Good morning. I want to echo Connie in welcoming you all to the 11th Governor’s Water Conference.
The future of water in Kansas is an issue that affects everyone.
We have all felt the effects of this year’s extreme drought—the second one we’ve faced in 10 years. A few years ago, we were dealing with catastrophic flooding.
Unfortunately, we have every reason to believe that these extreme weather events aren’t going away any time soon. In all likelihood, they will only become more frequent and more severe.
But we didn’t need this year’s drought to remind us that the state’s shrinking water supply is a problem. The fact that we’ve devoted an entire conference to water issues across our state for more than a decade speaks volumes.
The challenges we face are not just related to water quantity but quality as well. Current water usage levels are not only depleting our water supply at unsustainable rates but also putting the remaining water at risk of contamination. That’s especially true in our rural areas.
We may disagree on the best way to address these issues, but we have a responsibility to do something.
Waiting for a miracle is not an option.
For decades, politicians have kicked the can down the road, talking in circles about the necessity of solving water problems but not actually putting in the hard work to find a sustainable solution. That passivity has contributed to the urgency of the crisis we’re facing today.
I’m grateful to the people of Kansas for electing me to a second term, and I give you my word that protecting our water supply will remain a top priority in Topeka over the next four years. I refuse to allow the can to be kicked down the road any farther.
Here’s why: I’m proud of the economic growth we’ve achieved since I’ve been in office, with historic levels of capital investment, record-low unemployment, and thousands of new jobs created and retained.
But if we want to continue that record-breaking economic growth, we need an adequate water supply.
The Ogallala Aquifer is one of our most precious resources, and preserving it is crucial for the sake of future generations in communities across Kansas, not to mention the agriculture industry that forms the backbone of our state economy.
I am determined to build on the progress my administration has made thus far in protecting our water.
In my first term, we updated the State Water Plan for the first time since 2009 and fully funded it for the first time in 15 years. Over the next couple of days, you’ll hear a lot about the far-reaching benefits of that investment.
This was a bipartisan effort. People on both sides of the aisle came together because they knew the importance of securing a reliable water supply for residents and businesses across Kansas for years to come.
To address water quality problems, we’ve spearheaded projects like a water injection dredging demonstration project to remove accumulated sediment at Tuttle Creek Lake, which serves more than 800,000 people across Kansas.
We’ve come a long way, but we have more to do. The good news is we have all the tools at our disposal to make more progress.
We’ve generated more than $70 million to expand broadband throughout the state so that we can take advantage of innovative irrigation technology that reduces water consumption.
In Western Kansas, we have had tremendous success with Local Enhanced Management Areas, or LEMAs, where farmers volunteer to use tools that reduce water consumption without impacting their bottom line.
We will continue to partner with agriculture producers who choose to improve their production practices through our successful irrigation technology program and other voluntary conservation programs.
The other good news is that there is a lot of federal funding available to help us. We will take advantage of opportunities provided by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to make further investments in water programs so that communities across the state can update outdated water and wastewater treatment facilities.
I am also committed to bringing together all stakeholders – including water advocates, residents, and public and private sector representatives – to discuss our state’s future. We will take a proactive, all-hands-on-deck approach to achieve our shared goal of ensuring a sustainable, clean water supply for generations to come.
I assure you that all voices will have a seat at the table as we determine a solution that benefits every corner of our state. Together, we will create a brighter future for Kansas.
Thank you, and I look forward to an engaging and productive conference.