Categories
GMD Groundwater Ogallala

GMD4 LEMAs Renewed; KWA’s New Ogallala Policy

Catching up on news from the last quarter of 2022, this issue highlights the renewal of both Local Enhanced Management Areas (LEMAs) of Northwest Kansas Groundwater Management District (GMD) No. 4 and the action of the Kansas Water Authority (KWA) in December to adopt a new policy recommendation on the Ogallala. 

The Sheridan 6 and the GMD4 Local Enhanced Management Areas (LEMAs) both renewed for 2023-2027

2022 was a big year for LEMAs.  In addition to Western Kansas GMD 1 proposing its new Four County LEMA, Northwest Kansas GMD No. 4 (GMD4) had renewal hearings for both its existing LEMAs.

The renewal hearings for GMD4’s two LEMAs were held on July 26 and 27, 2022.  Both LEMAs were proposed to continue on largely the same terms as they current exist for an additional five years. The orders, testimony, and related materials for these proceedings can be accessed via the first link above. 

On October 14, 2022, the Chief Engineer issued his order of Decision and Designation for the Sheridan 6 LEMA, approving GMD4’s Management Plan for the LEMA, keeping it in place for another five years, from January 1, 2023, through December 31, 2027. The Sheridan 6 LEMA covers about 100 square miles of Sheridan County and a small part of adjoining Thomas County.  In short, irrigation lands will again be allocated 55 inches per irrigated acre for the coming 5 years. For more: See DWR’s link above and/or GMD4’s web page for the Sheridan LEMA at http://gmd4.org/SD6.html

Similarly, on November 22, 2022, the Chief Engineer issued an Order of Decision and Designation approving the GMD4’s Management Plan for the GMD4 (District-wide) LEMA, keeping it in place for another five years, from January 1, 2023, through December 31, 2027.  The GMD4 LEMA covers the entire GMD4 except for areas of stable water levels, generally on the fringe of the district. Allocations vary according to the rate of groundwater declines in the township, with more restrictive allocations in areas of greater decline. For more see DWR’s link above and/or GMD4’s web page on the GMD4 LEMA at http://gmd4.org/LEMA.html

GMD4's LEMA

Kansas Water Authority passes new policy recommendation related to the Ogallala Aquifer

On Wednesday, December 14, 2022, the Kansas Water Authority, at its regular meeting in Colby, passed a new policy recommendation to the Governor and Legislature related to the management of the Ogallala Aquifer. Specifically, it advises the following related to depletions in the Ogallala Aquifer:

1. The policy of planned depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer is no longer in the best interest of the State of Kansas.

2. A formal collaborative process is needed to establish data-driven goals, metrics, and actions to halt the decline of the Ogallala Aquifer while promoting flexible and innovative management within a timeframe that achieves agricultural productivity, thriving economies, and vibrant communities – now and for future generations of Kansans.

3. The collaborative process should engage state agencies, regional advisory committees, local stakeholders, groundwater management districts, and the Kansas Water Authority.

Kansas Water Authority passes new policy recommendation related to the Ogallala Aquifer

For more, see the following media stories:

See also the KWA’s annual report to the Governor and Legislature at: https://kwo.ks.gov/docs/default-source/kansas-water-authority-page/annual-report-2023-final_010523.pdf?sfvrsn=7e7c8e14_2

The Kansas Geological Survey’s High Plains Aquifer Atlas is an excellent source of information on the Ogallala-High Plains aquifer: https://www.kgs.ku.edu/HighPlains/HPA_Atlas/index.html.

Finally, for more, see my presentation to the House Committee of Water on groundwater management: https://kwrconsulting.com/legislature/house-committee-on-water-briefed-on-dwr-duties/

Categories
Legislature Ogallala

House Committee on Water Briefed on DWR Duties and Groundwater Management

This issue overviews the past week’s hearings of House Committee on Water (HCOW), what is coming this week, and announces a new KWRC page for Kansas water news stories in the media. Thursday’s (1/12) HCOW hearing featured former Kansas Chief Engineer David Barfield providing an overview of the responsibilities of the state’s Division of Water Resources and the state’s actions to address declines in the Ogallala Aquifer.

Kansas legislature on groundwater management hearing

House Committee on Water: last week’s hearing and the week ahead

The HCOW met on Tuesday, 1/10/2023, for introductions and discussion of committee rules. 

At the Chairman’s invitation, I addressed the committee for its Thursday hearing (1/12/2023). My topics included overviews of the responsibilities of the Division of Water Resources and its Chief Engineer, the Kansas Water Appropriation Act, the State’s Groundwater Management District Act, the status of the Ogallala Aquifer, actions to reduce groundwater declines (LEMAs, WCAs), and overviewing last session’s Mega-Water Bill (HB 2686). 

Link to a video of my 90 minutes presentation to the committee: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcWxCAbHRkA.  

My PowerPoint available on HCOW page at: http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2023_24/committees/ctte_h_water_1/documents/?date_choice=2023-01-12.

