Categories
GMD Groundwater Meeting Reports Water Legislation

Activities of the 2024 House Committee on Water

After a landmark year in 2023, when the House Committee on Water (HCOW) led the way in securing a
significant expansion in water funding via HB 2302 and greater accountability for the state’s groundwater management districts (GMDs) in HB 2279, the Committee continues efforts to move forward our state’s management of its water resources.


The Committee’s page is at: https://kslegislature.org/li/b2023_24/committees/ctte_h_water_1/. The page includes a list of committee members, links to bills in committee, agendas, testimony, and more.

A playlist of the videos of the Committee’s proceedings this year is available at:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdmexZzhhB4&list=PLGnUWv2THZAj-TUBuTGmTzG3emG6yZD7h. As in past years, the Committee started the session with a series of briefings from state agencies.


GMD annual reports

In recent weeks, per last year’s HB 2279, the Committee received written reports from each of the state’s five GMDs, as well as oral testimony. Below is a listing of the dates of these hearings and links to their written reports, which includes a summary of their activities and financial information on each of the GMD’s assets, annual receipts, expenditures. and budget.


January 23: Western Kansas GMD 1 and Northwest GMD 4.
https://kslegislature.org/li/b2023_24/committees/ctte_h_water_1/committee_testimony/?selected_da
te=01%2F23%2F2024

January 25: Equus Beds GMD 2 and Big Bend GMD 5.
https://kslegislature.org/li/b2023_24/committees/ctte_h_water_1/committee_testimony/?selected_da
te=01%2F25%2F2024

January 30: Southwest Kansas GMD 3.
https://kslegislature.org/li/b2023_24/committees/ctte_h_water_1/committee_testimony/?selected_d
ate=01%2F30%2F2024


Hearing on HB 2459 (restricts changes in PDs)

On 2/1, the committee had a hearing on the unpopular HB2459, “Prohibiting the change of the point of diversion of a water right if such change causes the safe yield of the source of water supply to be exceeded.” Testimony regarding the bill, including mine, can be found at:
https://kslegislature.org/li/b2023_24/committees/ctte_h_water_1/committee_testimony/?selected_da
te=02%2F01%2F2024
.

Here is a short summary of the bill’s intent, testimony, and where it seems to be going:

  • The bill was proposed by a member of the committee, Rep. Kenny Titus, who wanted to highlight concerns he is hearing regarding changes in water right’s points of diversion (PD).
  • The bill had no proponents; 3 of us were neutral, mostly to say the bill sought to address real problems, even though all of us had concerns with the specific language of the bill.
  • All other testimony was opposed to the bill, mostly citing that changes in PDs are necessary; the bill is too restrictive; and the problem is best dealt with in regulations.
  • In the committee’s discussion after the testimony, Rep. Titus said he appreciated the views expressed and that his purpose in putting forward the bill was to highlight the concerns with PD changes. His remarks suggested that the best path forward was for the Chief Engineer (CE) to address the concerns expressed with regulations. Chairman Minnix’s remarks suggested that the bill will go no further in committee and also advocated consideration of concerns by the CE.

New Bills Introduced on February 1

At the Feb. 1 hearing, four bill introductions were made for bills currently being drafted by the Revisors Office. Here is my understanding of the subject of these introduced bills:

  • Rep. Howerton introduced a bill related to the meaning of K.S.A. 82a-1028’s power given to GMD to advise and assist the Chief Engineer.
  • Rep Vaughn, introduced two bills:
    • RS 2824 on the role of GMDs related to Water Conservation Areas and,
    • RS 2823 which would allow GMD members of a particular area within a GMD to petition to be removed from the GMDs.
  • Mr. Stucky, on behalf of GMD 5, introduced a bill which would amend provisions of Kansas Water Banking Act.

Coming the week of February 5, 2024:


On Tuesday, there will be a hearing on two bills:

  • HB2633 — “Providing for additional sources of revenue for the [KDHE’s] water program management fund and requiring water supply system and wastewater treatment facility operator certification examination fees to not exceed the costs for such exams.”
  • HB2634 — “Providing an additional corrective control provision for the chief engineer to consider when issuing orders of designations for local enhanced managements areas and intensive groundwater use control areas.”
Categories
GMD Groundwater Legislature LEMA Ogallala Policy Water Legislation

House Overwhelmingly Passes GMD and Water Funding Bills, on to Senate

Here is a summary of the House’s consideration of two of the most significant water bills to be heard in the last 10 years: one that significantly expands state funding of water infrastructure and a second which requires the state’s groundwater management districts (GMDs) to act to address groundwater declines.

