WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — As Kansas continues to fight the drought, there has been concern about the future of water in Kansas. This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded Kansas $25 million to help.

High Plains Aquifer map with Kansas pull out
Click the map for a larger image of the High Plains Aquifer (Courtesy U.S. Geological Survey)

The money will help preserve and conserve the High Plains Aquifer, “the largest, most economically important groundwater source in Kansas.”

The aquifer runs through eight states and supplies 70% to 80% of the water used by Kansans each day. Scientists say water levels have steadily declined, and the area faces several critical water-related issues.

The Kansas Department of Agriculture says the money will go to the Kansas High Plains Aquifer project. It will work with farmers and ranchers to reduce water use through conservation practices, like irrigation water management, cover crops, reduced tillage, and nutrient management.

Kansas Groundwater Management Districts map
Click the map for a larger image. (Courtesy Kansas Department of Agriculture)

The goal is to reduce water use in the five Kansas Groundwater Management Districts by 10%.

“This five-year project, built on a collaborative effort by KDA’s Division of Conservation, the Kansas Water Office, local groundwater management districts, non-governmental conservation groups, private landowners and irrigators, and others, will help implement increased conservation and water efficient practices across the High Plains Aquifer of Kansas,” KDA Secretary Mike Beam said in a news release. “I’m confident this voluntary incentive-based initiative will be a successful project.”

“Kansas farmers drive our state’s economic success, and water quality and quantity are a key part of that,” Governor Laura Kelly said. “This funding will accelerate our work to help more producers voluntarily implement practices that ensure Kansans have access to sustainable, reliable water sources for generations to come.”

The USDA money comes from its Natural Resources Conservation Service as part of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program. In all, the USDA awarded $1.7 billion to projects across the country.

Another one of the award winners has a project that will affect Kansas. The USDA awarded Ducks Unlimited $10 million for the Kansas-Nebraska Wetland Initiative. The goal of the project is to create, restore and protect wetland and riparian barriers. It will tackle inadequate habitat for fish and other wildlife, degraded plant conditions, and flood and drought areas.