Water Supply Vision Implementation and Legislation
Water legislation proposed by the Kansas Water Office (KWO), the Kansas Water Authority, and the Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA) from the 50 Year Water Supply Vision is starting to move in the Senate Natural Resources committee and the House Agriculture and Natural Resources committee.
Along with the legislation and requests for full funding of the State Water Plan, KWO and KDA have estalished 14 hydrological regions for Kansas and appointed planning teams of nine residents for each region. Membership list available at http://www.kwo.org/50_Year_Vision/50_Year_Vision.htm.
These planning teams will assess their water supply options and their water needs for their region. These teams will hold meetings through April and provide a report to the Kansas Water Authority’s May meeting. By sum- mer the Governor will appoint a Blue Ribbon Task Force to review the work of the regional teams and the public input to the 50 Year Water Supply Vision. This task force will make specific recommendations to the Governor on action steps and funding options.
Senate Bill 36 & House Bill 2069 allow a water right user, who is enrolled in a ‘multi-year flex account’ (MYFA), to carry over a limited amount of groundwater usage into a subsequent MYFA. These accounts are over five years so an irrigator can vary their water usage yearly but not exceed their given water right. If at the end of five years, the irrigator has not used 20% of the water right, this can be rolled over to their next MYFA. This bill is primarily about water management not water conservation. There are roughly 35,000 water rights in Kansas and there are 1,000 MYFA’s today.
Senate Bill 52 & House Bill 2059 allows the Chief Engineer at the Kansas Department of Agriculture Division of Water Resources to add augmentation as a tool to meet the needs of a senior water right should an impairment be found. A senior water right has standing over a junior water right.
Present law considers a junior water right pumping, when a senior right is due the water, an unlawful diversion or impairment. This bill came from a decades old water battle between Quivira National Wildlife Refuge (QNWR) and upstream irrigators on the Rattlesnake Creek in south central Kansas.
Quivira has very senior water rights and has filed an impairment claim against junior water right holders. Rattlesnake Creek is an intermittent stream that often runs dry in August and September due to crop irrigation. This area is in Groundwater Management District #3 and a comprehensive hydrological model of the entire district has been developed. The aquifer in this area is rechargeable by rainfall and extra water might be sustainably pumped to keep Rattlesnake Creek flowing in the summer without curtailing junior water rights. Details such as cost and design for this augmentation of water have yet to be worked out. As now written, these bills would allow augmentation statewide. These bills may be amended to apply only to the Rattlesnake Creek & Quivira situation.
From KRC’s Legislative & Policy Watch Weekly E-Updates, January 30, 2015, issue. To receive Policy Watch in your Inbox each week, please subscribe here.