Thursday, October 28, 2010

More From the Everyday Cookbook

OK, so no one has asked for more cookbook lore, but I'm going to give you more anyway.  Recall that the following tidbits come from the 1892 "The Snow White Cook Book".  This time around will be Cures:

1)  TO RESTORE FROM STROKE OF LIGHTENING.  Shower with cold water for two hours; if the patient does not show signs of life, put salt in the water, and continue to shower an hour longer.

2)  WARM WATER.  Warm water is preferable to cold water as a drink to persons who are subject to dyspeptic and bilious complaints, and it may be taken more freely than cold water, and consequently answers better as a diluent for carrying off bile, and removing obstructions in the urinary secretion, in cases of stone and gravel.

3)  BITES OF DOGS.  The only safe remedy in case of a bite from a dog suspected of madness, is to burn out the wound thoroughly with red-hot iron, or with lunar caustic, for fully eight seconds, so as to destroy the entire surface of the wound. Do this as soon as possible, for no time is to be lost. Of course it is expected that the parts touched with the caustic will turn black.

4)  LEANNESS.  Is caused generally by the lack of power in the digestive organs to digest and assimilate the fat-producing elements of food. First restore digestion, take plenty of sleep, drink all the water the stomach will bear in the morning on rising, take moderate exercise in the open air, eat oatmeal, cracked wheat, Graham mush, baked sweet apples, roasted and boiled beef, cultivate jolly people, and bathe daily.

There you have it.  What'd we learn?  Water is an important element in curing whatever ails you!  First, if someone is struck by lightening, shower in it - cold, mind you.  I don't know, but you may even want to place the victim in the shower with you.  In any event, I'd post instructions next to the shower in case you're the victim and are showing no signs of life. 

Secondly, drink warm water for good health. I'd do this even if you're not sure of your bile-count or if you have stones or gravel anywhere inside you. 

Third, if you're too thin, drink plenty of water first thing in the morning. I'm disappointed the book does not clarify if it should be warm or cold water in this case. But I am thankful for the advice to be around jolly folks and bathe daily.  Hopefully the jolly fellows will do the same. 

And finally, my best advice from this blog entry?  Stay the hell away from dogs!!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Kansas State Water Plan Fund

The Kansas state water plan fund is an annual pot of money used exclusively for water projects in the state endorsed by the state water plan.  It is roughly $20 million per year derived from 10 sources: 1) a state general fund transfer; 2) an economic development fund transfer; 3) municipal water fees; 4) industrial water fees; 5) stockwater fees; 6) pesticide registration fees; 7) fertilizer registration fees; 8) pollution fines and penaties; 9) clean drinking water fee fund transfer; and 10) sand royaly receipts. It has been this way virtually since its inception in 1989 with only a few, minor tweaks.

The optimist says that $20 million a year for water projects is pretty good.  The pessimist says that $20 million of 1989 dollars is only $10 million of 2010 dollars, so water resource funding in Kansas is losing ground. I guess I'm neither an optimist nor pessimist (or perhaps more accurately - both) because $20 million 1989 dollars was not enough and it's getting less and less each year.  Kansas has this year a $13.7 billion budget.  ALL natural resources spending combined is but .5% of that budget. I'm sorry, but it's almost embarassing in light of the almost bombastic rhetoric water gets each and every year in this drier than average state. When the funding starts to flow from the verbiage, I'll become an optimist.

OK, let's put up the soapbox and start thinking about other interesting, but more positive, topics.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Beware of Groundwater Depletion Predictions

Topic: Pet peeve (if not number 1, pretty high up there) - Predictions of when we'll run out of groundwater.

Let's start in my own back yard - the Kansas High Plains - Ogallala country. The following was printed on February 4, 1979 in one of the state's leading newspapers:
State water experts predict that irrigation will be nothing but a memory in many large areas of west central Kansas in eight to 10 years. They give northwest Kansas about 15 years..
Well, northwest Kansas is my area, and I'm glad to report that irrigation is still here. And most of it is still in west central Kansas, too.  In other words, the 1979 predictions were not at all accurate.  The question is why?   The short answer is that most predictions take an average trend - like annual decline rate - and project it forward.  In 1979 the average decline rate in western Kansas was approaching 2 feet per year.  With only 40 to 80 feet of saturated thickness remaining in west central and northwest Kansas respectively, and irrigation needing about 30 feet of water to continue, the math at that time seemed close to correct.

But, in real situations, the declines reduce well yields, which in turn reduce water diversions, which in turn reduce the decline rates.  The assumption of a straight-line trend is faulty.  Click on the water level chart above to enlarge it.  This chart involves 50 obsevation wells in one County in NW Kansas - Sheridan.  Graphed are the 4 wells of these 50 which show:  the most saturated thickness in 1965; the least saturated thickness in 1965; the most decline - 1965-2008; and the least decline - 1965-2008.  The heavy black plotting is the average saturated thickness of all 50 wells in each year.

Several things are obvious. First, where there was good water in 1965, the wells were pumped hard and declines resulted. Where there was not good water, there was limited use and a relatively stable saturated thickness. Second, the average decline rate is slowing and in fact all the graph lines are converging toward that average.  Again, the straight line trend assumption if used in this case in 1975 would have been very wrong.

And furthermore, this is just one section of our district. Looking at the same chart for the 19 observation wells in western Grahan County (the next county east of Sheridan) the decline problem is a non-issue.