As the presentation, with Committee questions, is 90 minutes long, here is an outline of timestamps and topics:

  • 0:00 to 0:40 – Chair opens committee, one bill introduction.
  • 0:40-4:25 – My introduction (a bit about myself; overview of the presentation). 
  • 4:25-6:55 – Kansas water: essential, limited, variable.
  • 6:55-9:50 – Water agencies and coordination. 
  • 9:50-21:45 – Duties of DWR and its Chief Engineer; brief interstate overview; Kansas Water Appropriation Act (KWAA, 1945); subsequent water development, Kansas use of water, resulting reductions in streamflow and groundwater depletion; amendments of the KWAA and other related acts. 
  • 21:45-34:05 – Groundwater management: the 1972 GMD Act and 1978 amendments to the KWAA and GMD Act; IGUCAs; GMD accomplishments (prior to 2012).  
  • 34:05-1:06:30 – Groundwater management, 2012 to current: LEMAs and WCAs. 
    • 35:20-44:10 – Northwest KS GMD 4: the LEMA initiator; Sheridan 6 LEMA and its performance; GMD 4 LEMA. 
    • 44:10-50:15 – non-regulatory options to address declines; WCAs.
    • 50:15-58:20 – Western KS GMD 1; the Wichita County WCA; the Wichita County and Four County LEMAs.
    • 58:20-1:06:30 – Southwest KS GMD 3; Questions on enforcement; MYFAs. 
  • 1:06:30-1:14:40 – HB 2686 of 2022 with an overview and particulars on DWR and it Chief Engineer and groundwater management provisions. 
  • 1:14:40 – Committee questions

House Committee on Water’s Agenda for the week of 1/17/2023

  • 1/17/2023 – Kansas Water Office briefing 
  • 1/19/2022- Briefings by KDA-Division of Water Resources and the Kansas Geological Survey.

KWRC Kansas Water News page

As a result of the acceleration of Kansas water news, we have started a new page to archive key news stories at: https://kwrconsulting.com/blog/kansas-water-news/. It includes 11 stories from 2022 and already has two articles from 2023, the first on action by Western Kansas GMD 1 to reduce wateruse, and a second on the anticipated confrontation ahead as the Legislature considers action to address Ogallala Aquifer declines. 

Categories
Legislature Water Legislation

House Committee on Water begins this week with new leadership 

Note: with increasing media attention to water issues, including this past week’s AP story, “Warning About Aquifer’s Decline Sets up Big Fight in Kansas”, we have created a new page for significant media coverage on Kansas water issues: https://kwrconsulting.com/blog/media-on-kansas-water-issue/

Where we have been:

During the 2021-22 legislative session, the leadership of Kansas House of Representatives agreed to create a special committee to look at the critical state water issues, called the House Committee on Water (HCOW) under the leadership of Representative Ron Highland of Wamego.

Over the course of two years, the HCOW held 50 hearings to gather information about the work of the numerous state and local water agencies involved in the world of water and the state’s water challenges.  The following web link includes an index of each hearing: date, subject, and links to presentations and documents provided at the hearings (as well as key events in the legislative process and media responses).   https://kwrconsulting.com/legislation/hcow2022/

On February 14, 2022, the Committee leadership produced the so-called Mega-water bill, due to its size and scope, which included numerous proposals to address the challenges they heard. In short, the bill included:  

  • creation of a consolidating water agency to bring additional focus and coordination, 
  • significant increases in funding for water projects via new fees,
  • modifying election procedures for groundwater management districts (to broaden representation),
  • mandating action in areas of groundwater declines, 
  • authorizing the chief engineer to issue certain orders without review by the secretary, 
  • establishing a civil penalty for obstructions in streams violations and establishing the water structures emergency fund.

Here is a link to my summary of the original bill: https://kwrconsulting.com/legislation/hcow2022/summary-of-hb-2686-the-mega-water-bill/.  See also the Chairman’s proposed edits to the bill after its hearings, summarized on the HCOW link in the paragraph above. 

Rather than debate the Chairman’s revised bill, a legislator proposed a substitute bill which gutted key components of the bill. While it passed out of committee, it was never heard by the full House of Representatives as it no longer had leadership’s support. So, in short, ultimately the mega-water bill went nowhere.  See the media’s response at our new media page.

But the issues remain. Retiring Rep. Highland asked for an 2022 interim committee, seeking to continue the momentum of the HCOW’s work as well as an audit of the states’ Groundwater Management Districts (GMDs), which is to be made public during mid-Feb. 2023

The interim’s “Special Committee on Water”, composed by both Senate and House members was a disappointment. The two days including some valuable briefings from the state water agencies dealing with water issues, but the “committee discussions” that followed were very short and disappointing as they did little to move forward the Legislature’s discussion of these critical water issues. For those interested in the Ogallala aquifer, DWR’s presentation AND the two KGS presentations are worth a listen.  For links to these presentations and more: https://kwrconsulting.com/legislation/special-committee-on-water-2022/

Where do we go from here?

The concerns listed above remain unresolved. Several legislators lobbied the new Speaker of House to continue the House Committee on Water. Ultimately, he agreed and appointed a new leadership: Representative Jim Minnix of Scott City as chair and Representative Cyndi Howerton of Wichita as vice-chair. Democratic Rep. Lindsey Vaughn will continue as ranking minority member. 

Once again, we have built a web page to chronicle the HCOW’s work, and any significant water legislation from other House committees or the Senate. See https://kwrconsulting.com/legislation/.

The HCOW meets on Tuesday and Thursday at 9:00 at Room 218-N. The committee’s web page, which includes its membership, agendas & minutes, documents, and testimony, is at: 
http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2023_24/committees/ctte_h_water_1/

Of the 17 committee members, 11 are new.  So, the first few weeks will likely include a number of briefings to get new members up-to-speed on water issues generally and last session’s work. 

This coming week’s agenda includes: 

  • Tuesday, January 10, Committee introductions, and discussion of the committee’s purpose, rules, procedures, and such.
  • Thursday, January 12, David Barfield, Retired Kansas Chief Engineer.  Rep. Minnix contacted me at the end of 2022, requesting I provide the committee with a briefing on the duties of the Chief Engineer, and my experiences as Chief Engineer, particularly as it relates to the Ogallala Aquifer and the new tools developed to address groundwater declines during my tenure (LEMAs, WCAs, MYFAs). I will also briefly overview last session’s HB 2686, with a focus on its provisions related to groundwater management. 

You can listen into the hearings via the audio link on the committee’s web page or via the state’s YouTube channel at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_0NO-Pb96CFABvxDwXAq8A (accessible via a link “Audio/Video” link at the top of the page. 

