Monday, September 23, 2013

Aquifers Found In Kenya

The Sahara, Kalahari and Namib, are three of the largest deserts in Africa, with the Namib Desert spanning an incredible 31,274 square miles of Southern Africa.  In recent news, satellite and advanced radar technology has detected two large aquifers throughout the Turkana and Lotikipi basins and another in Namibia, which is Sub-Saharan Africa's driest country.  In the Turkana region of Kenya, many areas have been hit extremely hard in recent years by drought, and have suffered economically due to the high population of nomadic herders, who depend on natural precipitation.  Once test drilling began, it was discovered that the aquifers were thought to contain up to 250bn cubic meters of water. 

Ms. Wakhungu, at a meeting of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization UNESCO, was quoted saying, "This newly found wealth of water opens a door to a more prosperous future for the people of Turkana and the nation as a whole.  We must now work to further explore these resources responsibly and safeguard them for future generations."  With debate rising as to the future of this water, many have begun to urge the government to engage in dialogues with local communities.  "We need to put in place a sound management system" stated Abou Amani, UNESCO's Africa Hydrologist.  The issue raised will now be deciding how this abundance of water will be managed, distributed and saved for future uses; whether they be industrial, agricultural or municipal.  "It is critical for governments to realize they don't...come up with programs without community ownership...and linking it to economic development."  Currently 17 million people of Kenya's 41 million total population, lack the ability to access safe water.  So the question presented, is not only how, but by whom Kenya will establish methods of managing such a quantity of water, found so suddenly.  This is certainly to be an extraordinary task with many facets to be considered along the way, as the plan is further developed.  Such an amazing find, with such incredibly possibilities for this region and all of Kenya.   

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The South Platte River; Affected by Neighboring Flooding

In the last week, parts of Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska are experiencing the affects of heavy, long term rain fall and river flooding.  Many Colorado communities have experienced neighborhood evacuations and extensive damage to residential and agricultural areas.  So far, throughout the state's affected areas, spanning from the foothills resting town of Boulder CO all the way East to Greeley and as far North as Laporte CO, there have been 8 confirmed casualties from the flooding as well as a reported 658 people missing state wide.  As in the west, canyons have been flooded and roadways destroyed, Nebraska's South Platte River is expecting to feel a bit of the impact as the National Weather Service has predicted that possible flooding of the South Platte River will begin Wednesday and likely continue for several days.  although the affected area is doubted to reach many residential areas, agricultural areas are thought to be possibly affected.  National Weather Service Meteorologist Bill Taylor indicated that it is difficult to estimate the degree of flooding possible along the South Platte, because of the several gauges that have been damaged by debris, upstream of Nebraska.

He went on to explain that water levels could reach record highs in areas that run along the South Platte River and Interstate 76.  Towns such as North Platte and sections of Lincoln County are preparing as the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross send teams to Ogallala to prepare shelters if necessary.  With North Platte resting only a skip and a jump from the Kansas border, it leaves many wondering if Northwest Kansas will see any impact of this flooding.  Once again, mother nature has chosen to remind us of her mighty powers, and we feel deeply for our neighboring agricultural communities and residential areas that have been affected.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Republican River Compact Meeting in Colby

The Republican River Compact Administration (RRCA) will hold it's Annual Meeting in Colby, Kansas tomorrow and Thursday.  Tomorrow's meeting will be for the technical committees from each state.  The agenda is: 

1. Welcome and introductions
2. WaterSmart Basin Study update and discussion
3. Status of annual reports and transcripts
4. Meaning of Colorado’s water-short year requirement
5. Harlan County Lake evaporation accounting for Compact year 2013
6. Monitoring of non-federal reservoirs in Kansas
7. Engineering Committee report
  a. Active Items
      i. Data exchange status
      ii. Ground and surface water irrigation recharge and return flows
      iii. Principia Mathematica contract
      iv. Nebraska proposal for relocation of Guide Rock stream gage and accounting procedure
      v. Adoption of revised area-capacity tables for Bonny Reservoir
      vi. Applied PRISM procedure for missing precipitation data for 2008-2010
      vii. Finalizing accounting data for 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011
      viii. Issues preventing agreement on final accounting for 2006-2011
  b. Items tabled for future
      i. User Manual
      ii. 5 year accounting spreadsheet
8. Review and finalize agenda for RRCA annual meeting

This meeting will be in our (GMD 4) new office facilities at 1290 W 4th - beginning at 2:00 PM CST.

