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
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/).

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
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.