House Committee on Water (HCOW)
Categories
GMD Groundwater

GMD 1’s Proposed Four County LEMA 
Satisfies Initial Hearing Requirements; 
Set for Second Hearing February 2, 2023

Introduction 

As reported previously (see https://kwrconsulting.com/gmd-groundwater/gmd-1s-proposed-four-county-lema-%ef%bf%bc/), the Western Kansas Groundwater Management District No. 1 (GMD 1) covers parts of five counties in western Kansas (Lane, Scott, Wichita, Greeley and Wallace Counties) over the Ogallala Aquifer. The GMD has experienced very significant reductions in saturated thickness, resulting in about one-half of the irrigation wells no longer being used.  Despite reductions in use, the aquifer continues to decline.  To extend the life of the Ogallala Aquifer within GMD 1, the GMD 1 Board first developed the Wichita County Local Enhanced Management Area (LEMA), implemented starting in 2021, and on July 1, 2022, requested the Chief Engineer initiate proceedings for its proposed “Four County” LEMA to cover the rest of the district. 

See the article cited above for a description of the LEMA tool generally, as well as specifics for GMD’s proposed Four County LEMA. In short, the article covered the following: 

  • The GMD Act was amended in 2012 to allow GMDs to develop a specific proposal for reducing groundwater declines in all or parts of their District as Local Enhanced Management Areas (LEMAs) and to have that proposal considered for adoption by DWR’s Chief Engineer via two public hearings. LEMAs typically include elements of flexibility in the use of allocations to reduce the impact of water use reductions, such as multi-year and group allocations. For more information, see DWR’s website at: https://www.agriculture.ks.gov/lema.  
  • After careful consideration, including significant public input, GMD 1 developed its Four County LEMA to cover the rest of the District. Required reductions, designed to extend the life of the Ogallala Aquifer within the District, would vary from 0 to 25%, with larger reductions for larger wateruse and lesser reductions for smaller wateruse. The LEMA Plan also includes significant flexibilities to allow waterusers to make best use of their allocations as well as a robust appeal process to consider past voluntary conservation in the wateruse records used as a basis for allocation.  The LEMA plan, if adopted, would be in effect for years 2023 to 2027.

Initial public hearing to consider the GMD 1’s Four County LEMA Plan

On July 1, 2022, the GMD 1 Board submitted its Four County LEMA plan for the remainder of GMD 1 to the Chief Engineer for consideration.  On August 4, 2022, the Chief Engineer, pursuant to statutory requirements, found the Proposed LEMA Plan “acceptable for consideration.”  

After notice required by the LEMA statute, an initial public hearing in the matter was held on October 17, 2022, and, on December 21, 2022, the chief engineer issued an order finding that the evidence presented at the initial public hearing satisfied the relevant criteria set forth in K.S.A. 82a-1041. See DWR’s web page related to the proposed LEMA at: https://agriculture.ks.gov/divisions-programs/dwr/managing-kansas-water-resources/local-enhanced-management-areas/gmd1-four-county-lema

Specifically, the hearing was required to resolve the following:

a. Whether one or more of the circumstances specified in K.S.A. 82a-1036(a) through (d), and amendments thereto, exist;

b. Whether the public interest of K.S.A. 82a-1020, and amendments thereto, requires that one or more corrective control provisions be adopted; and

c. Whether the geographic boundaries are reasonable.

In his order, Chief Engineer Earl Lewis, stated that he found, based on substantial, competent evidence, that all of the above were found to be true for the proposed LEMA. The Chief Engineer’s order, including its summary of the evidence considered and findings of fact and law, is posted at: https://agriculture.ks.gov/docs/default-source/dwr-water-appropriation-documents/four-county-lema-findings-and-order.pdf?sfvrsn=10ba98c1_0.

As a result, the Chief Engineer further ordered that a second hearing to consider the designation of the Four County LEMA would be held.

Second Hearing on Feb 2 considers whether the LEMA Plan should be adopted

Notice of the second hearing was sent to all water right holders within the proposed LEMA and other effected parties, a copy of which is available at the link above. 

The hearing will be held at 10:00 a.m. central time on February 2, 2022 at the Western Kansas Child Advocacy Center, 212 E. 5th Street, Scott City, Kansas. 

The hearing will determine whether the proposed LEMA should be designated and if the corrective controls proposed in the LEMA Management Plan shall be accepted, rejected, or if modifications to the plan should be proposed.

For more information 

In addition to DWR’s web site noted, additional information can be found on GMD 1’s web site at https://www.gmd1.org/lema/, which includes a copy of the proposed LEMA plan and other pertinent information, including a frequently asked questions (FAQ) document that addresses common questions about the LEMA Plan. Effected waterusers can contact the District office at 620-872-5563 to obtain an allocation report for their particular water rights.

Categories
Policy

The 2022 Water Legacy Award Winners 

One of several highlights from last week’s Governor’s Water Conference was the annual bestowing of the Water Legacy Award(s). The award recognizes an individual who has, over the course of his/her career, made extraordinary contributions in water and resource management in Kansas. In a sense, it is a lifetime achievement award for individuals who deserve recognition for the lasting impact they have made toward ensuring a safe and secure water supply for Kansans, now and into the future.    

Normally only one award is given per year. This year three Water Legacy Awards were given due to the number of worthy applicants and as it had been three years since the last award was last made (as the 2020 and 2021 conferences were virtual). 

This year’s recipients included an agency attorney, a scientist, and a law professor.  I helped write one of the nominations, supported a second, and would have supported the third if asked, as I have known and worked with each of them over my own career and agree each is deserving.

Below are the full nomination statements, as read at the conference, when each award was given.  Pictured below are the awardees, from left to right: Donald Whittemore, Lee Rolfs, and John Peck.

