Finding Relevance for Playa Conservation in Kansas

For years, PLJV has been looking for ways to make playa conservation relevant to the people who own or manage these temporary wetlands. Most playas are on private land and are often inconveniently located in the middle of farmland. So, there are many factors that go into the decision of what to do with a playa. Economics is a big consideration for producers, but so is water — having a sustainable source of water for families and communities. And that is how playa conservation becomes relevant.

“Both landowners and communities have told us there is no greater conservation challenge than that of the declining Ogallala Aquifer,” says PLJV Coordinator Mike Carter. “They also express this challenge is where they would like to see the most progress made relative to our playa conservation work.”

Playas are a primary source of groundwater recharge and can be an important part of a sustainable approach to securing water for rural communities who depend on pumping water from the Ogallala aquifer. Throughout the region, aquifer levels are decreasing, and many communities are experiencing declining availability of groundwater. In Kansas, there are a number of small towns that are at risk for continuing groundwater loss, which means their future water supply may be limited. Many of these towns are searching for solutions to continue providing abundant and clean water for residents including drilling more and deeper wells — just to provide the same amount of water.

This past year, PLJV and other conservation partners in Kansas have been meeting with community leaders and producers in Wichita and Greeley counties, learning about their water challenges and talking about how playas can be part of the solution.

“Every day, Kansans are facing water challenges on nearly every front, but many communities and producers don’t fully understand how playas can be part of a sustainable water solution,” Carter explains. “Further, many are unaware of programs and funding opportunities to support their efforts and need help in accessing these programs. We are helping these communities prepare for a sustainable water future by cooperatively working to restore playas as part of their community water plan.”

From the Joint Venture’s perspective, this work is the most rewarding and socially relevant work we have ever pursued. In addition to supporting producers and local communities, we are also executing our wildlife goals which will further benefit society. So we don’t use the phrase lightly when we say this effort is a win-win for producers, towns and wildlife.

Posted: October 13, 2019