Categories
Legislature Meeting Reports Policy

Water News: House Committee, upcoming meetings, and Wichita ASR recommendation

My two-year anniversary of retiring as Chief Engineer of the Kansas Division of Water Resources is only a month away. Over that time, COVID has dominated the news and there has not been much in the way of water news.  That seems to be changing. Below are recent highlights and news of meeting to come. 

The House Committee on Water continues its work. The committee’s agenda for the coming week includes presentations from KDA’s Division of Conservation and the Kansas Assoc. of Conservation District on Monday, 1/24; a hearing on HB 2480 on Tuesday, 1/25; and presentations by Kansas Water Office & Kansas Water Authority on the Kansas Water Plan on Wednesday, 1/26.

Hearing on HB 2480 (definition of “water project”) – On Tuesday the committee will have their first hearing on legislation, HB 2480, which according to the Fiscal note “would remove the prohibition of water supply projects from using the Public Water Supply State Revolving Loan Fund if the projects involved a water transfer as defined by KSA 82a-1501, et seq.”  The bill was introduced by a Hays legislator to allow them to qualify for funding for which they are currently ineligible. 

Media attention – Last week, the Kansas Reflector published an article, reprinted in Kansas newspapers on the Committee’s work, featuring its considerations related to water quality, reservoir sedimentation, groundwater conservation, water funding, and water agency restructuring.  See https://www.kansas.com/…/politics…/article257337627.html.

HCOW webpage improvements – We have improved our index page for the Committee’s work at: https://kwrconsulting.com/blog/hcow2022/. In addition to presentation materials, there are links to videos of each of the hearings. The page also includes a summary of the week’s agenda at the top. For more frequent updates, follow us on twitter at @KWRConsulting.

Upcoming meetings:

The Kansas Water Authority is meeting on Thursday, 1/27, starting at 8:30 at the Ramada Inn in Topeka. At this writing, no materials are available, but it should be available early next week at the following link: https://kwo.ks.gov/admin-pages/events-landing-page/2022/01/27/default-calendar/kansas-water-authority-meeting. Virtual attendance is also provided via a link on the page above.  

The 2022 Winter Water Technology Expo will be taking place at the Finney County Fairgrounds in Garden City, Kansas on Thursday, February 3 from 5-9 p.m.  There will be demonstrations provided throughout the night, along with door prizes, food, and beverages. The Expo is free and open to the public. For more information visit: https://www.kwo.ks.gov/news-events/winter-water-technology-expo.  KWRC will participate as an exhibitor. 

Wichita Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR)  The City of Wichita has the state’s only active Aquifer Storage and Recovery project. The project was initially developed and approved in two phases. During 2018, the City requested changes to the conditions associated with its existing permits for Phase II of the project. After a public information phase, the matter was set for a formal hearing in 2019, with the Chief Engineer delegating the hearing to Connie Owen and requesting her recommendation on the matter. On January 14, 2022, Ms. Owen provided her summary and recommendations, recommending the City’s requests be denied.  See the link below for her report and the extensive public record. The matter now goes to the Chief Engineer for a decision. https://agriculture.ks.gov/divisions-programs/dwr/managing-kansas-water-resources/aquifer-storage-and-recovery/wichita-asr

Categories
KDA-DWR Legislature Meeting Reports Policy Water Rights

House Committee on Water Starts New Session Focused on Recommendations

Last year, a new committee was created in the Kansas Legislature: the House Committee on Water (HCOW).  The Committee held over 30 hearings during the 2021 legislative session, including a 2-day hearing in Garden City last August. Last year’s focus was to collect information on various state and local water agencies, their responsibilities, programs, staffing, and budgets.  

All the presentation materials received by the Committee, as well as committee minutes summarizing the same, are available on the committee’s website, under Committee Testimony, by date of the testimony. See http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2021_22/committees/ctte_h_water_1/.

The website also includes the committee calendars, a committee roster, bills sponsored and a link to access an audio stream of committee hearings as they occur. Committee documents include State & Federal Water Programs Manager, Water Programs Org Chart, and committee rules, and more.

