Friday, September 24, 2010

So, You Want A New Water Right..

New water rights are pretty hard to get in GMD 4, but not impossible.  It largely depends on where you are wanting one.  New water rights are generally allowed if the long-term safe yield of an area has not yet been exceeded.  We consider that recharge value to be 1/2 inch, and the area of concern to be a 2-mile radius circle (8,042 acres) surrounding the proposed well location.  The half inch recharge over 8,042 acres translates into 335 acre feet of water allowable.

So, if there is less than 335 acre feet of appropriated water rights in the 8,042 acre area surrounding your proposed well location, it can be appropriated to you (up to the 335 acre feet limit) - provided, you're not in one of the permanently closed areas, or, an intensives groundwater use control area. The GMD regulations also do not apply to domestic wells, term and temporary permits or non-Ogallala wells.  

If you're lucky enough to be in a very lightly developed area and water is available for appropriation, you must also meet a variable well spacing requirement a minimum of 1400 feet for appropriations less than 175 acre feet, or 2,000 feet for larger appropriations.  As you may suspect, there are not many areas in the district where these conditions can be met, and in those areas where they can be, there's not a bounty of groundwater to be had, or the land is not generally suited for irrigation.

Most don't realize how restrictive this new-development regulation is, but with a typical quarter section pivot system needing about 200 acrefeet of water per year, it approaches the severity of 2-mile well spacing from any other high capacity well.

These regulations have been in effect since the mid-1980s, so not much new water has been appropriated since then. In reality, we have experienced a net reduction in total water appropriated since then - but not by hugely significant numbers.  And with the current water use reduction programs on-going, we'll be reducing our withdrawals even more over the next 3 years.  Again, we're not halving our water use, but it's clearly peaked and is headed the other way now.

It pains me to read the headlines that the rate of groundwater mining is increasing worldwide, and while it may be doing so on a global scale, I'm happy to report that this is NOT the case in our part of the world.


  1. It's always nice to hear stories of people who are responsible stewards of their groundwater resources. We have on of the more progressive groundwater management regulatory programs here in Arizona, but it only covers part of the state - the rest is still the wild west for access to groundwater. And even in the managed areas the amount of grandfathered and other permitted pumping that occurs makes it unlikely that we'll make it to the elusive state of safe yield.
    Keep up the good work, Wayne.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Chris - always appreciate hearing from you. We are also a "fer piece" from the elusive safe yield (and we are also just part of the state) so all is not yet perfect in Kansas, either.

    However, I wanted to make but one point: While we don't deny the truth of the increasing worldwide groundwater mining rate, we are NOT contributing to it - as has been implied by recent reports. These all-inclusive, attention-grabbing headlines really bug me, and I think, give us all a bad rep.

    Anyway, thanks again, Wayne.