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Five new laws address water conservation

Gov. Sam Brownback has signed five water conservation bills into law this legislative session. In addition to the legislation provided for Local Enhanced Management Areas, other laws end “use-it-or-lose-it” policy, amend flex accounts to give irrigators more options to manage water, amend the water banking program, and make improvements to the Water Transition Assistance Program.

House Bill 2451 eliminates the state’s “use-it-or-lose-it” water policy in areas closed to new water-right appropriations.

It gives landowners incentive to conserve water by eliminating the provision that threatened irrigators with loss of a right if they did not use their permitted allocation.

Key Points

• Five new laws this year deal with water conservation.

• The end of “use it or lose it” is a major move.

• Other bills give irrigators flexibility, right retirement.

An important distinction in this legislation is that it applies only to those areas of the state which are closed to new appropriations. In areas where there are still open water rights, users are still subject to reduction or loss of a water right that they do not fully use.

Senate Bill 272 amends multiyear flex accounts to expand irrigators’ capabilities and options so they can manage their crop water over a five-year period, without increasing long-term water use under their water right.

House Bill 2516 amends the state’s water banking program. The changes provide for more permanence in water banks and allows additional water banks to be developed where local producers find them to be a tool to help them in conserving water and protecting the economy. A water bank allows the short-term lease, up to 10 years, of water rights at a price set by the seller and agreed to by the buyer.

House Bill 2517 extends the sunset of the Water Transition Assistance Program by 10 years to the year 2022 and makes other improvements to the program. The purpose of this voluntary, incentive-based water right-retirement program is to provide a structured mechanism for the permanent dismissal of irrigation water rights, and the reduction of consumptive groundwater use in focused, overappropriated areas.

This article published in the June, 2012 edition of KANSAS FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2012.