming production over the next century. Without appropriate conservation of the Ogallala, agriculture across the Great Plains will eventually fail. Kansas is currently developing a groundwater model to outline the local benefits of conservation for the public, which is likely to help farmers be more receptive to a future proposal.

Jan King, the general manager of the Western Kansas GMD, was disappointed by the measure’s failure in June, but she and others in the district remain determined to work until an effective conservation plan is agreed upon. “I’ve got a lot of faith in our water users,” said Lane Letourneau of the Kansas Division of Water Resources. “In this process, they learned a lot about their aquifer. I think if the district comes back with another proposal, it will be better received.”

Sign the petition below to support continuing efforts to conserve the Ogallala Aquifer. Stand by the Western Kansas GMD in its mission to pass a successful conservation measure in order to preserve groundwater resources and move towards more sustainable agricultural practices.


Dear Ms. King,

I am writing to applaud the Western Kansas Groundwater Management District’s continuing efforts to develop a successful water conservation plan. The Ogallala Aquifer is a resource of tremendous importance that we cannot afford to lose. Clearly, current rates of groundwater use in Kansas are unsustainable and, if left unchanged, will have severe consequences on the water supply and the future of agriculture in the region.

I commend your positivity and commitment to implementing a conservation plan even after the latest measure in the district was voted down. Thank you for your determination and willingness to pursue a solution to this important matter. It is my sincere hope that your next proposal meets with success so that western Kansas can take a significant step in preserving precious water resources for the future.


[Your Name Here]

Image Credit: Ogallala Changes via Wikimedia Commons

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