Northwest Kansas Groundwater Management District No. 4                                                                                                Site hosted by: Casey Designs


Frequently Asked Questions

Q:  Is the NW Kansas GMD 4 closed down to new wells?

A: Yes and No. First of all, the 6, GMD4-designated high priority areas (HPA's) are currently closed to new appropriations.  Most of the rest of the district is not technically closed down to new wells. However, it is very difficult to meet the new development policy which is a pre-requisite for getting a new, non-domestic, water right. If there are equal to or more than 335 acrefeet of groundwater already appropriated within the 2-mile radial area surrounding a new proposed well, that location is over-appropriated and closed for new, non-domestic development. Details on this policy are contained in the Management Program section of this web site. The exception to the first part of this answer are the six High Priority Areas designated by the board for enhanced management. As of September, 2008 these six areas have been formally closed to new wells except for domestic, and term and temporary wells. Domestic wells are still allowed, but they must be drilled by a Kansas-licensed water well contractor. Domestic wells are those for single household use, watering lawns, orchards or gardens not more than 2 acres in size, or watering livestock on pasture. Domestic use also includes up to 1.5 acrefeet of water for domestic uses (household purposes) of businesses - like churches, restaurants, motels, correctional facilities, schools, etc.

Q:  Can I re-drill a well in GMD 4 under an existing water right?

A: Yes. However, there are controls in place which can restrict where the replacement well can be located. You can be approved for a re-drill (following application) and move an existing water right (authorized rate and quantity) anywhere within 300 feet of the currently authorized well with virtually no restrictions other than obtaining State approval.  Any move beyond 300 feet and less than 2640 feet must meet well spacing from all other wells per GMD4 regulation 5-24-3 - Well Spacing. In GMD 4 a well can be re-drilled beyond 2640 feet and as far away (not to exceed 3960 feet) as hydrologic data demonstrates at least 1/2 foot of drawdown after 1 season of pumping. The hydrologic test for distances beyond 2640 feet are set forth in GMD 4 regulation 5-24-6 - Changes in points of diversion. Not in all cases can wells be re-drilled beyond 300 feet. For re-drilling wells outside GMD 4, contact the appropriate GMD or the division of water resources in Topeka for any restrictions.

Q:  In GMD 4 can I move my full water right between two existing wells?

A: Yes, but...... Again, there are regulations in place which control the movement of water rights between existing wells. Basically, you must be in the same local source of supply, which means movements over 1/2 mile, or, in GMD4 further than 3960 feet (if a theoretical pumping test can show at least 1/2 foot of drawdown after 1 season of pumping) are not allowed. This prevents a senior water right from being moved out of the immediate hydrologic area where it was perfected. You must also meet well spacing at the new location to prevent direct interference on existing wells once the move is approved, and you will be expected to properly dispose of the old well - plug, cap as inactive or convert it to domestic use. It is also possible to move a part of a water right to a new well, but the restrictions are yet more complicated. You are advised to contact GMD 4 staff for more information. As with most of these questions, they are focused on GMD 4 procedures.

Q:  Can I keep the same well but change the acres I irrigate?

A: (This answer applies statewide) Yes, but as with any change in a water right, you must first apply to the Division of Water Resources. The first consideration is the "base acres" of the current water right. These are the maximum acres actually irrigated in any 1 year prior to December 31, 1994 unless your perfection period ended after 1994 in which case different rules apply. Be advised that any year the water right conditions were violated cannot be counted in the "base acre" calculations and that "base acres" can be less than the current authorized acres. You can easily change to another irrigated tract or tracts which are equal to or less than the determined "base acres" plus 10% or 10 acres, whichever is less. In GMD 4 only, a "Resource Development Plan" will also be required on any new acres added to any water right change. If you want to change to a number of acres greater than 110% of your "base acres", or greater than your "base acres" +10, (whichever is less) you have only 2 alternatives: (1) you can agree to irrigate no more acres than the number of "base acres" in any calendar year (rotation option); OR (2) you can convert the existing water right to a 5-year water right at a total 5-year quantity equaling 5 times the evapotranspiration requirements for corn at the 50% chance rainfall level in your county at an .85% irrigation application efficiency (5-year water right option). For more detail, consult DWR Regulation 5-5-11 (page 84). All these options insure that consumptive water use is not increased as a result of the change.

Q:  What happens if I over pump my water right?

