KRWA article on Kansas Chief Engineers

Ken Kopp, Water Rights/Source Water Specialist with the Kansas Rural Water Association (KRWA), wrote an article for KRWA’s The Kansas Lifeline titled “DWR Chief Engineer Passes the Torch”, that details the lives and careers of the Division of Water Resource’s (DWR) five Chief Engineers, and in doing so, provides a history of DWR and the progress of laws that it administers. This article comes as the fifth Chief Engineer, David Barfield, prepares for his retirement on February 28, 2020.

You can read the article here: 


Kansas Chief Engineer to Retire on February 28, 2020

The Kansas Department of Agriculture announces that Chief Engineer David Barfield will be retiring from his position at the Division of Water Resources effective February 28, 2020. Barfield has been with KDA–DWR for 35 years, and has served as chief engineer since June 2007 where he has led KDA–DWR in its efforts to serve water users in the state within the framework of Kansas law including administration of more than 30,000 active water rights, four interstate water compacts, and the state’s program regulating dams and other water structures. Barfield led Kansas through decades of effort on interstate issues, including two U.S. Supreme Court litigations and years of negotiations, to reach agreements with Nebraska and Colorado to ensure Kansas received its share of waters of the Republican River. Similarly, he has led negotiations of numerous implementation agreements related to Kansas’ compact with Colorado on the Arkansas River and in reaching a water right settlement agreement with the Kickapoo Tribe to help the tribe develop a secure water supply for its needs. With regard to the ongoing declines in the Ogallala Aquifer, Barfield was involved in the development and implementation of several legislative initiatives to provide new tools to facilitate water conservation including Local Enhanced Management Areas (LEMAs) and Water Conservation Areas (WCAs). Two LEMAs have been approved in Kansas, and 27 approved WCA plans covering over 86,000 acres focus on several problem areas.

“I have particularly enjoyed the opportunity to serve the state of Kansas as chief engineer for the last 12 years, and I’m proud of the work we have done during that time,” said Barfield. “In addition to progress in interstate matters and the Ogallala, we have seen progress in developing technical methods to evaluate new applications and water right changes, and to monitor water use. I’m also pleased with the continued commitment to customer service and expanded public information.”

“I’m thankful for David Barfield’s exemplary service to Kansans,” said Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Mike Beam. “He’s fulfilled this important role with dedication, integrity and transparency while always being open to input from stakeholders. He leaves the Division of Water Resources with a firm foundation for the future of Kansas water.”

By state law, the chief engineer is employed under the classified service of the Kansas civil service act and selected and hired by the Secretary of Agriculture. Beam noted the search process for the next chief engineer will begin immediately. To learn more about the work done by the chief engineer and KDA–DWR, go to or call 785-564-6640.

Kansas Chief Engineer David Barfield retires on February 28, 2020.

Biographical Details
David Barfield graduated from the University of Kansas with a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering in 1978. Following graduation, he worked for three years in consulting in Minnesota and three years in a developing nation of southern Africa as a water resources engineer. In 1984, he returned to Kansas and joined the Kansas Department of Agriculture’s Division of Water Resources. Barfield earned a Master of Science in water resources engineering in 1991, also from the University of Kansas. At the Division of Water Resources, from 1984 to 1987, Barfield performed special studies to guide water management decisions; from 1987 to 1992, served as head of the Dam Safety Unit; and from 1992 to 2007 led technical efforts related to Kansas’ interstate water issues, primarily working on disputes regarding the Republican River, the Arkansas River with Colorado, and the Missouri River. Barfield has served as chief engineer since June 2007 (only the fifth chief engineer in the Division’s 85-year history). Barfield lives outside Lawrence with his wife of 40 years, Cathy. They have three grown, married daughters and five grandsons. Following his retirement, he plans to work part-time in water resources consulting.