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.
January 25: Equus Beds GMD 2 and Big Bend GMD 5.
January 30: Southwest Kansas GMD 3.
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:
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.”