Governor’s new adviser on Kansas water crisis working to influence policy talks

Vijay Ramasamy joins the Kansas Reflector podcast.

By: - November 20, 2023 9:17 am
Vijay Ramasamy appears for a Nov. 7, 2023, recording of the Kansas Reflector podcas

Vijay Ramasamy appears for a Nov. 7, 2023, recording of the Kansas Reflector podcast. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Hiring a dedicated staff member to advise Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly on water is a move meant to bring the often-siloed issue front and center, said Vijay Ramasamy, who started the job this fall.

“My job is to make water central to a lot of our conversations,” Ramasamy said on the Kansas Reflector podcast.

Ramasamy, who worked for Kelly previously on energy and environmental issues, was announced as the governor’s new special adviser on water in October. A few weeks later, Kelly announced she would create a water “subcabinet” to coordinate across the numerous state agencies with authority over water.

The idea, Ramasamy said, is to have someone in the governor’s office “at a high level that’s thinking about water on a consistent basis.”

“So when we have economic development conversations, we’re thinking about water,” he said. “When we’re having policy conversations or legislative conversations, we’re thinking about water. When we’re thinking about agricultural conversations, we’re thinking about water.” 

Water — both its availability and quality — are pressing concerns for Kansas. The Ogallala Aquifer, the primary source of water for western Kansas, is running out. A months-long drought has pushed farmers and communities to the brink. Kelly has repeatedly stressed the importance of stabilizing Kansas’ water supply for future generations.

“This new role reaffirms my commitment to preserving our remaining water supply that has powered our farming economy for decades,” Kelly said in a news release announcing Ramasamy’s hiring.

To start, Ramasamy said he’s focused on three issues: coordinating across agencies, spending the influx of federal and state funds the state has for water projects and identifying and knocking down barriers to conserving water.

Ramasamy has plans to tour the groundwater management districts established decades ago to conserve the Ogallala Aquifer and find ways for the governor’s office to offer support, whether it’s funding for water-efficient technology, alleviating market pressures or engaging with the federal government on crop insurance.

“How do we play that role as our state, as the governor’s office in really empowering those local solutions?” Ramasamy said. 

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Allison Kite
Allison Kite

Allison Kite is a data reporter for The Missouri Independent and Kansas Reflector, with a focus on the environment and agriculture. A graduate of the University of Kansas, she’s covered state government in both Topeka and Jefferson City, and most recently was City Hall reporter for The Kansas City Star.