Leland “Lee” Rolfs, Agency Attorney

Leland “Lee” Rolfs is a native Kansan, born in Topeka, where he attended elementary and junior high school. He graduated from Hays High School. Upon graduation from Ohio University, Lee began his professional career in Chicago before returning to Kansas to pursue a law degree at the University of Kansas School of Law.

Lee served as an attorney for the Water Resources Board and as Legal Counsel for the Chief Engineer of the Division of Water Resources (within KDA), holding the status of Special Assistant Attorney General, from 1978 through 2008.  Over his extensive career, Lee was involved in nearly every aspect of water policy formation and implementation.  

Lee worked extensively to draft numerous written Administrative Policies for Chief Engineers Guy Gibson and David Pope. Lee led the agency efforts to convert the Administrative Policies into formal regulations, bringing consistency to DWR’s implementation of more than twenty-five water laws, including the Kansas Water Appropriation Act, the Groundwater Management District Act, and Water Structures laws. Lee collaborated well with staff, the public, and Kansas’ diverse local units of government.

Similarly, Lee also supplied excellent staff support for DWR on legislative matters. For many years, he was deeply involved in legislative activities, including drafting legislation and preparing testimony for the Chief Engineer to present.

Lee supplied legal support for DWR’s administrative hearings on diverse, complex water issues, such as the enforcement of repairs to unsafe dams, water rights related issues, and the designation of Intensive Groundwater Use Control Areas (IGUCAs).  As decisions of the Chief Engineer were appealed to the courts, he and his legal staff were involved in District Court litigation and appeals to higher courts. 

He successfully defended several cases before the Kansas Supreme Court, including one that challenged the constitutionality of the 1978 amendments to the Kansas Water Appropriation Act, which mandated permits or existing water rights for virtually all non-domestic water uses in Kansas.

Lee provided legal counsel to the Chief Engineer and other Kansas Commissioners for Kansas’ four Interstate River Compacts.  In two of these Compacts, Kansas had to seek enforcement through litigation before the U.S. Supreme Court in cases that required decades of perseverance, with Lee being a major player on the Kansas Litigation Team.  For example, in Kansas v. Colorado, which was filed to enforce the terms of the Arkansas River Compact, he helped examine witnesses at trial before the Special Master, draft numerous briefs before the U.S. Supreme Court and prepare the team or oral arguments before the Court.

Similarly, in Kansas v. Nebraska and Colorado,  filed in the U.S. Supreme Court to enforce the terms of the Republican River Compact, Lee was a key member of the Kansas settlement team that achieved enforceable standards for Compact compliance.

In total, with Lee’s significant help, Kansas achieved Compact compliance by upstream states with both Compacts and received over $40 million in economic damages for past violations of these Compacts.

Since his retirement from state service, Lee has served as an Adjunct Professor of Law, teaching water law at Washburn University School of Law.  He has also consulted with the Kansas Water Office, the Missouri River Association of States and Tribes, and the Division of Water Resources, and represented clients in water-related litigation.  

Over the years, Lee often navigated many contentious, controversial, and even volatile circumstances.  But even in the most stressful of situations, Lee could be counted on to respond with calm, reason and good humor.    

It is difficult to adequately describe the impact and influence Lee has had on the management of water resources in Kansas; I challenge anyone to find a water law, regulation or appropriation standard that does not bear his fingerprints or influence.    

Donald Whittemore, Scientist  

Dr Donald Whittemore is a Senior Scientific Fellow, Emeritus, in the Kansas Geological Survey at the University of Kansas. He received a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of New Hampshire and his Ph.D. in Geochemistry from Pennsylvania State University. His research focuses on the hydrogeology and hydrogeochemistry of water resources in Kansas, especially the High Plains Aquifer, stream-aquifer systems, and saline waters.

More than any other individual in the last century, Don has significantly enhanced our knowledge of Kansas groundwater and surface water resources. Don’s work has been central to helping identify and control contamination, driving everything from remediation efforts to litigation. 

His detailed interpretations of water chemistry have significantly enhanced our understanding of the water quality of Kansas aquifers and surface waters, including uranium concentration in the Arkansas River and the High Plains Aquifer in western Kansas, the composition of brines across the state, potable water prospects for the Dakota aquifer, bromide problems in the Kansas River, and the multitude of similar issues he has worked on.   

Moreover, his detailed assessments of regional hydrogeology have proven extremely valuable in helping us better understand prospects for groundwater-fed irrigation in western and central Kansas. It is no exaggeration to say that his work on water chemistry and regional hydrogeology will be heavily relied on far into the future.

He has collaborated with others on relationships among water-level changes, groundwater use, and climate, and on uranium in the Arkansas River corridor in southwest Kansas.

Don retired from the KGS in 2017, but is still working on a number of projects as an emeritus scientist.  He is a truly irreplaceable resource, and not just in terms of water quality and regional hydrogeology, but in terms of a range of water issues in the state, such as water use by invasive vegetation in the riparian zones of central Kansas or the chemistry of recycling/reuse of saline water from oil production, which relates directly to the issue of induced seismicity. Odds are high that if there’s a water issue facing the state, Don has seen it, studied it, and can accurately comment on it. The state is incredibly fortunate that he chose to devote his career to Kansas water issues.

Don’s work stands the test of time in part because he is so careful and methodical.  As one of his colleagues from the KGS put it: “His results and conclusions are consistently reliable.  You can take them to the bank. I have never heard anyone question even a single sentence of Don’s work.”  Don cares deeply about getting things right. His persistent attention to detail has paid great dividends to our state and will continue to do so well into the future.

Dr. Whittemore is the first scientist to receive the Kansas Water Legacy Award. 

