Pilot Project Helps with Water Right Transition

Voluntary project helps water rights owners retire irrigation rights for payment by state.

Published on: Oct 31, 2011

The Kansas Department of Agriculture is accepting applications under the Water Right Transition Assistance Pilot Project Program (WTAP) until Nov. 15.

WTAP is a voluntary, incentive-based program that permanently retires privately held irrigation water rights in exchange for payment by the state of Kansas. It is intended to help restore aquifers and recover stream flows in critically depleted target areas.

The designated target areas include Rattlesnake Creek sub basin, Prairie Dog Creek basin and six ''High Priority Areas'' of Northwest Kansas Groundwater Management District No. 4. The WTAP rules and regulations, target area maps, application forms and other details are posted on the Division of Conservation website at www.scc.ks.gov/node/11.

Those areas have been hit especially hard in the ongoing drought that has affected most of Kansas during this summer and fall. In high streamflow years, they are able to draw water from surface and runoff sources. This year, irrigation water is pumped entirely from the aquifer.

"WTAP provides irrigators an opportunity to stabilize water systems while being compensated at market rates," Kansas Department of Agriculture Division of Conservation Water Conservation Programs Manager Steve Frost said. "It works well for producers who are interested in estates or trusts, or looking for ways to generate cash flow from one area of a farming operation. Even just portions of water rights can be retired, and dryland farming is allowed after the transition."

WTAP is designed to achieve significant impact in meeting State Water Plan goals regarding aquifer depletion levels and stream recovery, as well as in maintaining interstate compact obligations and avoiding water right impairment issues. The Kansas Department of Agriculture's Division of Conservation administers the program and Groundwater Management Districts and the Kansas Department of Agriculture Division of Water Resources assist with the implementation.

For more information, contact Steve Frost at 785-296-8964 or steve.frost@kda.ks.gov.