October 19, 2010
Meter Repair? Replace? Report!
Water right owners who repair or replace their water flowmeters are required to meet criteria in state regulations, including reporting the repair or replacement to the Division of Water Resources in a timely manner. This helps improve water use data the state relies on for various purposes, and it also may help the water right owner avoid civil penalties.
Who is subject to these requirements?
Most nondomestic, nontemporary wells and pump sites operated under authority of a water appropriation permit issued by the chief engineer probably have been required to have a water flowmeter installed. Check your permit conditions or orders issued to you by the chief engineer to see if you are required to take action.
DWR is working to get all diversions metered. If you haven’t been told yet that you are required to install a meter yet, it’s likely you will face this requirement in the future.
What are the requirements?
There is a specific set of regulations under the Kansas Water Appropriation Act, at K.A.R. 5-1-4 thru K.A.R. 5-1-12, that deal with various issues for water flowmeter installations. These regulations cover:
- Water flowmeter specifications
- Installation criteria
- Requirement to install water flowmeters or other suitable water-measuring device
- Flowmeter maintenance
- Criteria to determine when a flowmeter is out of compliance
- Duties of a water right owner when a flowmeter is out of compliance
- Testing flowmeters
- Certified flowmeters
This article focuses on the regulations that deal with the responsibilities of a water right owner to achieve compliance with their water flowmeter installation; actions to take when a water flowmeter is out of compliance; and the ramifications that could result if these requirements are not properly resolved.
Regulation 5-1-10 states in part that a water right owner, or water right owner’s authorized designee, must promptly notify the chief engineer if any required water flowmeter is out of compliance. The first part of this regulation is often overlooked or not readily known by a majority of water right owners or their designees. Any time a water flowmeter fails to function, or it meets any criterion in the regulation dealing with out-of-compliance water flowmeters (K.A.R. 5-1-9), the owner must promptly notify DWR.
Additionally, many water right owners or their designees are not familiar with the second part of K.A.R. 5-1-10: the water right owner or authorized designee must notify the chief engineer in writing with detailed information (see the regulation for the list of items required) within 30 days after the date on which the out-of-compliance water flowmeter has been repaired or replaced.
What happens if I don’t follow the rules?
Failure to meet the requirements reduces the accuracy of water use data that the state relies on to manage the water resources of Kansas. It may also result in civil penalties to owners of faulty meters or those with unreported meter modifications.
This creates a burden for DWR staff and confusion determining actual water use. When the division is not notified that a meter has been repaired or replaced, the water use reported on the annual water use cards or the reading taken in the field from the meter during our staff investigations may be inaccurate.
DWR staff conduct thousands of field investigations a year to document equipment at wells sites, and more particularly the water flowmeter installations and water use data. There are cases where water flowmeters have been found repaired or replaced with no information in the water right file to document the repair or replacement. Without this documentation, the total quantity of water use cannot be determined readily at any given time, such as at the time of the field investigation as required.
K.A.R. 5-1-10 also states in part that if a water right owner does not maintain a record of water diversions sufficient to estimate the quantity of water diverted while the flowmeter was out of compliance, it will be assumed that the diversion works were operated continuously during the entire period the water flowmeter was out of compliance. Knowing the time interval between the immediate notification of when a water flowmeter becomes out of compliance, to the immediate reporting of when the water flowmeter has been repaired, with supporting information, will greatly improve documentation of water use history.
The lack of documented water use information can be costly. In fact, according to the civil penalty regulation, K.A.R. 5-14-10, failure to provide this report of meter repair or replacement within the time allowed in the aforementioned regulation may warrant a Category 2 offense for failure to promptly provide complete and accurate water use or other data, information, or records requested by the chief engineer. A Category 2 offense, defined by the regulation, is a civil penalty of $500 per water right file.
Accurate meters benefit everyone
Following the water flowmeter regulations will help water right owners report accurate water use at the end of each calendar year and enable them to use flowmeters to better manage their water use.
If you are uncertain about the requirements for your water appropriation permit or water right, please contact the nearest DWR field office for help.
Meet the Staff: Thom Makens
This month we interviewed Thom Makens, assistant water commissioner of DWR’s Garden City field office.
Makens and other field office staff are responsible for inspecting water diversion works and places of use; conducting compliance and enforcement activities for water appropriation permits and water rights; administering junior water rights that impair senior water rights; helping applicants and water right holders; and other duties under the Kansas Water Appropriation Act.
Makens has worked for the Division of Water Resources since 1998.
Thom, please tell us about your background.
I was born in DC, as my dad was a military veterinarian assigned to the horses of Arlington Cemetery and veterinary care for the pets of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. (Interestingly this assignment brought him a minor role in the JFK funeral procession.) We eventually returned to Colorado, my folks’ home state, when my dad left the military. As time went by I earned a BS in engineering and a BA in technical journalism from Colorado State in Fort Collins. I did cattle ranch work in Colorado to pay my way through college and worked briefly for the USDA snow survey.