John Peck, Law Professor  

Professor John Peck is a native Kansan, graduating from Kansas State University in 1968 with a degree in civil engineering. After working three years for the U.S. Public Health Service and the EPA in Washington, D.C., he earned his law degree from the University of Kansas School of Law.

He practiced law with Everett, Seaton, Peck here in Manhattan, from 1974 to 1978, at which time he joined the law faculty at the University of Kansas School of Law.  He taught contracts, land transactions, and family law, but was the only professor specializing in water law.  His expertise was sought after in the private sector; he has been special counsel to the Foulston Siefkin law firm in Wichita and Overland Park. He has advised countless clients on real-world issues relating to obtaining, changing, defending, and enforcing their water rights

John is recognized as the pre-eminent authority on Kansas water law, being widely considered “the expert in Kansas water law since the 1970s”.   Anyone researching virtually any aspect of Kansas water law has no doubt benefitted from the numerous law review articles and scholarly papers authored by Professor Peck.  All of his articles, if taken together, would provide a comprehensive treatment of all aspects of Kansas water law.  His expertise has taken John across the globe to consult and make presentations on an international level.  

In addition to his monumental contributions to water law jurisprudence, John was, above all, a highly regarded teacher.  His welcoming nature, good humor and easy manner made him a favorite among law students.  You always felt a bit more relaxed in his classroom because he never buttoned his shirt sleeves; those sleeves were always rolled up over his forearms like you were about to sit together after a hard day’s work and have a chat.  Many of us who were fortunate enough to have him as a water law teacher grew to know him as a mentor, as well.  Professor Peck treated his former students with respect and dignity and often provided opportunities to join him in authoring articles, thereby helping to boost the junior lawyer’s career.   

Not surprisingly, John earned many awards for teaching.  He was named a Connell Teaching Professor of Law in 1999, and he received both the Dean Frederick J. Moreau Award and the Immel Award for Teaching Excellence in 1998. In 2004, the university awarded him a W.T. Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence. In 2018, he was awarded the Clyde O. Martz Teaching Award by the trustees of the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation.  

John was also an active member of a number of professional associations, sharing his time and talents with other lawyers across the country.  For many years, John provided the water law chapter for the Kansas Bar Association’s annual update of the law, helping to keep water law practitioners up to speed on the latest developments.

After 41 years of teaching at KU Law, he retired in 2019.  

Throughout all aspects of his career, John demonstrated unfailing integrity, humility and compassion. His work has fundamentally shaped today’s interpretation of Kansas water law and regulation, and he has nearly single-handedly trained and influenced a generation of water law practitioners, a number of whom are in this room. 

Categories
Conservation Policy

Governor’s Water Conference, Updated State Water Plan, more

In this issue, we will catch up on a number of news stories of the last two months, including:

  • The 2022 Governor’s Water Conference; 
  • The release of the latest 5-year State Water Plan update;
  • An article which lauds Hays for its leadership in water conservation; and 
  • The USGS releases an updated and more comprehensive version of the water cycle.

Governor’s Water Conference, November 16-17, Manhattan

Governor’s Water Conference

For the first time since 2019, the Governor’s water conference will be in person; back in Manhattan after two years in Wichita. For more, see the Kansas Water Office’s website at:  https://kwo.ks.gov/news-events/governor’s-water-conference.  This is the 11th Annual Governor’s Conference on the Future of Water in Kansas. As always, the conference is designed to highlight the latest policy and research developments of water issues in Kansas. It starts off with a plenary session including national speakers, but most of the conference is organized around a series of breakout sessions around a host of water themes including such things as: water conservation, water management, technology and crop varieties, reservoirs; municipal and industrial water; watersheds; High Plains and other aquifers; irrigation and water conservation; droughts, floods, and climate change; water transfers; water reuse; water and energy; water and health.  If you are interested in water, there should be something of interest here.

From my perspective, best of all, the conference includes a great opportunity to network with the who’s who of the water world in Kansas. 

KWRC is a conference sponsor and will have a booth. Please drop by to see us.

State Water Plan update 

The Kansas Water Authority (KWA) and Kansas Water Office (KWO) are charged with continuously maintaining and updating the Kansas Water Plan, with major updates to the plan typically occurring on a five-year cycle. To develop the Plan, KWA/KWO gathers input from a variety of local, state, and federal agencies, as well as grassroots input from its Regional Advisory Committees. The resulting Kansas Water Plan is a tool used by the State of Kansas to address current water resources issues and to plan for future needs. 

During August, the KWA approved the 2022 version for release to the public. The new Plan can be found at:  https://kwo.ks.gov/water-plan/water-plan. While the document is 261 pages long, I found it easy to scan to quickly access its major themes and the content of greatest interest to me.  If interested in water issues, I suggest you download it and peruse it.

Start with its 10-page executive summary, which is also an overview of the rest of the document. It includes:

  • A review of the 5 “Guiding Principles of the Kansas Water Plan” around which the Plan is written, which includes: 
    • Conserve and Extend the High Plains Aquifer,  
    • Secure, Protect and Restore our Kansas Reservoirs,
    • Improve the State’s Water Quality,
    • Reduce our Vulnerability to Extreme Events. and 
    • Increase Awareness of Kansas Water Resources.
  • An overview the Regional Planning Areas used by KWA/KWO in developing getting local input. 
  • Discussion of Water funding, including the State’s Water Plan fund.
  • A high-level section on the state’s management of water.

After review of the executive summary, you can spend time in the section(s) of greatest interest, be they guiding principles or geographic areas of particular interest. 

Hays lauded for its leadership in water conservation

An extensive article by High Plains Public Radio (https://www.hppr.org/hppr-news/2022-10-10/this-city-in-kansas-really-conserves-its-water-but-that-still-might-not-be-enough-to-survive investigates and highlights water conservation efforts of Hays, Kansas. While there are many communities across the semi-arid High Plains impacted by poor water supply, Hays was — and is — the only city in Kansas with more than 15,000 residents but no sustainable source of water, being too far west for reliable rainfall and reservoirs and too far east to tap into the Ogallala aquifer. As a result, Hays has the most extensive program of water conservation in the state and has invested significantly in a decades-long quest for a sustainable water source today.  

