Local Enhanced Management Areas (LEMAs) are a tool that allow for local management of water resources. Usually a set period of time—i.e. 5 years—is specified over which reductions in water use must occur.
Local water users can come together to form a LEMA. They must chart out a detailed plan of how reductions can be completed. The plan is oftentimes based on expert analysis and data that demonstrate how to reduce declines in water levels.
Once a plan is formulated, a series of public hearings occur. The Chief Engineer of the Division of Water Resources will generally oversee those hearings. The public is given a full opportunity to support or oppose the LEMA and proper process must be followed.
Once a plan is approved, the members of the LEMA must abide by its terms. The Chief Engineer can enforce the LEMA terms and impose penalties for noncompliance.
LEMAs are becoming an increasingly popular tool to ensure water management in Western Kansas. The formation of LEMAs has not been met without opposition, however. At least one LEMA is now the subject of a court case due to objections lodged against the process utilized to form the LEMA and based on the terms of the LEMA itself.