What led to your job at DWR?
With two degrees, I was a well-educated ranch hand and determined I had to leave Colorado as few ‘professional’ jobs were available. This was a time when there was a recession in Colorado due to the savings and loan and domestic oil industries going bust. So I took a job as a research technician for K-State in Garden City thinking I would stay for two years then head home to Colorado; this was 1991. I heard that GMD 3 was looking for a person to work with their new mandatory meter policy so I went to work there in 1993. From GMD 3 it seemed natural to transition to DWR in 1998.
What was it like when you started at DWR? What are some noticeable changes since those days?
I was hired for the field office when Project Zero-Out was just starting to concentrate on the significant number of water rights that had never been certified. However, I was hired specifically to work on water right change applications and whatever costumer service issues came up in order to free up Mike Meyer and Byron Bland so they could dedicate all their time to certifying permits. The certificate backlog was erased over the course of a few years with the help of Jim Congrove at headquarters, and the shift was made to enforcement of water rights. That shift within DWR from inspections to enforcement was the biggest change, although we needed the certificates issued in order to give a backbone to our current enforcement efforts.
In your own words, describe your job. What are some specific projects you’re working on?
I seem to spend most of my time on work relating to change applications. That includes assistance in filling out forms, reviewing for compliance with the regulations and approval of field office change applications – moving points of diversion less than 300 feet. I spend a lot of time helping well drillers with water right questions and maps for test hole locations. Obviously, we don’t want people paying for test holes in a spot where they cannot drill due to regulatory constraints. The most common constraint would be spacing regulations, which vary for the different groundwater management districts. Other constraints can be concerned neighbors, right of ways, power lines, ease of water pipe line access, and so on.
What do you like about your job? What would you change if you could?
Direct interaction with the public is an advantage of being in a field office. Many people would rather voice their questions or concerns face to face instead of over the phone or through the computer. I believe it gives individuals more of a sense of trust in the information being transmitted than a letter or phone call can achieve. Farmers’ time lines for irrigation projects are often determined by bankers or the futures markets. So it can be a stress for them when it can take months to review and approve their changes. I really have no idea how to coordinate these things better than visiting in person. Both parties really have the same objective of economic viability, producers through personal efficiency and DWR through protecting neighboring water rights.
How often do you interact with the public and in what ways?
Garden City is the market town for much of western Kansas. This results in more office visits than our other offices. People come to town to buy a part or take the family shopping, so they just stop by on the way home. It is unusual to have a day go by where no one stops to visit personally. As a whole, we also receive a lot of phone calls. At times this can take up my entire day.
What are some frequently asked questions you hear and the answers to these questions?
A common question is, “If I overlap my irrigated acres, can I pump any quantity from any well as long as I do not exceed 2 acre-feet per acre?” Short answer: No. Longer answer: The allowable quantity is authorized per irrigation well not by the land irrigated. While it’s true there are a few irrigation rights with what we call a ‘blanket quantity’ (one right with multiple wells authorized by only one quantity) this is unusual and usually I see this with rights certified in the late ’40s and early ’50s. You cannot create this ‘blanket quantity’ by overlapping several individual rights. (Also, from a regulatory sense it would be that much harder to determine overpumping.)
Do you have any humorous anecdotes about your job?
About eight years ago, Larry Gennette worked for us as the river bailiff (although he jokingly referred to himself as the river rat). Weekly in the summer months, he would go out to stream gauge the flows in the canals along the Arkansas River. For several weeks he had to work with a leg brace as he had injured his knee in some accident at home – an accident he was not willing to relate – and was not to bend it. Larry was not the type to use this as an excuse to stay in office; he enjoyed his job and making measurements. All went well for a couple weeks until one day it came time to measure the Southside Ditch. Long story short, he could not get himself out of the canal without bending his knee or walking through the stream a fair distance. As I was nearby, he called me. I got into the canal; it had steep, almost vertical walls maybe 4 or 5 feet tall. Larry used me as a step ladder, stepping from the palm of my hands to my shoulder to climb out.
Occasionally, staff will get a truck stuck or have a mechanical breakdown requiring a ‘rescue’; this was the only time I can think of anyone getting their ‘feet stuck,’ so to speak.
Tell us something surprising or unusual about yourself.
I was never a professional model. Hard to believe, I know.
- October 19: GMD 1 Board Meeting (Scott City)
- October 25: Public Hearing on Proposed Regulations for AWEP and well equipment in GMD 5 (Topeka)
- October 26: Water and the Future of Kansas Conference (Topeka)
- November 4-5: Kansas Water Authority Meeting (Beloit)
For more information about these and other upcoming events, please check our online events listings.