Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Water and Baseball - Why Not?

The small Kansas town of Muscotah in NE Kansas (Atchinson County) is planning to build a baseball museum inside their old water tower tank.  The museum is sort of focused and will feature Musctoah's native son Joe Tinker who played for the 1908 world series champion Chicago Cubs.  Yep, he's the guy immortalized in the 1910 baseball poem by Frank Adams called "Baseball's Sad Lexicon", which speaks to how effective Joe and two of his teammates were in becoming the most famous double play combination in baseball's history.  The trio was Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Frank Chance, who were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame together in 1946.

"Baseball's Sad Lexicon"

These are the saddest of possible words:
"Tinker to Evers to Chance."
Trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds,
Tinker and Evers and Chance.
Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble,
Making a Giant hit into a double--
Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble:
"Tinker to Evers to Chance."

Anyway, there is a little bit of water in the post so I thought I'd share.  And who knows, Tinker and the Tower may be about the same age, and the tower may even at one time had Joe's name on it.  At least I'm pretty sure Gayle Leonard will like it!  Check out her water tower posts if you Evers gets the Chance to Tinker around in her blog.  Sorry...

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Water's Not Complicated - It's Completely Complex

Global Water Forum
I have always known how complicated water management and water policy was, but this rendition is the straw that broke the camel's back for me.  It's completely off the charts.  Go ahead, take a look at it - I dare you!

If you're not going to bite, that link takes you to an article on UNESCO's Global Water Forum site where the topic is "International Water Politics".  More precisely it's an article by Dr. Daniel Connell, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University, that asks the question of how should we even compare water management schemes across political, cultural and legal landscapes.  It's the 11th of 11 articles in a larger series that can be perused here.

I've read the entire article, although I've not read the entire series. Bottom line for Dr. Connell is that there are 20 benchmarks of a mature, auto-adaptive river basin organization to implementing effective integrated river basin management.  This list was first developed by Bruce Hooper, but Dr. Connell agrees with it.  Then he goes on to say that while you need most of these benchmarks to succeed, having all 20 is not a guarantee of success because there is some "it" factor also required - that relates to purely cultural values associated with an outcomes approach (or some such notion).     

I also gather that groundwater management would have a different list of required benchmarks, since all the articles in this series seem to be focused on river systems, but it's not really clear that it would.  And again, I admit to not reading the entire series yet.

Anyway, I'm glad these caliber of folks are discussing and writing about water management, but I have to say their reports and articles are plenty theoretical and I'm guessing they'll never get effectively implemented because they may be the only ones that fully grasp the ideas.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Whole Aquifer Management - The Ogallala

Over the span of my 35 year career the issue of an aquifer-wide Ogallala management plan has come up three times.  The most serious effort was begun in 1995 under the wing of the Great Plains Foundation (GPF) which was formed in 1995 and whose first 5 years in existence was to be dedicated to water.  The director was Lori Triplett from Overland Park, KS and her vision was large, but clearly promoting the development of a multi-state, Master Management Plan for the Ogallala Aquifer.

The first meeting was a large affair held at the University of Missouri-Kansas City on March 2 and 3, 1995.  Thirteen states were represented and just about everyone who was anyone (in the water world of the Ogallala) was there.  It's was the first time (and last time) I had seen most of the state engineers in one place discussing the Ogallala Aquifer.

After two days of fairly direct, moderated conversation, the decision was that there might be a role for a Master Plan, but it would be limited in scope to data and information sharing and research coordination.  There would be no groundwater management and/or regulatory elements even attempted.  And the decision was unanimous by the state representatives.     

I have been against an Ogallala Master Plan each time it's come up, for a number of reasons, a few of which remain:

1)  Each state has drastically different water laws;
2)  The extent and degree of the decline problems vary so widely;
3)  Groundwater movement is slow and more localized attention is required; and
4)  The impending increased Federal presence and role.

