Below is a briefing of the environmental and rural issues facing counties and cities in Boys State of Kansas. City councils may use this information as needed to define and understand challenges or to prioritize initiatives for the progress of the county. Each issue does not be addressed, and city councils may decide that a challenge included in the briefing is either not a problem or not one that needs to be prioritized.

Wetlands Between 1955 and 1978, 40% of Kansas Wetlands disappeared. Kansas wetlands provide a unique local biodiversity, and provide refuge for hundreds of thousands of migrating fowl each and every year which provide popular sport for local hunters. Much of Kansas’ remaining wetlands face a perilous future, as demand for water outstrips the Ogallala Aquifer’s ability to replenish itself and leaving remaining wetlands increasingly susceptible  to drought. Drainage of local wetlands can provide more lands for commercial developments including shopping centers, tourism facilities, or agriculture land.  Furthermore, drainage and runoff from fertilized crops and pesticides introduce  nitrogen and phosphorous nutrients, or toxins like mercury into water sources can threaten the health and reproduction of local and migratory species, posing a serious threat to biological diversity.  Invasive species can further threaten local flora and fauna upsetting delicate ecosystems. Dams and Dikes designed to divert flooding or for use as a municipal water supply by their very intention impact the natural flow of water, can further impact such areas.

Earthquakes and the Oil Industry After several large earthquakes in Oklahoma, some of which were felt in southern Kansas counties, residents have let the city councils and county commissions know that they are worried about large earthquakes happening in Kansas, perhaps, even in this very city. After researching and consulting with a local geologist, your council has learned that the process of re-injection of the waste fluid from hydraulic fracturing (fracking) activities can cause, and is hypothesized to be the main cause of these earthquakes. The oil companies have heard that you received some complaints from residents about earthquakes related to oil activities. They are worried that their business will be hurt by potential action the commission might take.  At a joint meeting of the previous County Commissions of both Eisenhower and Pershing, Industry Representatives were in attendance.  While they didn’t acknowledge waste water injection is a cause of earthquakes in the region, they did suggest that if action is taken to regulate the oil drilling industry, that their bottom line is affected, “Needless regulation of our industry hurts us and hurts your county’s economy potential.” Nevertheless, earthquakes pose a potential threat to local infrastructure, though it may be a minor problem for the time being.  Some have argued that increased construction regulations are needed, however business leaders in the state have argued that such regulations can make the construction of new facilities cost prohibitive and an unnecessary burden.

Aquifer Usage Beneath Kansas is a large aquifer system call the High Plains Aquifer (sometimes called the Ogallala Aquifer) that stretches from Colorado to Kansas and Nebraska to Texas. This aquifer holds groundwater, clean water that is used for drinking, bathing, cooking, and other civil uses as well as for a very important industry in much of Boys State, agriculture. Irrigation circles, circular areas where water is pumped from the ground into a sprinkler which then waters the crops, depend on groundwater and are very prevalent throughout Kansas. Aquifers are much like water tanks; they only hold so much and they have to be recharged. When recharge is greater than extraction, there is a net increase. When recharge is less than extraction, there is a net decrease. Crops need water, but certain crops need more water than others (eg. corn vs soybeans).  Furthermore, the water needs of much of Kansas depend on the continued existence of the Ogallala Aquifer thus pitting long term viability and short term necessity against one another.

Task: Determine those issues that appear significant to your city and develop actionable experiments to address those challenges. Monitor the progress of these experiments to decide if further action needs to be taken. Experiments may take the form of city ordinances, collaboration between counties and cities on joint measures, or any other measure developed by the county commission.