The important work of the HCOW continues in 2022, focusing on developing recommendations to the Legislature related to water, including recommendations related to increase funding for water programs. During its first week of January 10, 2022, the committee’s work started with updates from three state agencies (KWO, KDA-DWR, and KDHE).  During the week of January 17, the committee will hear updates on Wednesday (1/19) from the Nature Conservancy and the US Army, Corps of Engineers, and on Friday (1/21) from the Kansas Farm Bureau.

To make the Committee’s information more accessible, we have built a webpage with tables for 2021 and 2022 listing hearing date, subject (e.g. agency), and a link to the testimony provided and committee minutes.

We will be keeping this page up-to-date as the session moves forward.

Categories
Meeting Reports

Three Water Meetings in Garden City, August 16-18

Since COVID hit last March, water meetings of state-wide interest have been either canceled or virtual. This week, in Garden City, we have three separate water meetings, packed into three days. Here is the run down:

The Kansas Water Congress (KWC) will hold its summer meeting on Monday, August 16, starting at 8:30 a.m. at the Clarion Inn, 1911 E Kansas Ave. The agenda is dominated by state agency updates in the morning and reports by the Groundwater Management Districts (GMDs) in the afternoon. For more information on the KWC and details of the meeting, see: https://www.kswatercongress.org/.   

The Kansas Water Authority — On Tuesday, August 17, the KWA will hold its first in-person meeting since early 2020, starting at 8:00 a.m., also at the Clarion Inn in Garden City. There is a virtual option available as well. 

The agenda, meeting materials, and instructions for remote participation are available at: https://www.kwo.ks.gov/admin-pages/events-landing-page/2021/08/17/default-calendar/kansas-water-authority.  

In addition to its routine business and several updates, the two key action items of the KWA meeting including:

Kansas House Committee on Water – During the 2021 legislative session, this new committee of the Kansas House of Representatives held numerous hearings to collect information on various state and local water agencies, their responsibilities, programs, staffing, and budgets. Their work will continue at least through the 2022 legislative session. 

The committee’s work is accessible at the following link: http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2021_22/committees/ctte_h_water_1/, although you have to go to the specific hearing dates to access the presentations.  

The committee will have a field hearing in Garden City on August 17-18.  On the afternoon of the 17th, the committee will have a field tour and evening presentation. All day on Wednesday the 18th, will be a hearing at the Garden City Community College, including a public comment period, committee discussions, and several presentations focused on management of the Ogallala aquifer. 

The latest version of the agenda (as of 8/15) is: http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2021_22/committees/ctte_h_water_1/documents/agenda/weeklyinterim/20210823.pdf

It appears the committee’s August 18 hearing will be available via live stream from a link on this web page above.

Categories
KDA-DWR LEMA Water Rights

KWRC January 2021 Water Update

The 2020 was pretty slow in the water world. The pace seems to be picking up in 2021. Here are select
stories from January.

Chief Engineer Approves Wichita County LEMA Plan

On December 30, 2020, KDA-DWR’s new
Chief Engineer, Earl Lewis, issued an “order of decision” approving a Local Enhanced Management Area (LEMA) plan implementing wateruse reductions for all
irrigation water rights in Wichita County within the boundaries of Western Kansas Groundwater
Management District (GMD) No. 1. The LEMA Plan was developed and requested by GMD 1 to reduce
irrigation wateruse by approx. 15% for the next 5 years to extend the life of the local aquifer.

This order is the first of two orders required to implement the Wichita County LEMA. The order was based on an extensive public process. In it, the Chief Engineer found that the LEMA plan meets the state law’s requirements and that the ordered reductions are necessary for the public interest. It is expected that in early February, the second order, an “order of designation”, will be issued, putting the LEMA in effect for the years 2021-25.

The Wichita County LEMA will be the third LEMA in Kansas, following the notable successes achieved by
the LEMA plans in northwest Kansas, which showed that the reduction in water use slowed the rate of groundwater level decline, extending the life of the aquifer with little to no economic harm caused by
the reduction during the same period.

