June 12, 2012
Local Water Management Efforts Moving Forward
The 2012 Kansas Legislature passed legislation that enables groundwater management districts to propose Local Enhanced Management Areas (LEMAs), where locally designed water-management strategies are considered for implementation by the chief engineer of the Department of Agriculture’s Division of Water Resources (DWR). LEMA’s provide additional local input and control over the management of groundwater resources.
For the last several years, Northwest Kansas Groundwater Management District #4 (GMD 4) has been working with a community of water right holders in Sheridan County who are concerned about declining groundwater levels and looking for ways to help extend the usable life of the aquifer in their area. Previously, GMD 4 had defined high priority areas throughout the district. This group of water rights holders irrigate in Sheridan County high priority area #6, or “SD-6”.
After several rounds of discussions with GMD 4, the water rights holder in SD-6 decided that a reduction in annual pumping of about 20% would strike the appropriate balance between viable farming today and leaving some water for future generations to farm with. They further decided that they strongly preferred that such reductions be applied to all water users. Barring voluntary means, there was only one way in Kansas law to impose such restrictions, through the Intensive Groundwater Use Control Area (IGUCA) provisions of the 1978 Groundwater Management District Act. These provisions require a public hearing process where evidence is presented, then the chief engineer decides if an area should be designated an IGUCA and what actions – reductions, allocations, etc.– should be implemented to address the problem.
In cooperation with DWR, SD-6 took steps towards initiating an IGUCA process, but there was local concern that the IGUCA public hearing process might create unanticipated regulatory solutions. In the early summer of 2011, GMD 4 began discussions with DWR and others on proposing new legislation to give GMDs greater procedural control over water management actions. Thus the LEMA concept was conceived and ushered through the legislative process with broad support from water right holders, agricultural stakeholder groups, GMDs, and DWR. Senate Bill 310 enacting the LEMA and other water management tools in statute was signed in Colby, KS on April 17, 2012. See the article in the April 19 DWR Currents.
SD-6, GMD 4, and DWR are moving forward with the state’s first LEMA process. The first step was for GMD 4 to update their district management plan to provide for the SD-6 LEMA. The GMD 4 management plan has been approved by the chief engineer and will be presented to the public at a hearing later this year. After that there will be two LEMA hearings, the first to demonstrate that there is the need for the LEMA, and the second to consider GMD 4’s plan to reduce groundwater pumping and submit that plan to the chief engineer. The chief engineer will then consider the evidence and decide whether or not to accept GMD 4’s plan and order the LEMA and corrective controls as they were presented by GMD 4. The SD-6 LEMA process is currently on schedule to be completed by the end of 2012 with the new management controls in place for the 2013 irrigation season.
Surface Water Supplies Diminish as Drought Conditions Intensify
A combination of dry, windy conditions and above average temperatures have resulted in a severe decline in surface water flows across much of Kansas. According to the High Plains Climate Center May Climate Summary, Goodland had its 2nd driest May on record with only 0.45 inches (11 mm) of precipitation, which was 13 percent of normal precipitation (period of record 1895-2012). Dodge City National Weather Service, which recorded above normal precipitation during the first few months of the year, had their 5th driest May on record, receiving only 0.61 inches of precipitation. The rainfall deficit at Dodge City remains significant as illustrated by graphics published on their website.
As a result of these dry conditions and declining streamflows, the chief engineer has had to reinitiate minimum desirable streamflow (MDS) administration on portions of the Little Arkansas River, Medicine Lodge River, Mill Creek, Saline River, Smoky Hill River and Whitewater River in order to meet the requirements of K.S.A. 82a-703a, b and c. Many of these systems had also been under administration during 2011. The effects of recent rainfall events in these basins appear to have been short-lived. In order for administration to end, streamflow must remain above the MDS threshold for a period of at least 14 days, or appear likely to remain above MDS for the foreseeable future.
According to the U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook, published by the Climate Prediction Center on July 7, moderate drought has expanded across much of Kansas due to a lack rainfall during a typically wet time of year. Drought persistence is forecast for these ongoing drought areas, since none of their models favor above normal precipitation in the near term.
Staff News: Lloyd Hemphill
Lloyd Hemphill, environmental scientist, started May 15 with DWR, learning about appropriations for two weeks at the main office before joining the Topeka Field Office, Forbes Field.
Previously, Hemphill consulted for a groundwater firm involved in exploration and development of public water supplies. He also worked for the city of Olathe in water supply projects.
Hemphill attended University Kansas where he received a geology degree and became a KU Jayhawk basketball fan, before obtaining a master’s degree in hydrogeology at the University of Texas - Austin.
“As a youth, I was interested in geology and traveled Kansas collecting rocks and fossils. Since my undergraduate degree, I’ve migrated from rocks to the water in rocks,” Hemphill said.
“Now, I’m processing and evaluating new applications for water appropriations for Kansans in the eastern third part of the state. What I’ve really learned in a short time is how water is very important to people in so many ways.”
Now living in Lecompton, Hemphill grew up near Vinland where his family raised registered Shorthorn cattle and still farms. His agriculture background shows up in his oil and acrylic paintings of rural scenery and carved wood sculptures as well as his bountiful garden.
June 13: Southwest Kansas GMD No. 3 Board Meeting (Garden City)
June 14: Big Bend GMD No. 5 Board Meeting (Stafford)
June 19: DWR Floodplain Training: Substantial Damage Estimation (Tonganoxie)
June 19: Western Kansas GMD No. 1 Board Meeting (Scott City)
June 20: Floodplain Training: Substantial Damage Estimation (Derby)
Please visit the DWR events listing page for more information about these and other upcoming events.