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. 

No comments:

Post a Comment