For more see: https://agriculture.ks.gov/divisions-programs/dwr/managing-kansas-water-resources/local-enhanced-management-areas/wichita-county-lema

Audubon of Kansas Files Federal Lawsuit to Restore Quivira Water Right

On January 15, 2021, the Audubon of Kansas (AOK) filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Kansas in an effort to restore the water right belonging to the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge of southcentral Kansas. The Refuge is a wetland of international significance. AOK contends that the Quivira Refuge has suffered from a shortage of water for the last 3 decades, due to groundwater pumping upstream in the Rattlesnake Creek basin by irrigators, whose water rights are junior to that of the refuge. The basis for the lawsuit is a 2016 impairment investigation conducted by the KDA/DWR Chief Engineer which found that impairment is occurring and by the failure of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to act to protect its water right. During October 2019, the Chief Engineer had planned to begin reducing water use under junior water rights of the basin, but in an agreement that was brokered by Senator Jerry Moran, with concurrence of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, that water right administration was postponed to allow more time to seek a remedy to the impairment. AOK’s lawsuit seeks an injunction, a declaratory judgment and an order of mandamus, to compel federal and state officials to do their duties as required by law.

For more:
https://www.audubonofkansas.org/aok-news.cfm?id=218
https://agriculture.ks.gov/divisions-programs/dwr/water-appropriation/impairment-complaints/quivira-
national-wildlife-refuge

Connie Owen Confirmed as Director of the Kansas Water Office

With former Kansas Water Office (KWO) Director Earl Lewis leaving the agency to become KDA-DWR’s chief engineer, the Governor announced her selection of Connie Owen, who had been serving as the Chair of the Kansas Water Authority, to take his place as KWO Director. Ms. Own was confirmed by the Senate last week.

Governor Laura Kelly has announced that Dawn Buehler will serve as the Chair of the Kansas Water Authority. Buehler’s appointment is subject to confirmation by the Kansas Senate. The water authority advises the governor, the Legislature and the director of the Kansas Water Office (KWO) on water policy issues — including the approval of the Kansas Water Plan and revisions, federal contracts, administration regulations and legislation proposed by KWO.

For more information: https://www.kwo.ks.gov/home

KDA to Resume Public Hearing on Wichita ASR Project

On February 3, the KDA-DWR will resume the final stages of the formal phase of the public hearing process to consider the City of Wichita’s proposed modifications to Phase II of its Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) Project beginning. This is a continuation of proceedings that were initiated by the agency during 2018, in response to modifications requested by the city of Wichita. While the in-person hearing location will not be open to the public, the public will be able to view the proceedings virtually, using either Zoom or YouTube. The public is also invited to submit written comments and will be allowed to do so until Feb. 26.

For more information: https://www.agriculture.ks.gov/WichitaASR

Upcoming meetings

  • Feb 2, Equus Beds GMD 2 Board monthly Board meeting, 9:30. Call their office at (316) 835-2224 for information or see http://gmd2.org/
  • Feb 11, Northwest Kansas GMD 4 will host both its monthly Board meeting at 9:00 AM and its annual meeting at 1:30, both at the City Limits Convention Center. For more information: http://gmd4.org/
  • Feb 11, Southwest Kansas GMD 3 Board meeting, 9:00 AM, http://www.gmd3.org/
  • Feb 17, Western Kansas GMD 1 Board meeting, 8:00 AM (CT). Check http://gmd1.org/ for updates.
  • Feb 18, Big Bend GMD 5 Board annual meeting at the Stafford County Annex located at 210 E Third Ave in St. John (just east of the Courthouse). The meeting will start at 7:00 p.m.
Categories
GMD Groundwater Ogallala

Upcoming Meetings, Recent Webinars and Court Decisions

Introduction: COVID is changing how we do water meetings, but not stopping them. One advantage is that most of them are more accessible than ever.  Below are details on upcoming meetings including:

  • A May 20 Kansas Water Authority meeting 
  • Upcoming meetings of the state’s Groundwater Management Districts (GMDs), starting with this week’s meetings of GMD 3 and GMD 5 (we keep an updated list on our GMD page:  https://kwrconsulting.com/gmds/)

Also below are links to recent webinars on the Ogallala, available online for viewing. 

Finally, the courts continue to work. Below are updates on two recent decisions related to 1) GMD 4’s LEMA and 2) the Hays/Russell change applications. 

