Monday, May 17, 2010

Pay Attention All Golf Nuts!

I ended up today with 2 all-access Patron Passes AND 2 single-day practice round tickets for the Memorial Golf Tournament at Muirfield Country Club in Dublin, Ohio in early June. Yes, Tiger Woods and all the usual suspects will be there.  Since I can't use these tickets, I posted them on eBay this afternoon.  If you're a golf fan I'd encourage you to bid on these splendid tickets - if not for you and your wife (or golfing buddy) then for me!

It's my first foray into selling anything on eBay, so I'll probably get taken to the woodshed over the deal, but one guy's loss is another's gain I suppose. Yeah, I just checked and there have been no bids yet - but there are still 4 days and 18 hours left!

My plan "B" if they don't sell is to convince the groundwater district board that the groundwater conditions in Dublin, Ohio must be checked out to insure their sustainability.  Yeah, that should work!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

What Are They Thinking?

Just ran across a story from Helena, Montana this morning where a judge has ruled that pumping groundwater, in the recovery process of coalbed methane, just to put it into surface pits and evaporate it is a waste of water and in Montana is unconstitutional.  This makes sense to me.

However, a state administrator says the ruling only deals with the mechanical means to speed up the natural evaporative process, and not the pits themselves.  As such, if anyone chooses to water cattle or horses out of such a pond, the water would be "beneficially used" and the pit and practice would be OK.

I must ask:  How much water will cattle and horses drink from a 50 acre-feet sized pit?  If they drink it all, I'd agree, but really...  Later in the article a 2003 study is quoted as saying some 58 billion cubic yards of groundwater would need to be pumped to develop the methane from just one region of the state.  Wow, that's a lot of cattle and horses!

I can't imagine the judge was referring to just the sprayers that accelerate the evaporation.  If he did, shame on him.  If the administrator is mis-reading the ruling, shame on him.  Evaporation is a consumptive water use and needs to be recognized as such. 

Finally, the article didn't discuss the quality of the water too much, but did say it would be likely to increase salts in the rivers if discharged directly there.  Regardless of its quality, this volume of water will eventually be desired and made usable - I guarantee it.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Conservation, Use It Or Lose It, and Abandonment

Darn it!  Kansas had a pretty good conservation program going with the Water Rights Conservation Program (WRCP) until it was eliminated on December 31, 2009 for lack of funding.  This program allowed water rights in good standing to contract with the state to conserve water (not pump it).  The contract was from 5 to 10 years in length, was only available where no new water rights were approvable, and did not have any enrollment fee.  Being under contract with Kansas, the years of non-use counted as "due and sufficient cause" and could not be used for abandonment purposes.  This approach clearly extended the potential abandonment window for non-use well beyond the statutorily set 5 years, but it had an actual time limit after which the water right would again be subject to abandonment for non-use.  For those unfamiliar with the concept of abandonment, it prevents persons from holding onto unused water rights at the exclusion of others who want to use the state's water, tends to make sure the state's water gets beneficially used and prevents the long-term speculation of water rights.  

In trying to replace WRCP with some other conservation program funded some other way, several approaches were started through the Legislative and Rule making process by independent entities.  What came out of all these efforts was a new statute that makes it a matter of law that non-use by any water right in areas closed to new development (as long as the well is maintained) is "due and sufficient cause" for non-use and the water right cannot be abandoned.  On the surface this sounds innocuous enough - and certainly in the favor of water right owners who don't want to pump the right, but want to retain it.  Remember, a water right in Kansas is a real property right (in perpetuity) to the use of the state's water so long as the conditions of the water right are adhered to.

However, we've just created a situation, in closed areas, where no water right will ever get abandoned except by voluntary action by the owner - as long as the well is maintained.  Not so much a problem today, but eventually these non-used rights will be involved in any management solutions applied to the area.  If water right reductions are ever made, those who have been using the water all along will have to cut deeper in order to equitably share the pain with those who haven't been using the water at all, and may never do so again.  I suspect there will be active discussions at that time.  Of course, maybe water markets were invented for this exact reason.  It's all a matter of perspective.