A groundwater management district has the ability to assess a water use charge against landowners within a district or authorized users of a water right. K.S.A. 82a-1030(a) allows the district to impose the charge based on “groundwater withdrawn within the district or allocated by the water right.” The cap on the amount the district can assess is further defined in the statute. Otherwise, a district is free to choose the assessment amount and this is often a very political decision.
A groundwater district can even assess a separate charge based simply on land owned within the district. These special assessments are then treated in a manner similar to a property tax. A landowner may seek a verified claim to try and seek abatement of the charges under certain circumstances. These verified claims must be submitted by April 1 and each district may utilize a special form for this request.
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.