Upcoming Meetings

Recent Webinars

  • Status of the Ogallala Aquifer and GMD 4 conservation activities – on April 29, 2020, the Kansas Water Office hosted a webinar related to the Ogallala Aquifer. The webinar featured Brownie Wilson of the Kansas Geological Survey on the State of Ogallala Aquifer and Shannon Kenyon, Manager of the Northwest Kansas GMD 4, discussing their conservation efforts. The presentation can be accessed at: https://www.kwo.ks.gov/news-events/kwo-webinars.
  • The Weight of Water: Values, Civic Engagement, and Collaborative Groundwater Management on the U.S. High Plains, Stephan Lauer, KSU.  On May 1, Stephan presented findings of an Ogallala CAP funded project that looked at producers’ attitudes towards water conservation and some of the success stories of grassroots collaborative groundwater management (like the Wichita County Water Conservation Area) to determine how such efforts can be expanded. This presentation is fairly technical, being orientated toward researchers, but the link that follows, in addition to having the presentation, includes accessible summaries of the research for the rest of us: http://ogallalawater.org/producer-attitudes/.

Court Updates

  • Judicial Review, GMD 4 LEMA.  On June 13, 2018, a petition for judicial review of the Chief Engineer’s April 13, 2018 order of designation was filed in the Gove County District Court. On October 15, 2019, the Gove County District Court upheld the order as constitutional.  On November 11, 2019, the plaintiffs filed a motion with the Court requesting it alter or amend its decision. On April 20, 2020, the Gove County District Court declined.  See the Friesen vs. Barfield table at: https://agriculture.ks.gov/gmd4lema.  The next step could be an appeal to the Kansas Court of Appeals.
  • Judicial Review, Hays R9 change application approval. On March 27, 2019, the chief engineer contingently approved the change applications of the cities of Hays and Russell to convert the irrigation rights of the R9 Ranch in Edwards County to municipal use for the cities. On May 29, 2019, WaterPACK filed a petition for judicial review in Edwards County District Court.  Over recent months, the Court and parties have been working principally through issues related to discovery. On April 27, 2020 the Court ruled on the parties’ motions and pleadings in this regard. With this done, the Court has provided the parties with a schedule that will have the remaining pleadings complete on August 17, 2020.  See https://agriculture.ks.gov/HaysR9

Categories
Ogallala

Ogallala CAP Aims to Support Farmers

Introduction: Improving Ogallala Aquifer Research and Outreach


It is well known that North America’s largest freshwater aquifer, the Ogallala Aquifer, has been and continues to be in decline, in both water quantity and quality.  This article will focus on an on-going response of the research community, principally in the region’s land-grant universities, to re-focus its research, collaboration, and outreach approaches to provide the region’s producers with information and tools to optimize and reduce water use, thereby extending the life of the aquifer, while maintains profitability.

Ogallala Aquifer
Map by L. Moore via ogallalawater.org

Many involved in the use or management of the Ogallala aquifer will be familiar with OgallalaWater.org, the website of the Ogallala Water Coordinated Agriculture Project (CAP) as well as it the 8-state Ogallala Summit it helped organize (see below), but the CAP is much more.

In this issue of the KWRC News, we overview the CAP, its objectives, the resources it is working to provide producers and other audiences, and discuss the upcoming events and products planned to complete the project.

Ogallala Water Coordinated Agriculture Project (CAP)

The Ogallala Water Coordinated Agriculture Project (CAP) is a USDA funded research and outreach project focused on helping address issues related to groundwater declines (quantity & quality). The project was initiated in 2016 and will wrap up in the spring of 2021. It includes a team of approximately 70 university researchers, extension specialists, students and post-docs, based in 10 institutions, and 6 hub agricultural experiment stations in 6 Ogallala states.

According to their website, the project’s research and outreach activities aim to support farmer decision making and productivity in the Ogallala region, today and for future generations.

Research 

The heart of the project is research. CAP project leaders are working to make this research more accessible to producers via the website’s Project Activities/Our Research page, with links and summaries of select papers of interest to producers, regularly updated, divided into the following 4 areas: 

A full list of publications produced as part of the project can be found at the following page: http://ogallalawater.org/resources/publications/. Again, the list of research papers to grow over the next year.

Outreach: “Topics”, Summits, and More:

It appears to me the most interesting and practical parts of the website are its “Topics.”  Each topic includes introductions, resource guides, and links to free tools, video tutorials, and papers of interest. The site currently has the following 4 topics, with 6 more to be added in the coming months:

Another key outreach activity is its Ogallala Summits. The first was held in Garden City, Kansas on April 9-10, 2018 in Garden City, Kansas. The results of the Summit can be found at http://ogallalawater.org/2018-ogallala-aquifer-summit/.  The page includes a link to the Summit’s report and links to videos from the key presentations. The project planned a second summit for March 31-April 1 of this year in Amarillo, Texas, but it had to be postponed due to the COVID19 pandemic. The next Summit is planned for the first quarter of 2021.