HB 2279, the GMD Bill 

In my last news article a month ago, I reported on the House’s consideration of HB 2279 which would require Groundwater Management District (GMD) to provide annual reporting and to identify areas of concern and to work with their waterusers to develop “action plans” to address the groundwater declines in those areas of concern. The bill included a provision allowing the Chief Engineer to take action if he/she found the action plan inadequate. 

My article also outlined the testimony I planned to offer in support of the bill, but recommending a number of improvements. Link to my final testimony: http://kslegislature.org/li/b2023_24/committees/ctte_h_water_1/misc_documents/download_testimony/ctte_h_water_1_20230209_01_testimony.html    

At the committee’s Feb. 9 hearing, all testified in support of the bill, including Kansas Farm Bureau and the Kansas Livestock Association, except Southwest Kansas GMD No. 3 and Southwest Kansas Irrigators, both whom opposed the bill.  Like mine, much of the supporting testimony provided suggestions for improving the bill, many echoed my suggestions.

The committee leadership put forward an amended version of the bill, which it passed overwhelmingly on February 17. Here is a link to the bill’s supplemental note with an expanded summary of the amended bill’s provisions, a summary of testimony and resulting amendments in committee.  

The amended bill took my specific suggestion for defining “priority areas of concern”, as a minimum, to include areas with less than 50 years of remaining usable life. This will focus initial action where most needed, as significant areas within western Kansas GMDs still have significant remaining life. See the map below from my testimony (and its explanation in there).  In short, the red areas have less than 25 years of water left, the darker orange has 25-50 years remaining. Those are the areas that need focus within southwest Kansas (as northwest and west central Kansas are in LEMAs). About 25% of Southwest Kansas GMD 3 has less than 50 years left (but there are large parts of GMD 3, esp. the southern tier counties that have more than 50 years left with some years over 100 years.  But it is past time to act in the critical areas.  

KGS' Estimated Usable Life Map with Q-stable values 2022

The amended bill did NOT include my suggestion for a clear definition of adequacy. Despite this, I continue to support the bill and believe it a real step forward in requiring GMDs that have not done so to seriously look at the Ogallala problem where action is most urgently needed and engage the waterusers in those areas on how to address the problem.  As I have been telling reporters in recent weeks, the GMD Act has a mission and power, but no specific water management goals. This changes that.

The amended bill was considered by the full House on February 23, and passed on a vote of 116-6. It is now in Senate, waiting to be heard by the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. While no hearing is yet scheduled; hopefully this will occur next week, as all bills need to be out of their respective committee by March 24.

HB 2302, the Water Funding bill

I have not weighed in on this bill as it is not in my area of expertise and it had plenty of conferees supporting the bill. In many ways, this bill is more significant to the State’s future than the GMD bill above.  If passed, it would increase dedicated state fundings to water projects from the current $8 million/year to approximately $50 million/year. 

Once again, the amended bill passed out of committee with overwhelming support as well as the full House (the vote was 119-3). This is quite significant, as a similar effort to expand water funding through a dedicated part of the state sales tax was attempted in 2017 and got nowhere.

Here is a link to the amended bill that passed the committee and full House:  http://kslegislature.org/li/b2023_24/measures/documents/hb2302_01_0000.pdf.  

Here is a link to a supplemental note of the bill with more details:  http://kslegislature.org/li/b2023_24/measures/documents/supp_note_hb2302_01_0000.pdf.

Here is my brief summary of the supplemental note’s summary:  

The note’s “Brief”: “HB 2302, as amended, would establish funding for the State Water Plan and water infrastructure projects, create the Water Technical Assistance Fund and the Water Projects Grant Fund, authorize the Kansas Water Office (KWO) to provide grants and adopt rules and regulations to establish criteria for grants, and authorize distribution to the State Water Plan Fund (SWPF) of a portion of the revenue from the state sales and compensating use tax (sales tax revenue).”

The expanded money for water projects would not come from a tax increase or increased fees but from dedicating 1.231% of the state’s existing sales tax to water projects outlined in the bill (again, boosting dedicated state funding for water projects from approximately $8 million/year to approximately $50 million/year). 

This expanded funding would go toward:

  • Existing State Water Plan Fund priorities 
  • $5 million/year to a Water Technical Assistance Fund
  • $15 million/year to a Water Projects Grant Fund
  • $15 million/year to pay off debt for Milford and Perry Lake reservoirs 
  • To improve salaries of state workers implementing water programs (current salaries are not competitive, resulting in staff shortages, delays in programs, etc).

There are specifics in the bill on where these monies will go, but if passed, there would be significant new money for infrastructure projects for municipalities, with priority to small municipalities. 

This expanded funding would sunset after 5 years, unless the legislature takes action to extend it.

The bill is awaiting consideration by the Senate Agriculture / Natural Resources Committee. Hopefully next week. 

