Sunday, November 8, 2009

God Forbid California Should Look Elsewhere for Direction

Sometimes I just don't get it.  An inordinately large amount of the water news over the past several months has been on the California situation.  A lot of the criticism has been over the lack of water monitoring and measurement (metering) especially groundwater by agriculture - the group that uses most of the state's water.  It's like no one else in the world has any water problems quite as large, or complex and pressing, or, has any solutions that California would remotely be interested in.

For the Californians in the audience, I'd like to offer that Kansas has been monitoring water use since the mid 1970s, took significant strides to improve that monitoring in the late 1980s, and began metering all non-domestic wells in selected areas in the late 1990s.  Today, Kansas has some of the best (most complete and accurate) water use reporting - especially for irrigation and municipal water use - in the country.  Review some of these reports at your leisure KWO Water Use Reports and assess for yourself how useful this data might be for yourself.  And the data itself is also available to the public on a website maintained by the Kansas Geological Survey - WIMAS.  This data on water rights and reported water use is uploaded every day from the Division of Water Resources.  And finally, KGS also maintains the obervation well network on about 1,700 water level measurements taken each year in Kansas (KS Water Level Data).  And Kansas likely is not the only western state that has been monitoring its water resources and use.

Having been through most of Kansas' program development, I'll admit that it was not always that easy and wasn't particularly popular with the water users, but now that it's been done, most everyone recognizes the benefits and appreciates the fairness of it all.  The most common comment I get now is:  "Why didn't we do this 25 years ago?"  I guess it's none of my business what California chooses to do or not do, so I'll just sit back and watch as they continue to argue over what probably is the most important thing they could possibly do with regard to their water resource and its allocation, management and conservation.  Should eventually keep the water lawyers very busy, though.


  1. Wayne -

    Were their people who objected because (as is the case in California) they feared that accurate measurement would lead to curtailment of pumping? If so, how did their fears play out?

  2. John:

    The answer is "yes" and "no". All our folks had water rights which they were fairly comfortable with - meaning their rights should be sufficient to irrigate what they were watering. However, not being metered, they really didn't know exactly how much they were pumping. Many felt that the meters might show they were over-pumping a bit and they'd have to cut back to their water right limits - a result they were not thrilled with. No one was really concerned about losing their right to irrigate or having to stop irrigation.

    As it turned out, the meters showed the vast majority were pumping considerably less than their water rights, and less than they had been estimating.

    As I said in the original post, once this initial trepidation was past, the majority of users got down to the business of using the meters as irrigation management tools and stopped looking at them as regulatory hammers.

    It's not an easy program to run, but it is absolutely critical to any future decisions regarding allocations, conservation, new development, modeling, or whatever is needed.

    Thanks for the question. Keep up the interesting posts from Albuquerque!