Amy Kremen, project manager, recently told me in an interview that they are planning to have an expanded selection of webinars in the near future as well.

More to Come / Keeping Up

Again, as the CAP works to wrap up, expect a flurry of additional research papers, expanded Topics, another Summit, webinars, producer stories, and more. 

The project team is also involved in helping to support the development and launch of Master Irrigator programs, such as Colorado Master Irrigator, modeled after a successful program launched in 2016 in the Texas Panhandle by the North Plains Groundwater Conservation District.

To keep track of the work of the Ogallala CAP, sign up for their newsletter at the bottom of their home page.

Categories
GMD Groundwater Meeting Reports

April 2020 GMD and Kansas Water Authority Meetings

In this issue: Updates on April GMD meetings and the April 14 Kansas Water Authority meeting.

Note: KDA-DWR’s Topeka Field Office has moved to 1131 SW Winding Rd, Suite 400.

Groundwater Management District (GMD) April meetings:

  • GMDs 1, 2 and 5 chose not to meet during April.

Southwest GMD No. 3, highlights from their April 8, 2020 Board meeting.

  • Both GMD3 and DWR reported on their operations due to COVID19 with offices being closed but services continuing.
  • Board vacancies. As a result of Board member Mike O‘Brate moving to Garden City, he resigned his Gray County seat. However, as a result of the vacating of the Finney County position, he was moved to this seat. He will continue as Treasurer. The Board will be advertising the Gray County position and looking at committee assignment when that is complete.
  • Nick Hatcher’s Water Conservation Area (WCA) renewal. After review, the Board voted to recommend approval of the WCA renewal.
  • Mark Rude reported another version of a proposed revised management program for GMD 3 is available on their website.
  • Chris Law reported that GMD 3 is preparing for this year’s flow meter inspection program.
  • Full agenda and more information available via their Board packet.

Northwest GMD No. 4, highlights from their April 8, 2020 Board meeting

  • GMD 4 and DWR reported on office operations related to COVID19. The offices are closed but services being provided.
  • Wateruse tracking program from Mammoth Water . Manager Shannon Kenyon reported that she is working to recruit members to use the new program and get it up and running. Forms to sign up are on GMD 4’s home page http://gmd4.org/. So far 57 water rights signed up. The program allows groundwater users to track water use relative to water rights and LEMAs allocation.
  • GMD 4 LEMA – District legal counsel Adam Dees, reported there is nothing new related to the case before the Gove County District Court.
  • Master irrigator program. The Board held extensive discussion on this topic. Shannon has been exploring the Master Irrigator program’s implementation in Texas and Colorado, as well as developing partners for bringing it to GMD 4. She sought input from the Board on whether to continue with this effort and, if so, on how best to implement it in the GMD 4. The Board supported her continuing her work to develop the program. In hopes of expanded participation, the Board asked her to explore combining online completion of modules with face-to-face meetings. Shannon noted that the Texas program has all their lectures online.
  • Board position 11. After discussion, the Board appointed Marsha Shilling as a replacement for this vacant Board position.
  • Remote Board meeting participation via “GoTo” meeting. The Board believed the use of this technology worked well, allowing others to participate, reducing travel, and increasing transparency. Adam expressed that he preferred a face-to-face for the Board but thought it was fine for others.
  • Next meeting: tentatively set for May 6, at 10:00.
  • Previous minutes available at: http://gmd4.org/BoardMeetings.html

Kansas Water Authority, April 14, 2020 Meeting

For details, see the following:

Highlights:

