Letter to the Editor

Opponents propose 'cure by death'

Friday, December 28, 2007



Some believe that groundwater pumping has caused there to be much less water in the stream now than there was decades ago ("Response to Smith," http://www.mccookgazette.com/story/1299676.html).

We have proven that conservation is the primary reason that there is less water in the stream. Millions of acres with two foot high dams designed to keep water on the field and away from the stream actually do what they were designed to do. And, there are also hundreds of thousands of acres with minimum or no till practices, which help capture more water on the field. Even so, some prefer to believe that groundwater pumping is the cause

Mr. Cappel has written and spoken many times regarding irrigation. He is convinced that if there is less groundwater irrigation in the Upper Republican NRD, to the west of his property, he would have more water that he could take out of the stream for his fields.

For argument's sake, let's work on the premise that groundwater pumping is the only or primary cause of less water in the stream. Look at the official computer simulation, which ignores conservation, that governs the Basin and that has been reviewed and accepted by the three States, the US Supreme Court and some of the best hydrologists in the Country. The simulation says we could shut off all irrigation wells and it would be generations before the stream flowed like it used to. We would have to leave the wells off for at least five years before the stream flowed enough to meet even the much lesser requirements of satisfying Kansas. It isn't me or WaterClaim saying that. It is the professional hydrologists, the water agencies, and the Courts.

WaterClaim doesn't think it makes a lot of sense to shut off the wells. It is like curing the problem by killing the patient. How long do you think your job would survive if you shut off electricity to the region for five years? The economy will not survive what Mr. Cappel suggests as a cure, even if he were correct as to the cause.

WaterClaim agrees that a declining aquifer is a problem. Yet, it is a different problem than satisfying Kansas. However, instead of stopping the decline by asking 50 percent of the people in the area to find a new job, we think the best solution is to put water back into the aquifer. That is being done in many places around the nation. It is possible here as well. We describe what we consider to be an economical way of doing that on our website (www.waterclaim.org).

Surface irrigation represents about 7 percent of all irrigated acres in the Nebraska part of the Basin. Does it make any sense to permanently shut off a large portion of the other 93 percent so that the 7 percent can have cheap water? WaterClaim thinks it makes a lot more sense to pay the surface irrigators twice the market value of their water and use that water in dry years to satisfy Kansas. That way, the economy of the region survives and even grows. At the same time, we believe that we need to stop the decline in the aquifer. We think the best way to do that is by bringing water here and growing the economy, rather than shutting things down and seeing a lot of people move away.

If Mr. Cappel and friends or the State of Kansas get what they are asking for, then we will have a very different economy and a lot fewer people living here than we do now.

-- Smith is executive director of the WaterClaim advocacy group.

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