Oh, the GPF.  The Foundation went on to conduct four more annual symposia on the Ogallala as planned originally - 1996 at Colby Community College; 1997 at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln; 1998 at Texas Tech University and 1999 in Oklahoma City (hosted by Oklahoma State University).  I attended all the sessions and have copies of the proceedings if anyone is interested.  The Foundation still exists, but I have lost contact with it since their Ogallala groundwater series ended.  The management of the Ogallala Aquifer, whether by local GMD, the state, some cooperative super-entity or the federal government, will remain controversial I'm fairly certain.

Friday, May 17, 2013

A Short Look at the Guarani Aquifer

In our part of the world the Ogallala Aquifer is really important, and has been written about extensively.  It is often touted (sometimes accurately and sometimes not) as the largest, the most heavily developed and/or the most stressed aquifer - in the northern hemisphere, the US and/or the world.

However, when it comes to size and volume of water, it's the Guarani Aquifer that clearly sets the bar.  This expansive aquifer is said to cover 1.2 million square kilometers, but quite a bit of its extent has yet to be verified - it might be even bigger.  It underlies parts of Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina in South America, with Brazil having the lion's share (61.6%) of it.  Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay have 21%, 8% and 3.3% respectively.  According to one published synopsis (Cassuto and Sampaio) at the rate current usage the aquifer will last for another 2,000 years.  Wikipedia is a bit more generous, claiming that at the worlds current population (6.9 billion) the Guarani could supply the worlds drinking water needs for 1,600 years. 

Well, what to do with the Guarani?  Not long ago the 4 countries claimed sovereign ownership of the aquifer and have been working together to develop a transboundary agreement.  The process is called GAS, for Guarani Aquifer System.  While all four countries have signed the GAS agreement, not all of the Countries have ratified it yet.  And not everyone is satisfied with the agreement, which according to some, is more fluff than substance and as such, will be an ineffective development and management directive.  I say not to worry, for if they screw this up, we've developed the LEMA process they can use to correct things later.  Anyway, now you know a bit about the Guarani Aquifer.  

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Kansas GMD Water Level Changes, 1997 - 2013

More numbers.  Following are the water level changes in all 5 GMDs between the years 1997 and 2013.  These changes are based on approximately 1200 monitoring wells measured in January of each year in all five of the Kansas GMDs.  The first row would be the water level change between the January 1996 and the January 1997 measurements. Our (GMD 4) numbers are highlighted.

The central Kansas GMDs  (GMD 2 and GMD 5) are supposed to be managed for long term safe yield, so the totals and the average values posted along the bottom are not as comparable to the remaining three western GMDs as most would expect.

The contrast among the western Kansas GMDs is interesting.  GMD 1 is the smallest and oldest and is by far the most advanced along its decline and saturated thickness trends.  Much of this area is projected to have the least remaining aquifer lifetime.  GMD 3, on the other hand, is the largest district, has the most saturated thickness, the most wells, the most irrigated area, the highest water use, and consequently the largest declines.  GMD 4 is smack dab in the middle of these two extremes.

All this to confirm that the GMD 4 annual average decline rate is the .6 feet per year we've been reporting for a number of years now.  Anyway, just thought I should try to keep the data freaks engaged from time to time.  And I am very sorry about the wavy columns - I've not figured out yet how to set tabs in Blogger!