  • The state’s response to the COVID19 crisis was discussed with state agency staff working remotely as much as possible and skeleton crews in the office. KDA is helping the Dept. of Labor and KWO is assisting KDEM with phone banks.
  • An update and action on Regional Advisory Committee appointments occurred.
  • The Water Vision/State Water Plan update process is continuing. A schedule for working toward completing the process was discussed with a goal of adopted Water Plan updates by January 2021, barring additional delays as a result of the COVID19 crisis.
  • Legislative and budget updates. This included a discussion of the 2019 Special Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources Recommendations, particularly related to flooding, as well as legislative action on FY 2020 and FY 2021 appropriations. The FY 2020 appropriation includes the addition of the Arbuckle Study and Flood Response Study. A webinar will be held April 17, 1:30, esp. for RACs on budget information.
  • Federal updates included discussion on the status of National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Proposed Rules and the withdrawal of the Corps of Engineers proposed Water Supply Rule.
  • There was also a briefing on federal cooperative agreement with Kansas, which must be approved by the KWA (in a subsequent meeting).
  • Director Earl Lewis noted that there is potential for flooding again this year on the Missouri River and that southwest Kansas is increasingly dry.
  • A webinar on the Ogallala will be held on April 29 at noon.
  • Acting KDA-DWR Chief Engineer Chris Beightel noted:
    • On March 26, GMD 1 forwarded a LEMA plan for Wichita County proposing reductions of water use of approximately 16-20%, depending the degree of voluntary participation by vested rights. The initial hearing will be scheduled when practical.
    • At its last board meeting, GMD 4 decided to move ahead with development of a Master Irrigator Program similar to those of Texas and Colorado.
    • DWR’s Topeka Field Office has moved to 1131 SW Winding Rd, Suite 400. The KDA labs have moved to a new facility in Manhattan, adjacent to KDA’s offices.
  • Mike Armstrong noted the Corps of Engineer’s March 18 public notice related to permit applications for sand dredging on Missouri River. The Corps will hold a webinar on the applications on April 21 at 3:00 and will close the public comment period on May 2. A 2017 study showed that this dredging leads to bed degradation problems on the Missouri River. After discussion, the KWA directed the KWO to provide comment to the Corps opposing the granting of the permits.
  • Future meetings: May meeting on phone. Late June/July in person meeting expected.
Categories
GMD Groundwater

Kansas Groundwater Management Districts: Resources to Inform Citizens

Part of the business plan of Kansas Water Resources Consulting (KWRC) is to stay informed on water resources issues affecting our state and inform others on these issues. To further this aim, we have started a KWRC web page related to Kansas Groundwater Management Districts (GMDs) at https://kwrconsulting.com/GMDs. This initial page includes links to each GMD’s website, their social media outlets, meeting notices, board meeting minutes archives, and more. The web page will be expanded over time, along with additional KWRC articles on GMD activities.

Groundwater Management Districts (GMDs): An Overview

There are no more pressing problems related to Kansas water resources than addressing the declining Ogallala Aquifer of western Kansas and declining streamflows of southcentral Kansas due to groundwater pumping.

To address these problems, in 1972, the Kansas Legislature passed Kansas’s Groundwater Management District (GMD) Act, allowing for the creation of GMDs. The principal mission of GMDs is provided in the Act’s opening legislative declaration (K.S.A. 82a-1020): “It is hereby recognized that a need exists for the creation of special districts for the proper management of the groundwater resources of the state; for the conservation of groundwater resources; for the prevention of economic deterioration…”

Subsequent to the Act, five GMDs were formed in the 1970s over the Ogallala-High Plains Aquifer of western and southcentral Kansas: Western Kansas GMD No. 1, Equus Beds GMD No. 2, Southwest KS GMD No. 3, Northwest KS GMD No. 4, and Big Bend GMD No. 5. See the map below. For additional general information of these GMDs, see the website of the Kansas Division of Water Resources (DWR) at: https://agriculture.ks.gov/gmds.

Over their 40+ years of existence, GMDs have used their legislatively granted powers to recommend rules for adoption by the Chief Engineer. These rules limit new appropriations (ultimately closing large areas to new appropriations), require well spacing and other conditions for new appropriation and change applications, and much more. GMDs have also required water meters, built groundwater models, participated in various studies, and developed cost-share programs to incentivize water conservation.

Yet declining groundwater levels of western Kansas’s Ogallala Aquifer and declining surface flows of southcentral Kansas from connected groundwater pumping, evidence that more action is needed to conserve these water resources to preserve the economic future of the region and state.

