Committee examines water resources of Northeast Kansas

Carl Johnson remembers growing up with the notion that the Ogallala Aquifer, that massive and farm-nourishing underground reservoir beneath western Kansas, would last into eternity.

As an adult, he understands that drought and overuse of the water source have now made this an improbability. The chair of the Missouri Regional Advisory Committee of the Kansas Water Office has become forward-looking when thinking about resources in his state.

“We want to be sure the same thing doesn’t happen in the Northeast Kansas region of the Missouri River, that all at once our groundwater is gone or that our groundwater is becoming polluted,” he said.

Johnson made the comment Thursday at a committee meeting in Atchison. The group voted to recommend that the Kansas Water Office move forward with Phase II of a groundwater study in the region.

The region consists of 1,466 square miles in all or parts of Atchison, Brown, Doniphan, Leavenworth, Marshall, Nemaha and Wyandotte counties. The committee, one of 14 such advisory groups in Kansas, gets its name because waters of this region drain into the Missouri River.

Dr. Andrea Brookfield, a hydrologist with the Kansas Geological Survey, advised the committee that the Phase II cost, a five-year water quality and quantity study, would run between roughly $88,000 and $121,000.

The difference in estimates derives from the committee’s desire, and available funding, for technology to allow for real-time data availability as opposed to a less frequent collection.

“We want to make sure that you’ve got the most robust interpretation of this data that’s possible,” Brookfield said.

Johnson said he believed the information to be gathered will be useful in carrying out Gov. Sam Brownback’s 50-year vision for water in the state.

“We need to have a good baseline of what we do have available here and what the quality of our water is so that we can make good plans into the future,” the Leavenworth resident said.

(Read more: Hiawatha World Online)