An important bill is being debated regarding assessment caps for groundwater management districts. That bill is SB 194. Groundwater management districts can impose assessments on landowners in the respective district, along with charges on appropriators of water. Right now those assessments are capped.
The problem is that several groundwater districts simply cannot meet operating expenses given the current assessment caps. Thus, the groundwater districts, along with support from other entities, are lobbying to change the caps.
SB 194 will increase the capped rates from $1 to $1.50 for water used within the respective groundwater management district. It will also increase the rate from $1.50 to $2 if more than 50 percent of the water is used outside the district.
The bill also doubles the assessments on land owned within the district. The bill has already passed the Senate and is now before the House for consideration.
A decision is now pending from the Chief Engineer of the Division of Water Resources regarding the McPherson Intensive Groundwater Use Control Area (IGUCA). The Chief Engineer held a public hearing on October 4, 2016 and imposed a final deadline for written testimony of December 2, 2016. An IGUCA is designed to serve as a tool to locally manage areas with significant groundwater level declines. The McPherson IGUCA was established in March of 1980 and had two principal conditions: 1) that the designated area was closed to new appropriations, except domestic and temporary permits, and 2) that water flow meters had to be installed on all groundwater wells, except domestic and temporary wells.
At the hearing numerous changes to the IGUCA were on the table including expanding the geographical area and changing allocations of water. The Equus Beds Groundwater Management District No. 2 participated actively in the hearing process. The Board of the District recommended that the Chief Engineer not expand the boundaries of the McPherson IGUCA until proper modeling and local safe yield regulations could be completed. The Board’s recommendations likely should be very instrumental in the ultimate decision. The outcome of the Chief Engineer’s order could have profound consequences for irrigators in the McPherson area.