Categories
GMD Groundwater Legislature

House Committee on Water Considers GMD Bill

Before going on to the main subject of this newsletter, one brief aside:

This past week, on Feb. 2, the Chief Engineer held the second hearing required to approve and implement GMD 1’s proposed Four County Local Enhanced Management Area (LEMA). No one spoke against the LEMA. In the coming weeks, based on the hearing, the Chief Engineer will issue first an Order of Decision with respect to whether the LEMA should be established per GMD 1’s LEMA Plan. 

HB 2279, Requiring GMDs to develop plans to address Ogallala declines 

This Thursday, on Feb 9, the House Committee on Water (HCOW) will be hearing testimony on HB 2279. Its short title is “Requiring groundwater management districts to submit annual written reports to the legislature and to provide water conservation and stabilization action plans to the chief engineer.”

The provisions are very similar to requirements of Sections 13 and 14 of last year’s so-called Mega-water bill, HB 2686 (2022).  If you are interested, I created a rough comparison of this current version with last year’s, on my web site at: https://kwrconsulting.com/legislation/, under “Bills” and the discussion on HB 2279.

As the short name implies, the bill has two components: annual reporting of GMDs to the Legislature and, more significantly, requirements that GMDs:

  • By July 1, 2024, the GMDs identify areas of concerns and, 
  • Working with their waterusers, and by July 1, 2026 develop and submit to the Chief Engineer “action plans” to address the groundwater declines in the areas of concern, and 
  • If a GMD fails to develop an adequate plan, the Chief Engineer is authorized to take action. 

In my presentation to the HCOW on Jan. 12, I supported the provision of last year’s bill on GMD reporting and especially these requirements to identifying areas of concern, plans to address, and for the chief engineer to have the ability and duty to deal with their failure to do so.

So I plan to offer testimony in support of the bill. 

However, in reviewing the details of the proposed bill, I find it is overly broad and unfocused.  While all of western Kansas Ogallala is in decline (outside some fringe areas of low use), action is not uniformly needed. On Friday and Saturday, I reviewed the bill in detail and provided the Committee leadership with my suggestions for improving the bill, aimed to focus action where it is most urgently needed, to improve its clarity, and to insure it results in meaningful action.

Specifically, I plan to recommend the bill be modified in the following ways:

  • The bill should exempt areas already in LEMAs from the first round of action plan development.
  • Instead of “areas of concern,” the bill should require the identification of “priority areas of concern” where the need for planning and action is most clear and urgent. 
  • With all the data already available, the GMDs can and should have their priority areas of concern identified by the end of this year, and should submit such to the Legislature and state agencies for review by January 1, 2024. 
  • Action plans be submitted over two years, with half being submitted by July 1, 2025, and the remaining by July 1, 2026, to get started and spread the workload.
  • A clear standard for action plan adequacy should be added. 

With respect to the question of “priority areas of concern,” I plan to submit the latest KGS Estimated Useable Life map below and suggest that all areas with less than 50 years of remaining useable life be in a GMD’s “priority areas of concern” as a minimum. This will focus action where most needed.

KGS' Estimated Usable Life Map with Q-stable values 2022

This year’s bill does not provide a clear statement of what constitutes an adequate plan.  I think this is essential. So here is what I plan to suggest. On the KGS’ Remaining Usable Life Map above, I have added KGS’s draft county “Q-stable values” I obtained from KGS last year.  The Q-Stable values represent the percentage reduction in pumping required to get to stable water levels for the next couple of decades.  As an example, the largest value on the map is Grey County at 53.4. This means the KGS estimates it would take a 53.4% reduction in pumping in Grey County to get Grey County to stable water levels. To halve the rate of decline in Grey County would take a reduction of half of this, or 27%.

In last year’s HB 2686, for failure of a GMD to develop an adequate plan, it authorized the Chief Engineer to “develop a plan to, at a minimum, reduce by 50% the 2000-2019 rate of groundwater declines as determined by the chief engineer…”  Again, to obtain a 50% reduction in the rate of decline, the required percentage reductions in pumping would be half of the values in map. To take a less extreme values, in neighboring Haskell County, the 40.6 would mean a 20% reduction in pumping would be needed to half its rate of decline. 

In my view, the 50% reduction in rate of decline standard is very serious step, especially for the first set of an action plan. I believe an explicate standard is needed for this process to be taken seriously by a GMD that has been resistant to taking action. I am suggesting the committee adopt a value between 25% and 40% as the required reduction in rate of decline for an action plan to be considered adequate in these areas of less than 50 years of remaining useable life. 

Let me know if you have any thoughts, suggestions, or questions. 

For more information from KGS on the High Plains aquifer see:  https://www.kgs.ku.edu/Publications/pic18/index.html and/or  https://www.kgs.ku.edu/HighPlains/HPA_Atlas/index.html.

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
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
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.