Kansas City Star. October 9, 2022.
Editorial: Think running out of water is just a California problem? Talk to a Kansas cattle farmer
Nathan Kells and his family have farmed in southwestern Haskell County, Kansas, since 1885. He runs a full service heifer ranch, growing crops to feed the animals.
The ground is dry. Very dry. Haskell County, a three-hour drive west of Wichita, now faces an “exceptional” drought, which is the highest category of dry. “Wildfires and large dust storms occur” when it’s this dry, the National Weather Service warns.
“It’s very taxing on you, emotionally,” Kells said. “Not to speak of financially. We do what we can.”
The water crisis would be terrible were it just limited to Haskell County. It is not. On Sept. 27, more than half of all of Kansas faced “extreme” or “exceptional” drought, conditions that prompt water restrictions and, on occasion, the need for emergency water supplies.
Kansas is drier on a percentage basis than California, which is in the middle of what some scientists believe is a megadrought, a climate-shifting calamity that may change the region for decades.
Kansas has known about its water problems for many years. It has a water office and a water authority. It just updated the Kansas water plan.
The Kansas House has a water committee. Last year, a bill to increase water oversight in the state failed to get a vote. Western Kansas farmers — Kells among them — would prefer to settle water problems themselves.
“Keep government out of it, and let us deal with the free market, and it will sort itself out,” Kells said.
OGALLALA AQUIFER TO THE WEST CONTINUES DECLINE
Yet cracking ground and empty river beds suggest the state must bring more urgency and focus to drought concerns. Water oversight must be among the state’s top priorities in the 2023 session, and in the years to come.
That’s true in western Kansas, where the ancient Ogallala Aquifer continues to decline, threatening farms and homes alike. But it’s also true in our region, despite the current abundance of water from the Kansas and Missouri rivers.
WaterOne, the public utility that serves Johnson County, says it is committed “to protecting our source waters, the Kansas and Missouri Rivers, to ensure safe, delicious tap water in Johnson County for generations to come.”
Yet the district’s website also says the area has “plentiful water sources and customers are free to use what they need.” Climate change, and the potential of a megadrought, may change that calculation.
That could mean more emphasis on so-called “greywater” use in urban areas, where water used for showers and laundry is cleaned and reused for landscaping. It might mean reduced residential irrigation and yards that need less water.
It could mean collecting rain in barrels for flower gardens. It will also mean taking great care of the Kansas and Missouri river basins, which are already stressed by dredging and overuse.
The flood stage for the Kansas River in Kansas City, Kansas, is roughly 32 feet. Recently, the river stood at just 9 feet. While the river always drops in the fall, less water is worrisome.
Nebraska’s Platte River is dry in some places, which is a warning sign. “We all need to do our part to conserve,” Kells said. “Whether that’s a city lawn, or city water, or ag use.”
Let’s state the obvious: The government can’t make it rain. While it can and should make efforts to mitigate climate change, it’s far too late to completely prevent the localized droughts (and downpours and hurricanes) that a changing climate will bring.
The government must accelerate efforts to convince the public of the seriousness of the problem. It must consider use restrictions and aggressive oversight of water administration. It must act as if the water crisis is real.
Everyone will have to approach a hotter, drier region with focus and attention to detail. We may think that California-like rationing and water depletion is far away, and not relevant. Nathan Kells and his fellow farmers would like a word.
They have seen the future, and it is us.
Topeka Capital-Journal. October 7, 2022.
Editorial: Kansas needs to be family-friendly and worker-focused to attract prospective employees
For years, Kansas has struggled with rural flight, population decline, its college graduates moving to other states after earning a degree and job offerings to stay competitive with our neighboring states.
We seem to be making a turnaround.
“We know that a lot of people have left Kansas in the past. They graduate and they go to Dallas (when they) graduate, they go to Denver,” Commerce Secretary David Toland said last month. “We’re going to target those folks and try and make the case for why they should come back to Kansas, because we have the economic opportunities now that we might not have had when they left the state.”
The Topeka Capital-Journal’s Andrew Bahl reports Kansas is projected to add 99,395 jobs over the next decade, a 6.9% increase, according to Kansas Department of Labor data. Additionally, unemployment remains at a record low.
Factoring in the Panasonic electric battery plant to De Soto at the former Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant will add an additional 4,000 jobs, things are looking positive.
Bahl reports Kansas is projected to add 99,395 jobs over the next decade, a 6.9% increase, according to Kansas Department of Labor data. But manufacturing transportation equipment is expected to grow at a faster rate, over 13.8%. Many of those jobs appear to be linked to Panasonic.
Maybe we’ll get some of those former Kansans back. Which would make sense especially if they still have ties to the area. But with that growth comes more need for the state to double its efforts to make Kansas business-friendly.
But let’s take that one step further, let’s make sure the Sunflower State is worker-friendly and family-friendly. Let’s double-down on making Kansas a destination to not only work but also live. We know Kansas already has wonderful things to offer, but let’s sweeten the pot.
The state needs to invest in infrastructures for familial needs as we embark on this megaproject. We need more affordable housing, good schools, good roads, and, of course, lower taxes.
Why wait to fully reduce sales tax on food until 2025? Let’s do it now. Lowering the tax not only eases the burden on our state’s current population, but it will make the state more enticing to attract future members of our workforce, economy and community.
This should be common sense, but let’s spell it out just for good measure. If we can make Kansas a desirable spot to start or raise a family, people will come. Think field of dreams, but on a bigger scale, a Sunflower State of dreams.
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