Arkansas Valley: New irrigation rules on track

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From the Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The state is proposing the rules to ensure that irrigation improvements using surface supplies – sprinklers, ditch lining or pipes – don’t increase consumptive use. If they do, supplies to downstream users within the state and across the Kansas border could be reduced, raising the specter of more legal action over the Arkansas River Compact. The rules would cover improvements made in the Arkansas Valley since 1999, when Kansas and Arkansas reached agreement on historic consumptive use – the amount of water crops consume. The last committee meeting will be at 1 p.m. June 22 at the Pueblo Board of Water Works conference room, [State Engineer Dick Wolfe] said. By then, Kansas will have reviewed the rules a second time, and the state can consider those comments along with the concerns of in-state irrigators…

The state is not relying on the data from 40-50 years ago that was used in the Kansas v. Colorado lawsuit to build the new computer model for changes in consumptive use for surface irrigation improvements, Wolfe said. The state is using data from a lysimeter – a mechanical means of measuring how much water is used to grow a crop – and studying weather patterns to fine-tune the model accepted by both states in the Kansas v. Colorado lawsuit. Wolfe bristled at the notion that the problem is a small one. “Yes, it’s only 1,000 acre-feet now, but we want these rules in place as we move forward so people have certainty,” Wolfe said. “We’re trying to avoid another compact violation, as we have continued to point out.”

The state has proposed two basic ways to account for how water use changes when improvements are added. The first would require farmers to show how they have reduced acreage or are bypassing flows to account for higher consumptive use because of increased efficiency. The second are blanket plans that cover wider areas using models to account for impacts over entire ditch systems or laterals.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

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