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.

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