The formal annual meeting of the RRCA will be held Thursday in the Colby Community Center, 285 E 5th Street, beginning at 9:00 AM.  This agenda is:

1. Introductions
2. Adoption of the Agenda
3. Status of Report and Transcripts for 2012 Annual Meeting and subsequent Special Meetings
4. Status of Previous Annual and Special Meetings Reports and Transcripts
5. Report of Chairman and Commissioners’ Reports
   a. Kansas
   b. Colorado
   c. Nebraska
6. Federal Reports
   a. Bureau of Reclamation
   b. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
   c. U.S. Geological Survey
7. Committee Reports
   a. Engineering Committee
      i. Assignments from 2012 Annual Meeting
      ii. Committee Recommendations to RRCA
      iii. Recommended assignments for Engineering Committee
8. Old Business
   a. Status of unapproved previous accounting
9. New Business and Assignments to Compact Committees
   a. Issues raised by the States
      i. Nebraska
         1. Article IX of the Compact
         2. Harlan County Lake evaporation accounting for Compact year 2013
         3. Monitoring of non-federal reservoirs
      ii. Kansas
         1. Beaver Creek allocations during Water Short Years
      iii. Colorado
   b. Action on Engineering Committee Report and assignments
   c. Resolution honoring Scott Ross
10. Remarks from the Public
11. Future Meeting Arrangements
12. Adjournment

These should be interesting meetings and I'm looking forward to attending both.  More later.  

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Another Abandoned Well Story

Winter sledding in 2009 at their grandparents house in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho turned frightful for 5 year old Mason and his 7 year old sister Maya when their last run of the day found them crashing and tumbling off the sled right into a 2 foot by 2 foot concrete opening for a well on the property.  The unknown well was located at the very bottom of the hill in a patch of weeds, was not covered and was nearly filled with icy water.  Maya was able to get out, but brother Mason could not.  He went under several times as Maya worked to extricate him.  Exasperated, she wedged the sled into the hard packed snow and dropped the rope into the well telling Mason to hold on as she went for help.  Running up the hill screaming "Mason is drowning!", she soon caught the attention of granddad Mike.   The race back down the hill was won that day and Mason was pulled out unhurt, though a little rattled.  There is no doubt about it - Maya saved the life of her brother by her quick thinking and hard-charging run up the hill.

Once again we see the potential danger of abandoned, improperly maintained wells.  I cannot overstate how important it is to bring these dangers to the attention of the proper authorities - starting with the landowner and then upward if not taken care of immediately.
The plugging of abandoned wells might be a great program for groundwater districts or other civic groups interested.  GMD 4 has already inventoried our district area and caused the plugging of just over 2,000 abandoned wells that were located.  Not only are these wells a danger to life and limb, but they can also be conduits for surface contamination of the groundwater.  Something to consider, anyway.  For the rest of our abandoned well stories, click on the "wells and accidents" tag below.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Federal Dilemma Discovered

Water rights in any state are usually complicated, but in Kansas they can be especially so.  Over the past 7 or 8 years Kansas has been working with the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) on implementing a pretty savvy EQIP offering.  For the most part, we have worked and played well together, and the EQIP program that has resulted has been useful and used.

Basically, EQIP is incenting producers to set aside irrigated ground for non-irrigated production in order to achieve a water quantity resource goal set by NRCS at the recommendation of the Kansas Technical Committee.  The EQIP contract requires the water right to be set aside and not used for the contract period plus one "maintenance" year.  Moreover, the water from that water right cannot be used on any other land.  All this sounded pretty reasonable as the effort was being wordsmithed, as all Kansans were thinking water rights.   

However, we have just now reached one of those "humps in the road" with a program interpretation that, if not re-interpreted by NRCS, is going to be problematic.  NRCS has told program enrollees that the well itself cannot supply water for any other use during the contract period.  They have apparently linked the well to the water right in a black and white fashion.  They have obviously been thinking "water" when we were thinking "water rights".

The problem is that in Kansas multiple water rights can be, and often are, associated with a single well.  Even when an irrigation water right is forfeited, dismissed, sold or otherwise eliminated, nothing precludes the use of that well for domestic purposes, or any other water right or term permit that is associated with the well.  Each of these would have a different priority date, water right file number and use type, so using them would insure that no water from the contracted irrigation water right would be used.

What the current NRCS interpretation is actually doing, is preventing Kansas citizens from accessing any of their other valid water rights that may be associated with the subject well - including domestic uses - and we think this would be in violation of Kansas water law. 

I don't think this was the NRCS intent, and I'm holding out that they will listen to our concerns and eventually agree with us because they understand Kansas Water Rights better as a result of our discussions.  It'll end up being just a minor misunderstanding. But, if they refuse, one will have to wonder if this is not another federal incursion into state's water rights - by design.  More information later.