The City of Wichita has filed applications with the Division of Water Resources to change the manner in which the city is granted “recharge credits” arising from the aquifer recharge project in the Equus Beds aquifer. The recharge project takes water from the Little Arkansas river during the times when the river is flowing at a specified rate above normal. The water is treated to normal drinking water standards and is caused to be either injected or settled into the aquifer. The city’s stated purpose is to provide increased access to Equus Beds water during times of draught. The city already has the most extensive water rights in the Equus Beds aquifer. The Division will hold public hearings to consider the applications.
Owners of water rights are frequently surprised to find that their water rights are partially owned by others. The awareness of this problem most often arises when the obvious owner applies for a change in the right—such as permission from the Division of Water Resources to drill a new well.
It is at this time that they learn the unexpected news: that many years ago the place of use was set up to include land also owned by someone else. Such a situation causes the current owner of the previously unknown “place of use” to have an interest in the right.
To avoid such unpleasant surprises we recommend some of the following steps. If land, including a water right, is being purchased have the right examined for title and ownership purposes. It is preferable to have the examination completed by a competent water law attorney. Title insurance does not include any detailed analysis of a water right. It is not insured under the normal policy.
As to land under common ownership which has been irrigated for many years, the same examination by a competent water law attorney is warranted.
When such extraneous ownership is discovered, or is known, there is great merit in working to clear the records so that such ownership is eliminated. The Division of Water Resources responds affirmatively to (1) agreements among owners and (2) court orders. Agreements are usually much less expensive. Court orders can be arduous processes to obtain.
Planning up front is thus critical to avoid unexpected expenses and surprises. In this case, an ounce of prevention is worth many acre feet of cure.