One quote: “Thanks to decades of conservation efforts, Hays has become the California of Kansas — a place where thinking about your water use is a way of life. For now, it’s an outlier. But as climate change brings drier, hotter weather to Kansas, more cities may have to follow a similar path.

Read the article for much more.

“Not Your Childhood Water Cycle”, USGS releases an updated and more comprehensive version 

USGS Water Cycle Diagram

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) water cycle diagram is used by hundreds of thousands of students in the United States and worldwide. The agency recently released a new diagram for the first time in more than 20 years, this time with humans as show-runners. Although people have long siphoned water from groundwater and diverted rivers into farm fields and industrial plants, the new diagram is the first time humans have been included in what was presented until now as a “natural” cycle. The change reflects the latest 20 years of research uncovering humanity’s central role in the cycle and how to communicate it visually. “We need to change how we think about these things to be able to live and use water sustainably for our future,” said Cee Nell, a data visualization specialist at the USGS VizLab, which designed the diagram. In addition to natural processes like ocean evaporation, precipitation over land, and runoff, the new diagram features grazing, urban runoff, domestic and industrial water use, and other human activities. Each label in the chart comes from data tracking the significant paths and pools of water worldwide. Read more at: https://eos.org/articles/not-your-childhood-water-cycle

Thanks to the Kansas Rural Water Association for allowing reprint of this article (https://www.krwa.net/enews).

Categories
Legislature

2022 Special Committee on Water, August 29-30, 2022

Introduction: 

After the 2022 legislative session’s mega-water bill went nowhere, the chair of the House Committee on Water, retiring Rep. Ron Highland, requested a 2 two-day interim committee on water issues to continue discussions. Below are a few highlights from these hearings, held on August 29-30 in Topeka, called the “Special Committee on Water”, composed of both Senators and House members and links to documents and presentations. 

The short summary: 

As the Special Committee had new members from the Senate and House, the two days were principally a primer for new members, comprised of key briefings from the state water agencies dealing with water issues. The “committee discussions” held after these briefings on the second day were very short and disappointing as they did little to move forward the Legislature’s discussion of these critical water issues.

The details:  

The rest of this article is mostly an index and links to the presentations made to the committee, with a few concluding comments on the Legislature’s 2021-22 work. For anyone wanting a primer on the major water agencies dealing with water in Kansas, the responsibilities, and current happenings, this is a good place to start. There are links to the YouTube videos of the sessions as well as the presentations.  I have indicated the time stamp on the YouTube video when each presentation starts.

For those interested in the Ogallala aquifer, DWR’s presentation and the two KGS presentations are worth a listen. 

Here is a link to the agenda for the two days of meetings, which includes links to the videos of the sessions: http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2021_22/committees/ctte_spc_2022_water_1/documents/agenda/weeklyinterim/20220829.pdf
Links to the individual presentations are available at: http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2021_22/committees/ctte_spc_2022_water_1/documents/. I have included the specific links to most of them below. 

Day 1 on August 292020 included a few introductory matters and then a series of select state agency updates, providing an overview of state laws and programs to address water issues.   

Introductory matters:

Agency updates (note: I have indicated the time on the video where the presentation starts):

Then two presentations by the Kansas Geological Survey, focusing on the Ogallala aquifer: 

The day concluded with a brief state agency funding overview: http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2021_22/committees/ctte_spc_2022_water_1/documents/testimony/20220829_16.pdf

Day 2 on August 30 started with a presentation by Prof. Burke Griggs, which stressed his opinions on the shortcomings of Kansas state water laws and their administration and his recommendations for rectifying these.  http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2021_22/committees/ctte_spc_2022_water_1/documents/testimony/20220830_03.pdf

This was followed by a presentation by Rep. Joe Newland, entitled “Overview of Financial Plan” which talked about funding recommendations of the 2016 Blue Ribbon Task Force, which focused on a dedication of a 1/10 of one cent of the state’s sales tax to water funding.  See: https://www.kwo.ks.gov/water-plan/blue-ribbon-funding-task-force.

Committee (non-) Discussions

Finally, the Committee’s agenda include a time for Committee discussions, an hour and a half in the morning and two hours in the afternoon. However, it seemed discussions were not encouraged. There was approx. 30 minutes of discussions on funding centered on challenges of securing funding via a portion of the State’s sales tax and the possibility of a small fee on sales of bottled water.

Brief reflections on the Legislative discussions of 2021-22 and current needs

While there seems to be significant consensus among those knowledgeable in water matters that there is a need for change, esp. expanded funding and improvements in state agency structure and/or coordination, there is no consensus on the specifics.  As is noted at the beginning of the article, the committee discussions were disappointing, in that there was no movement toward any consensus on these issues. It seems without strong leadership, consensus on these specifics will be impossible to reach. 

As someone who has worked almost all my career in state government in water, I have never really thought the system was broken. Each agency has its mission, staffing, and programs to carry its duties. I have not observed much conflict and there have always been coordinating mechanism to help agencies work together.

However, Rep. Highland strongly advocated for a single voice for water in the legislature, believing it to be a key in securing additional focus, coordination, and ultimately, more funding needed to address water issues. Over the course of the last legislative session, listening to all the agency reports to address water, I have become convinced that a single voice is needed. 

In addition, it is time to replace the 2016 Blue Ribbon Task Force’s recommendation on funding with an updated look at today’s and tomorrow’s needs and opportunities. 