Water table declines will always be problematic, but they will rarely be as bad as the press and headline grabbers want them to appear.  So, ask the right questions and get the good data before assuming the end of the groundwater world as we know it today.  Groundwater is very temporal and site specific, so generalizations do no one any good.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Global Water Management?

Today is October 15, 2010 and it is ActionBlogDay. The topic this year is “Water”. It’s a super easy subject for me because I’m a groundwater blogger, yet when I think about it, it shouldn’t be a difficult task for anyone since water touches just about every aspect of life on this planet today. Come to think of it, it’s touched every aspect of life on this planet from the very beginning of time. Period.

So what should we be saying about water in this venue? Many very important folks will be weighing in today, so what of merit can I possibly add to the discussion? What answers do I have for us all? I’m sorry, but all I have handy today is the following dose of reality - and hope?

To me, it seems that most people feel managing water is quite easy – figure out how much you have available, then don’t use any more. Instant sustainability, no future problems, bingo. Yet this is rarely the norm. Why is that? First, it’s not that easy to figure out precisely how much water is available in the long run – in either surface water or groundwater systems. Second, it’s been too easy to stretch out and add to your supplies from elsewhere. Third, never anticipated water quality degradation affects what you think your supplies might be in surprising ways – always negative. Fourth, the climate variability that used to just make it difficult to calculate what your supply is, is now changing those supplies directly. Fifth, sustainability is not an individual concept but a collective commitment. Add to these conditions the legal, social and economic influences plied upon the most necessary resource on earth, not-with-standing perhaps air itself, and we wonder why it gets so dicey.

Bottom line is that water has never been easy to manage and never will be. When someone steps up and declares the best times, places, quantities and uses of our global water supply, and everyone else agrees, and we have the political will and economic means to make it happen, then we’ll have our solutions. This seems to me to be the real challenge.

Monday, October 11, 2010

More Water Conservation In Kansas

Well, the interim legislative committee hearings have wrapped up and much of the testimony has not changed from the February presentations.  Kansas Farm Bureau still opposes a new "conservation" use type for a variety of reasons - mostly revolving around the ability of every water right in the state being able to change their right to conservation - for very long periods of time.  The GMDs still want a conservation approach that addresses all 6 of the issues described in our previous (October 1, 2010) post. Kansas Livestock Association wants the former Water Rights Conservation Program (WRCP) back again. The state agencies want the new conservation use type that most everyone else thinks is too novel and far-reaching to jump into just now.

The interim Legislative committee during it's discussion session seemed to lean toward re-instating the old WRCP program - with providing fees or funding for it - while allowing the new conservation use type concept to continue developing. 

As discussed here earlier, the new conservation use type is an interesting approach, with several benefits.  But, it also has a few unknown elements that will be hard to predict beforehand - and thus remain pretty concerning.  The permanent change of the water right is one of these unpredictable elements.  While it'll solve the conservation funding issues rather nicely, and it does appear to address with certainty the process for changing water rights back into recognized uses, it doesn't leave enough certainty as some would like. The fact that the "public interest" is required to be considered in all change applications should have everyone wondering what that public interest will look like in the future. In fact it could become the factor that does not allow the chief engineer to change all (or any) of the water right back into a consumptive use of water when that time comes.  And this may induce enough uncertainty into the process to dissuade some from partaking.

I do believe these issues could be addressed in a well-thought-out statutory amendment designed to implement this new approach to conservation, but I'm less certain about our collective wills to achieve it.  Ah, the ole water politics venue may be alive and well in Kansas, but I'm not for sure. I hope not, because the citizens of the state usually end up on the short end of the results if they are.  Anyway, I for one am willing to consider the concept further.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Water Conservation in Kansas

With the elimination of the Water Rights Conservation Program (WRCP) at the end of 2009 because of fiscal shortfalls, most of us in the state started working on a replacement program that would cover its cost. For those who don't know, WRCP allowed any valid water right owner to enroll a water right for 5 to 10 years for conservation purposes - without fearing loss of the right for non-use. We had about 800 rights in the program when it was eliminated, but more than that had participated over the years.

We looked at a number of options for funding, but for one reason or another none were satisfactory to the state agency running WRCP.  Through this very open discussion, a few other issues were identified which we all agreed to try and fix while we were at it.  In the end, six elements of an acceptable water conservation program were agreed upon:

1) a definite time period a water right could be enrolled;
2) a fee funded program design to address the agency funding issues;
3) the ability to cap the well and store equipment while enrolled;
4) only to be available in over-appropriated areas;
5) full certainty of the water right both entering and exiting the program; and
6) controlling administration calls by those enrolled.

Three proposals were discussed - only one of which included all 6 elements - when out of the blue the Legislature introduces a 4th approach.  There was no shortage of ideas, but when the dust settled, the Legislative, and one portion of the state agency proposal passed.  Unfortunately, these two approaches, together, only addressed two of the six elements and have left most of us scratching our heads. 

Yet, possibly good news.  As I write this, we're preparing to start discussions with an interim Legislative Committee that has agreed to look at all these issues again.  Even if it's only because the state agency is promoting the rest of their proposal that didn't pass last year, this is heartening news - a second chance.  The problem now is the state's approach only addresses one more of the original elements (still leaving 3 unaddressed) and if passed, will be in conflict with parts the two actions just taken.  What a mess.

The five GMDs will be testifying once again (exactly as we did last year) on the need to get in place one conservation approach that addresses all 6 of the issues identified - and we don't really care which one it is. From my seat, it really shouldn't be this hard.  We'll see.