Hall of Chiefs
By Chapter 172 of the laws of 1917, the Kansas Legislature created a commission to be known as the Kansas Water Commission. By Chapter 218 of the laws of 1919, the Legislature created a Division of Irrigation within the Board of Agriculture. In 1927, by Chapter 293, the Kansas Water Commission and the Division of Irrigation were specifically abolished and the Division of Water Resources was created within the State Board of Agriculture (K.S.A. 74-506a et. seq.). All of the authority, power and duties then conferred or imposed by law upon the Kansas Water Commission and the Division of Irrigation were conferred upon the Division of Water Resources. On May 4, 1995, the Kansas State Board of Agriculture became the Kansas Department of Agriculture.
The Division of Water Resources’ responsibilities have changed over time, evolving with water resources development and the state’s changing needs. Today, DWR administers 30 laws and responsibilities, including the Kansas Water Appropriation Act, which govern how water is allocated and used; statutes regulating the construction of dams, levees and other changes to streams; the state's four interstate river compacts; as well as coordinating the national flood insurance program in Kansas.
Most of the authority and responsibilities of DWR are statutorily conferred upon its chief engineer. In some other western states, the counterpart to Kansas’ chief engineer is called the “state engineer,” signifying the importance of the office. In Kansas, the chief engineer of DWR is a unique position in all of state government, having its own class specification.
In the history of DWR (and its precursor agencies), there have been only five chief engineers to date:
George S. Knapp
(Chief Engineer 1919-1951)
Mr. Knapp was the first chief engineer of water resources in Kansas and, at 32 years, the longest-serving to date (counting his service as irrigation commissioner in the Division of Irrigation, precursor to DWR).
Highlights from Mr. Knapp’s administration include:
- Division of Water Resources established (1927)
- Signed the Republican River Compact (1943) and Arkansas River Compact (1949)
- Enactment of the Levee Law (1929), Obstructions in Streams Act (1929), Water Storage Law (1941) and Kansas Water Appropriation Act (1945)
Robert V. Smrha
(Chief Engineer 1951-1972)
Mr. Smrha served as chief engineer for 21 years.
Highlights from Mr. Smrha’s administration include:
- Major amendments to the Kansas Water Appropriation Act in 1957 addressing water right changes, filing requirements, etc.
- Signed the Kansas-Oklahoma Arkansas River Compact (1966) and the Big Blue River Compact (1971)
- Enactment of the Watershed District Act (1953) and Groundwater Management District Act (1972)
Guy E. Gibson
(Chief Engineer 1972-1983)
Mr. Gibson served as chief engineer for 11 years.
Highlights from Mr. Gibson’s administration include:
- Groundwater Management District Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 are formed (1973-1976)
- Enactment of the Water Plan Storage Act (1974) and the Water Transfer Act (1983)
- Major amendments to the Groundwater Management District Act in 1978, adding intensive groundwater use control area provisions
- Designated intensive groundwater use control areas in McPherson (1980) and Pawnee River Valley (1981)
David L. Pope
(Chief Engineer 1983-2007)
Mr. Pope served as chief engineer for 24 years, the second-longest serving chief engineer to date.
Highlights from Mr. Pope’s administration include:
- Developed and adopted extensive rules and regulations under the Kansas Water Appropriation Act, Obstructions in Streams Act, and the Levee Law (1980s)
- Designated intensive groundwater use control areas in Burrton (1984), Lower Smoky Hill River Valley (1984), Hays (1985), Arkansas River Valley (1986), Upper Smoky Hill River Valley (1988) and Walnut Creek (1992)
- Kansas v. Colorado filed (1985) and Kansas v. Nebraska and Colorado filed (1998) to enforce terms of Arkansas River Compact and Republican River Compact, respectively
- Enactment of the Water Assurance Program Act (1986), Floodplain Zoning Ordinances Act (1991) and Water Banking Act (2001)
- Republican River Compact Final Settlement Stipulation (2003)
- Damages exceeding $35 million paid to Kansas by Colorado for Arkansas River Compact violations (2005-2006)
David W. Barfield
(Chief Engineer 2007- present)
Mr. Barfield has worked at DWR since 1984 and was appointed to serve as chief engineer in 2007. More information about Mr. Barfield’s experience is posted in the chief engineer’s biography.
Highlights from Mr. Barfield’s administration to date include:
- Initiating enforcement of the Republican River Compact Settlement (2007)
- Favorably concluding the Kansas v. Colorado litigation enforcing the Arkansas River Compact (2009)
- Increased development of groundwater modeling for analyzing hydrologic conditions and to use as a tool to support decisions for water resources management (2007-present)
- Ongoing dialogue with groundwater management districts and others regarding options to address past overappropriation of some water resources (2007-present)