Categories
GMD Groundwater

GMD 1’s Proposed Four County LEMA 

Introduction 

Western Kansas Groundwater Management District No. 1 (GMD 1) covers parts of five counties in western Kansas (Lane, Scott, Wichita, Greeley and Wallace Counties) over the Ogallala Aquifer. The GMD has experienced very significant reductions in saturated thickness, resulting about one-half of the irrigation wells no longer being used.

Yet, the Ogallala Aquifer continues to be a very important source of water for both irrigation and the significant economic activity associated with animal agriculture (feed yards, dairies, and such) attracted by the region’s feed availability, favorable climate, and remoteness. 

While there have been significant changes to irrigation over the decades to improve irrigation efficiencies, the declines in the aquifer continue.  

Local Enhanced Management Area (LEMAs) 

Groundwater declines in Kansas’ Ogallala Aquifer have been a concern for many decades, prompting the Kansas Legislature to pass its Groundwater Management District (GMD) Act in 1972 and amendments to both the Kansas Water Appropriation Act and GMD Act in 1978 to require all wateruse in Kansas, except domestic use, to be permitted by the Chief Engineer of the Division of Water Resources and to allow for a process to create special areas called Intensive Groundwater Use Control Areas (IGUCAs) to reduce use in over-developed areas.  Through action of the GMDs and Chief Engineer, all of western Kansas has been closed to new water appropriations. 

While eight IGUCAs have been created, none are in the Ogallala Aquifer.  One concern preventing GMDs from requesting the Chief Engineer to initiate IGUCA proceedings in their areas of concern is that the decision on reductions in use is left to the Chief Engineer based on the hearing record.

In 2012, the Kansas Legislature amended the GMD Act to allow for a process to create another type of special area to reduce use in over-developed areas called Local Enhanced Management Area (LEMAs).  Under its process, a GMD develops a specific proposal for reducing groundwater declines in all or parts of their District and the Chief Engineer conducts hearings to determine if their Plan should be adopted. If adopted, it becomes an order of the Chief Engineer. LEMAs typically include elements of flexibility in the use of allocations to reduce the impact of water use reductions, such as multi-year and group allocations. For more information, see DWR’s website at: https://www.agriculture.ks.gov/lema.

Three LEMAs have been implemented to date:  the Sheridan 6 LEMA and GMD4 LEMA of Northwest Kansas, and the Wichita County LEMA within GMD 1.  Again, see the website noted above for details on these LEMAs. 

GMD 1’s Four County LEMA development  

GMD 1 made an initial attempt to develop a District-wide LEMA during 2013-14 after the Sheridan 6 LEMA noted above was created. However, after significant work with its constituents, the GMD 1 Board determined their LEMA Plan did not have sufficient support to move forward.  

The GMD 1 Board again discussed a District-wide LEMA in 2018-19. In 2019, the Board deciding to move forward first with a LEMA in Wichita County as the county’s need was the most urgent and had the most support, and to gain experience with the LEMA process. The Wichita County LEMA plan was submitted to the Chief Engineer early in 2020 and approved after the two required hearings, effective for the years 2021-25. 

The Board’s work of developing the proposed Four County LEMA Plan began during November 2020.  The LEMA work has been discussed at most of the Board’s monthly meetings since that time, as well as multiple special meetings. Further, the Board has worked with its constituents through a detailed survey of wateruser preferences, the sharing of details of its LEMA development at its 2021 and 2022 annual meetings, and at county meetings during May 2022.

After careful study, the Board decided to pursue a LEMA reduction goal that would balance meeting today’s needs without causing significant economic effects, while taking a serious step to extend the water resources of the District. The Board reviewed current estimates of the Kansas Geological Survey (KGS) of the required reductions to stabilize groundwater levels, averaging 29% for the District. Ultimately the Board decided to set the LEMA’s overall reduction goal to 10% from the 2011-2020 average wateruse.

The Four County LEMA Plan, if adopted, would require irrigation waterusers within the LEMA to reduce pumping to extend the life of the Ogallala Aquifer.  Required reductions would vary from 0 to 25%, with larger reductions for larger wateruse and lesser reductions for smaller wateruse, again with an overall reduction of 10%. The LEMA Plan also includes significant flexibilities to allow waterusers to make best use of their allocations as well as a robust appeal process to consider past voluntary conservation in the wateruse records used as a basis for allocation.  The LEMA plan, if adopted, would be in effect for years 2023 to 2027.

The path to implementation of the GMD 1’s Four County LEMA

On July 1, 2022, the GMD 1 Board submitted its Four County LEMA plan for the remainder of GMD 1 to the Chief Engineer for consideration. 

On August 4, 2022, the Chief Engineer, pursuant to statutory requirements, found the Proposed LEMA Plan “acceptable for consideration.”  

To be implemented by order of the Chief Engineer, two public hearings are required. Over the next couple of weeks, the Chief Engineer will work with GMD1 to determine the date and location of the first hearing, to be held early fall.

For more information 

The District’s website at https://www.gmd1.org/lema/ includes a copy of the proposed LEMA plan and other pertinent information, including a frequently asked questions (FAQ) document that addresses common questions about the LEMA Plan. 

Effected waterusers can contact the District office at 620-872-5563 to obtain an allocation report for their particular water rights.

Categories
Policy

Kansas Water Authority to hold Water Policy Discussion, August 10, Salina

KWA Water Policy Discussion 

At its last meeting, the Chair of the Kansas Water Authority (KWA), Dawn Buehler, announced the KWA would host a water policy discussion on August 10 in Salina to gather information from a variety of water stakeholders on their views on water policy needs for the future of Kansas and their constituencies.  Susan Metzger, Associate Director for Agriculture and Extension at KSU, will moderate. 

