HAYS, Kan. (KNS) – Two northwest Kansas towns are one step closer to securing the water they need for their long-term survival. A plan for Hays and Russell to build a 70-mile water pipeline from a ranch three counties away has passed a major hurdle.
Without the pipeline, officials in the two cities say, they face the possibility of running out of water over the next century.
A district court has ruled, after decades of legal wrangling, that the plan can move forward. It’s a preview of what other western Kansas towns might have to do to survive as drought and aquifer depletion put municipal water sources at risk.
Attorney John T. Bird led the Hays legal team. He says the impact of this decision on the future of life in northwest Kansas can’t be overstated. “It is one of the most important decisions by a court about water in the state of Kansas in the last 50 years” Bird says.
City leaders promoting the project say securing a long-term water source is a matter of survival for Hays, which is the largest town and commercial center for northwest Kansas. Attorneys say it could take 3-5 years to get the remaining legal approvals and complete the pipeline.