A: GMD 4 reviews all water use reports and has for a number of years been notifying owners of overpumps and requesting that they contact the district to either confirm any mistakes in the report, or, to understand the limitations of their right if the report was accurate. To date, the GMD effort has been non-regulatory. DWR is also reviewing all water use reports, but can handle only a limited number of enforcement actions. They currently have an overpumping program for blatant and recurring violations, but the triggers change annually so at this time only the most blatant and the longest violations are being handled. If your overpump report triggers their program, the first time you will be required to meter and pay a visit to the state to discuss the water right and work on a plan to operate within the water right and probably be required to file monthly water use reports. Subsequent violations get more serious and can eventually lead to fines, suspension of the water right, or eventual forfeiture. DWR currently working with the GMD 4 Board on a new pilot program for overpumpers in GMD 4. The new program will start with a DWR Order to not overpump again for all water users meeting a multiple-criteria test - including having overpumped multiple times in the last 5 years (2000 - 2005) and having overpumped at least 15 acrefeet or more. This new program is still developing, but will go into effect in 2007.

Q:  Do I need a permit for a domestic well in Kansas?

A: No. Domestic use (largely defined in FAQ #1 above) requires no water permit, but this water use IS a bona fide water right to the extent the water was put to beneficial use - with a priority date of its first use. The only requirement is that a licensed water well driller (in Kansas) be used to drill the well and that the water is not wasted. As a real water right, it is subject to impairment and to being impaired just like any other water right. It is recommended that the well be drilled such that it uses the entire aquifer.  Personal records should be kept on the date of first use and the quantity of annual use thereafter, but need not be filed with the state. While not required, you can file for a domestic water permit, but this will require annual water use reports and perhaps other non-domestic water right requirements like metering.

Q:  How do I qualify for a GMD 4 board position?

A: (OK, this is not a frequently asked question, but it should be) To be a board member of GMD 4 you must be an eligible voter and live within the County the board position represents. To be an eligible voter you must be at least 18 years old and own at least 40 acres of land inside the GMD that is not excluded from district assessment, or use at least 1 acrefoot of water inside the GMD annually. You may also be an eligible voter by virtue of your Executor status for an estate or trust, or Officer status in a corporation, or council status for a municipality. Finally, if your land is leased, under an estate for years or under contract, the fee owner can designate you to be the eligible voter instead of himself or herself for said land.  Each year 1/3 of the board positions are up for election. You must declare your candidacy for the appropriate board position and be elected at the annual meeting.

Q:  In GMD 4 can I change the use type of my water right?

A: (This answer also applies statewide) Yes, so long as the consumptive use does not increase. The maximum amount of an irrigation right that can be changed under an appropriation right is the net irrigation requirement (NIR) for the 50% chance rainfall in the subject county times the maximum acres legally irrigated in any one year within the water right's perfection period.  Basically, the NIR's are set by county in DWR Regulation 5-5-12 (page 87). For a vested right, the same formula is used but the acres used are the maximum acres irrigated anytime before June 28, 1945. For a little extra flexibility, these kinds of changes can also use the 80% chance rainfall value times the acres irrigated IF the right is converted to a 5-year fixed allocation based on the 50% chance rainfall value. This arrangement does not provide any additional total water, but allows for a little higher annual allocation. The regulation also allows for an engineering study or equivalent documentation and analysis to justify a higher historic consumptive use value - done at the cost to the applicant.

Q:  Are there exemptions for small, new water rights still available?

A: No. There are no pure exemptions for small, legitimate water rights any more. GMD 4 regulation 5-24-10 - Exemptions for up to 15 Acre-feet of Groundwater covers how this may be accomplished.  Basically, for any new, small use water right (up to 15 acrefeet) a like amount of water must be forfeited from an existing water right within 2 miles of the proposed well. The forfeited amount must also include the consumptive use conversion amount. This process results in no net increase of consumptive water use as a result of approving the new, small use application. Since these new water rights are being offset by similar reductions elsewhere, there are no limits to the number of small use applications that can be approved. It should be noted that there still are term and temporary water rights available, which are different in that no permanent water right is being created. Furthermore, domestic water rights are still available as well.

Q:  Will the enhanced management programs within all High Priority Areas be similar or the same?

A: No. The expectation is that each HPA will develop their own goals and approaches to achieve their goals. The final enhanced management programs developed under this arrangement allow each plan to be very different because they are developed very locally and under very different circumstances. While one group may want to use a reduced allocation, another group may want to use education and incentive programs. It is important to realize that the LEMA legislation (passed to facilitate these local actions) contains no specific solutions - it is only a process to accommodate locally developed approaches to locally perceived issues.