A draft agenda for the meeting is available at: https://kwo.ks.gov/admin-pages/events-landing-page/2022/08/10/default-calendar/kansas-water-authority-meeting. It includes: 

  • 10:00 am Welcome, Meeting Purpose, and Introductions – Kansas Water Authority Chair Dawn Buehler
  • 10:15 am Meeting Guidelines and Self Introductions 
  • 10:45 am Overview of Kansas Water Plan Priorities
  • 11:00 am Funding Kansas Water Plan Priorities
  • 12:15 pm Lunch
  • 1:00 pm Organization and Structure to Address Kansas Water Plan Priorities
  • 2:00 pm Open Discussion 
  • 2:45 pm Wrap Up

The facilitated discussion format of the day should lend itself to having opportunities to provide input throughout the day for those in attendance.

The meeting is open for anyone to attend. It will be held in-person only at: The College Conference Center Room, Kansas State University- Salina, Aerospace and Technology Campus, 2310 Centennial Road, Salina, KS.

While RSVPs are not required, it would be helpful for planning. RSVP to Matt.Unruh@kwo.ks.gov.

Regular KWA meeting, August 17, 2022, Manhattan

In addition to the Water Policy discussion noted above, the KWA will have its next regular meeting on August 17, 2022, starting at 9:00am, in Manhattan, Kansas. This in-person only meeting will be held in the Conference Room at the Kansas Department of Agriculture, located at 1320 Research Park Drive, Manhattan, KS 66502. Meeting details and materials will be posted as they become available at the following link: https://kwo.ks.gov/admin-pages/events-landing-page/2022/08/17/default-calendar/kansas-water-authority-meeting

To subscribe to this Newsletter: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/l4q8w8 (a link is also on the KWRC home page at: https://kwrconsulting.com/).

Categories
GMD Groundwater Legislature Water Legislation

Legislative Next Steps on Water: an Interim Committee and an Audit of the GMDs

As I wrote about regularly this past legislative session, the House Committee on Water had a busy two years. In the end, drafting the so-called “mega-water bill”, which, pun intended, got watered down and ended up going nowhere this past session. 

But the issues considered by the Committee are important and the work will continue. Between now and the 2023 legislative session two things are planned: an interim committee and an audit of the state’s Groundwater Management Districts. Below is what we know about each as of this writing. 

Legislative Interim Committee on Water, August 29-30, Topeka 

As requested by the Chair of the House Committee on Water, the Legislative Coordinating Council, which makes decisions on such matters, approved two days for an interim committee on water issues.  Specifically the approved topics are: “Issues Related to Kansas Aquifers, Dam Storage Capacity, and Funding.”  

The committee will be made up of both Senate and House members and includes: 

Senate:  Sen. Dan Kerschen, Chairperson; Sen. Carolyn McGinn; Sen. Ron Ryckman; Sen. Alicia Straub; Sen. Mary Ware.                
House: Rep. Ron Highland, Vice-chairperson; Rep. Cyndi Howerton; Rep. Jim Minnix; Rep. Joe Newland, Rep. Lindsay Vaughn; Rep. Rui Xu.

The meetings are planned to be in Room 112-N of the Capitol.

Those are all the specifics currently available. Below are two links where more information should be posted as the time gets closer:

The Kansas Legislative Research Departments web page on the interim committee: http://www.kslegresearch.org/KLRD-web/Committees/Committees-Spc-2022-Water.html

The special committee’s web page: http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2021_22/committees/ctte_spc_2022_water_1/.

Evaluating Groundwater Management Districts’ Efforts to Conserve Water

Again, as requested by House Committee on Water Chairman Highland and Rep. Lindsay Vaughn, the Kansas Legislative Division of Post Audit has been approved to conduct an audit of the state’s Groundwater Management Districts (GMDs) efforts to conserve water.

The Audit study proposal is available at: https://www.kslpa.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/Evaluating-Groundwater-Management-Districts-Efforts-to-Conserve-Water-Audit-Proposal.pdf.

The State has five GMDs over the Ogallala-High Plains Aquifer, shown in the map below.  According to the GMD Act’s Legislative declaration, their purposes include: “the proper management of the groundwater resources of the state; for the conservation of groundwater resources; for the prevention of economic deterioration; for associated endeavors within the state of Kansas through the stabilization of agriculture; and to secure for Kansas the benefit of its fertile soils and favorable location with respect to national and world markets.” 

Map of Groundwater Management Districts in Kansas

According to the Audit’s study proposal, the audit has three objectives:

  • Objective 1: What programs do Groundwater Management Districts (GMDs) administer and are those programs appropriate? 
  • Objective 2: Have GMDs identified areas of concern within their districts and do their programs effectively address those concerns?
  • Objective 3: How much did GMDs spend in the most recent year and what percentage was for directly addressing their districts’ identified areas of concern?

For each objective, the proposal has tentative methodologies listed, including such things as:

  • reviewing background information on the legislative purposes of GMDs, especially with respect to water conservation; 
  • collecting information from each GMD on their management programs, activities, budget, etc;
  • interviewing GMD staff on the same; 
  • comparing the GMD’s work and priorities with their legislative purposes;  
  • determining whether GMDs are identifying “areas of concern” within their district with respect to declining quantity and quality of groundwater and their programs to address these concerns;
  • and working with GMDs to determine how they are funded; how they make spending decisions and what portions of their funding they are using to address identified areas of concern. 

The Audit is slated to start late August and take approximately 4 months to complete, with a report to the 2023 Legislature. 

More on GMDs:

Upcoming KWRC News articles:

  • Kansas Water Authority Water Policy Discussion, Aug. 10, Salina
  • GMD 1’s Four County LEMA (submitted to the Chief Engineer on July 1; more at: https://www.gmd1.org/)
  • Hays-Russell Change Applications and Water Transfer Process

To subscribe to this Newsletter: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/l4q8w8 (a link is also on the KWRC home page at: https://kwrconsulting.com/).