Year     GMD1   GMD2  GMD3  GMD4  GMD5    5 GMDs
96-97          0.90        -0.15         -0.43         -0.14         0.90           0.22
97-98          0.53         1.56           0.04         -0.33         0.91           0.54
98-99         -0.57         0.52         -1.29          -0.26         0.04          -0.31
99-00         -0.38         0.20         -0.89          0.00         -0.15          -0.24  
00-01         -0.44        -0.98         -2.20         -1.16        -0.44          -1.04
01-02         -0.74        -0.97         -1.75         -0.40        -0.70          -0.91  
02-03         -1.37        -0.93         -3.35         -1.51        -1.48          -1.73  
03-04         -0.89        -0.25         -1.81         -1.14        -0.97          -1.01
04-05          0.24         1.09         -0.42         -0.60          0.10           0.08  
05-06         -0.29         0.00         -1.11         -0.57         -0.11          -0.42              
06-07         -0.73        -2.48         -2.45         -0.29        -1.39          -1.47
07-08         -1.15         2.12         -1.99         -0.89          3.34           0.29  
08-09         -0.29         1.63         -3.03         -0.42          0.58          -0.31
09-10         -0.43        -0.26         -1.39          0.10          0.63          -0.27
10-11         -0.72        -0.70         -3.05         -0.50         -0.44          -1.08
11-12         -1.49        -3.06         -4.26         -0.59         -2.95          -2.47
12-13         -1.54        -1.63         -3.56         -1.39        -1.83          -1.99
Totals        -9.36        -4.29         -32.94      -10.09       -3.96         -12.13
GMD A/A   -0.55        -0.25         -1.94         -0.59        -0.23       

Friday, May 10, 2013

Another Abandoned Well Tale

It was late October last year and CJ was out alone very early Saturday morning (1:30 A.M.) rabbit hunting of all things, near Merritt Island, Florida.  His next step would be onto an old piece of plywood that was covering an abandoned well that he never knew was there.  The fall wasn't too far, but the 12 feet of cold dirty water in the bottom sure made things difficult for him - being fully dressed and all.

He started screaming for help but at that time of night, it turned out to be pretty hopeless. He worked at keeping his head above water by using several methods - each as equally exhausting as the one before it - and was beginning to think the end was near after getting no help.  He took up screaming once more when daylight arrived.

His luck would change, however, when by 10:00 A.M. a man walking his dog heard the distress calls and called 911.  By 10:30 A.M. - after nine hours of cold, clinging and clutching - the firefighters arrived with a ladder to help him out.  Just another reminder that abandoned wells pose threats to our groundwater resources and ourselves at some point in their existence.  Don't let it happen any more.  Know of an abandoned well?  Contact someone to take care of it permanently.  The landowner or a local official (City, Township or County) would be good first calls.  Environmental agencies or even law enforcement might also be options.  No question about it, CJ was a very lucky man that night even though he bagged not a single rabbit.

Finally, if you're interested in these tales of abandoned wells, click on the "wells and accidents" link at the bottom of this article or on the Blogs Label List just to the right of the visitors Cluster Map.  There you'll find all the wells and accidents posts I've done to date - all in one place.  The Blog Label List is alphabetical, so keep scrolling down to very near the bottom to find the "wells and accidents" link.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

LEMAs Getting Attention in Kansas and Elsewhere

During the recent April and May board meetings here in GMD 4 the issue of how to continue addressing the district’s enhanced management protocol was discussed.  Recall that the first foray into sub basin enhanced management started looking at six high priority areas (HPAs), with HPA SD-6 eventually becoming the state's first Local Enhanced Management Area (LEMA).  The discussions were about what to do with the remaining five HPAs now that the first one (SD-6) has been completed.  
Long story short, the board is starting to generate the local interest in another HPA, but will hit it hard most likely this Fall - after farming season is completed.  Whether or not we undertake our second LEMA depends on the public response in the selected HPA.
In other LEMA efforts, the Western Kansas GMD 1 (Scott City) has also begun public discussions on the possibility of a LEMA in their GMD.  Thus far they have conducted five public meetings (1 per county) and are working through their second set.  They are considering the option of 1, district-wide LEMA (with and without regional variations), and are also discussing a formal voting procedure in the process.
The Southwest Kansas GMD 3 (Garden City) has also begun some preliminary public discussions on the potential use of LEMAs in their district, conducting several County meetings earlier this year.  At this time they are conducting several sub-group meetings within interested Counties who want to continue the dialog and are in the process of scheduling the remaining County meetings. 
By design, LEMAs were legislated initially only for the GMD areas because there was already a governance and funding mechanism in place, and a local groundwater management plan to build off of.  The state quickly recognized the potential of LEMAs (as did several non-GMD area leaders with water issues) and a bill was introduced in the 2013 session that would authorize "Agreed Local Management Areas" (ALMAs) - essentially identical to LEMAs, but putting the County Commissioners in the role of the GMDs in non-GMD areas.  This bill  did not get out of committee but will likely be discussed further. 
I expected a certain level of interest in Kansas, but I did not expect the coverage our Kansas LEMA has been getting elsewhere.  First it popped up on Twitter with a handful of water folks re-tweeting the SD-6 efforts.  Then the Circle of Blue (Pacific Institute) did a story on the effort that made some blogs and twitter again.  And finally, just two days ago I got a call from a Wisconsin irrigator who was interested in forming a local GMD in that state.  Who knows, maybe LEMAs are destined for broader areas than local enhanced management ones.