Tracking GMD Actions: KWRC Newsletter Articles and Web Page Updates

We encourage interested citizens to be informed and involved. To assist, we will be providing information via this KWRC newsletter and updates/additions to our web pages. One major focus will be on GMD’s action to fulfill their legislative mandate mentioned above, such as GMD 1’s proposed LEMA for Wichita County, cost-share programs for technology improvements, efforts to sponsor a Master Irrigator program similar to Texas and Colorado, and more.

We will also look at actions which waterusers are taking on their own initiative to reduce wateruse while maintaining profitability, benefiting their future and the region.

Categories
LEMA

GMD 1 Submits Wichita County LEMA Plan to the Chief Engineer

After months of considerations, on March 26 the Board of Western Kansas Groundwater Management District No. 1 (GMD 1) formally submitted a plan for a Local Enhanced Management Area for Wichita County to the Chief Engineer for consideration. Details of the plan can be found on GMD 1’s website at: http://gmd1.org/lema.html

Background

Wichita County is one of the most depleted counties of the Ogallala, with an average of approx. 20 feet of remaining saturated thickness. However, use of water from the Ogallala is still a very important part of the local economy, for not only irrigation but also high value animal agriculture.

Wichita County has a very active wateruser community seeking to double the life of their aquifer through conserving today. During 2016-2017, a Wichita County steering committee worked to develop a Water Conservation Area for the county wherein waterusers voluntarily enroll, committing to use less and gaining significant flexibilities on the use of the limited water supply. Approximately 20% of irrigated acres are enrolled in the plan. The WCA plan can be found at: https://www.agriculture.ks.gov/divisions-programs/dwr/managing-kansas-water-resources/wca/wichita-county-wca.

GMD Action

For the last two years, the Wichita County WCA steering committee has been working with the Board of GMD 1 to develop a LEMA for the county. LEMAs can only be adopted via a request by the local GMD. Last week’s action by the GMD 1 board moves GMD 1’s LEMA plan to consideration via a two hearing process by the Chief Engineer to determine if the LEMA should be adopted. If so, it would require all irrigation waterusers of the county to conserve, although at a lesser rate than those in the WCA.

In summary, under the LEMA plan, all irrigation users would be required to reduce recent historic use by 25% for the years 2021-2025, after giving consideration for past voluntary conservation via an appeal process.

The allocations would be provided over the 5 year period for each combined well unit. The website above has a more complete summary of provisions, as well as proposed allocations for each water right in the county.

Next Steps

From here, the Chief Engineer will review the plan to insure it is acceptable for the hearing process, and if so, will schedule the first of two required public hearings to consider whether the LEMA plan should be adopted. While statute requires these hearings be held “as soon as is practicable,” it is unclear under the current context, when this will occur.

More information on LEMA can be found on KDA-DWR’s website at: http://www.agriculture.ks.gov/lema

Categories
Water Rights

Do multi-year flex accounts lead to expanded water use?

The Chief Engineer of the Division of Water Resources (DWR) is required to report annually to the Kansas Legislature on implementation of the multi-year flex account (MYFA) program. The program was started in 2001 to allow waterusers to use more than their water right’s authorized quantity in any one year in exchange for a 5-year limitation on use. For years, the tool got little use as the prescribed 5-year limit was 10% less than average historic use. In 2012, there were significant reforms to the MYFA program’s statutory requirements that removed this required 10% conservation and also provided a second option to compute the 5-year limitation. This led to significant use of MYFAs, especially starting in 2012 as it was an extremely dry year. The program continues to see significant use, especially in southcentral Kansas.

Prior to this year’s report to the Legislature, DWR looked at the question of whether MYFAs were facilitating an expansion of water use via its flexibilities. DWR’s review focus was on the areas of greatest use of southcentral Kansas. For 11 counties, DWR tabulated water use by those currently enrolled in MYFAs for two periods: a pre-MYFA period vs. more recent use under MYFAs. For the same counties, DWR also compared use by those enrolled in MYFAs vs. those not enrolled in MYFAs.

The detailed results are in DWR’s “Water Use Comparison” document that can be found on DWR’s MYFA page.

In sum, DWR found “little evidence of expanded use under MYFAs when compared to pre-MYFA use, with a few counties showing reduction in use during the MYFA period.”

Also on the MYFA page is the Chief Engineer’s 2020 annual report to the Legislature, which includes a map showing locations of active MYFAs.


More from the blog: