The dust is starting to settle and as of today we have 15 AWEP contracts signed to set aside 2,324 irrigated acres for the next 6 years - within 5 of our 6 designated high priority areas. One of these contracts is requesting a waiver from NRCS headquarters which may or may not be approved, so worst case scenario is 14 contracts involving 2,010 irrigated acres.
We have cooperated with the Kansas Water Transition Assistance Program (WTAP) and the NW Kansas Groundwater Conservation Foundation whose programs will be providing the balance of the funding needed to permanently retire the irrigated acres - for at least a subset of the 14-15 AWEP contracts who are so inclined. The WTAP application sign-up period will be October 1 - November 15. This program is a competitive bid process to permanently retire one's water right. With AWEP already providing a majority of the cost necessary to convert irrigated acres to dry land production, our applicants should compete fairly well. WTAP and the Conservation Foundation programs are also a multi-year efforts, so we should be able to phase these programs together for a bit longer.
The 30 or so unfunded AWEP applications this year will automatically move into next years program (the second year of a 3-year program) which could be an additional $2.666 million made available. We'll have to wait and see how Congress responds. We hope next year's WTAP program and the Conservation Foundation will also provide appropriate funding so we can continue the permanent retirements which represent the true conservation we sought from the outset.
As I've always said, the surest way to conserve water is to not pump it. And not pumping it also makes water management a lot easier!