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

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