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Federal Government and Water, Again...

The theme of State's Rights regarding water resources and the appropriate federal role has been ongoing for a very long time, and about every 20 years or so the issue is raised again - usually by the states, and usually accusing the federal government of either overstepping it's water authority or trying outright to grab the states' waters.

It's happening again it seems.  On April 25 the Water and Power Subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing focused on opposing continual federal usurpation of local water rights.  Several activities were fleshed out during these hearings.  One was a claim by a Wyoming Conservation District chairman that the National Blueways System program run by the Interior Department summarily designated the Yellowstone River basin in Montana and Wyoming as a Blueway without any of the increased coordination elements the program was purporting to provide - increased coordination and consultation with affected landowners or public hearings.  While the Blueways program says it is simply to promote local conservation efforts and does not add any new regulations or protection statuses to designated rivers, the locals are a bit more direct in their assertion that it could result in the requirement for increased coordination - thus an increased federal presence and influence - since the feds are part of the coordination team.
Another example covered in the hearings involved a recent US Forest Service directive that forbids ski areas from selling their water rights except to the next owner of the ski area.  The Colorado Legislators passed a resolution condemning the Forest Service for that policy, and when they introduced a more substantive bill that would have prohibited the federal government from demanding water rights in return for issuing land-use permits, the locals tell that an influential Forest Service Undersecretary made personal calls to Colorado legislators to get the bill set aside.  They too, said the federal government was overstepping its authority in regard to water rights.

I'd be remiss if here I didn't add my pet peeve to the list - involving the activities of the federal Water Information Coordination Program (WICP) and its daughter subcommittee the federal Advisory Committee on Water Information (ACWI).   Some think a few of these efforts may be another federal foray into state's water right issues, albeit one that is so long, large, broad and hard to follow that it has operated below everyone's radar.  I won't recite everything here, but I've blogged about it before.  Search my blog for "ACWI" if you're interested.

When the mission statement of a workgroup within this complex federally-led entity is:  "Serve as a forum to share information and perspectives that will promote better decision making in the U.S. regarding the sustainability of our nation's water resources.", doesn't it say that "sustainability" is the policy of that federal effort?  When did sustainability of water resources become the national policy of the U.S.?
And when a federal agency bulletin says: "The new role of science will be to support environmental decision making to achieve some new level of sustainable use that will provide an assured supply of good-quality water for humans and for stream and riparian ecosystems.", doesn't it read that "sustainability" is the agency policy?

I'm not arguing that sustainability isn't a good and noble goal or policy.  I'm arguing that WICP and ACWI should not be the entity to decide what the federal policy is to be while subcommittees of this group are deciding what data is to be used and where they will get the data.  The data should drive the policy, not the other way around.

What ramifications are there in every venue of water IF the federal government gets to choose the national water policy, and, it is in fact sustainability? Anyway, this entire arrangement should be looked into IMHO.

However, whether I'm right or wrong, you can bet the tussle for control of water between the federal government and the individual states will continue long into the future.  My guess is it'll get more subtle rather than more aggressive.  Anyway, maybe we all should tune into this issue just a bit more.