Water is the key resource for the present and future prosperity of all. There are other resources which may mean the difference between wealth and poverty, such as oil or gas, but none is like water as a fundamental necessity for our existence and nearly all other economic development. Groundwater has been the predominant source of water for the District as new ways to use and conserve water are employed into the future. All water supply ultimately depends on precipitation, storage and transportation.  Water governance promotes the individual and the public interest in developing and managing affordable water services and will to pay for them.

Groundwater governance framework. The Southwest Kansas Groundwater Management District No. 3 (GMD3) Management Program document is intended to provide a groundwater governance framework for the groundwater sources and services to District eligible voters from this critical declining natural resource. The Management Program document provides a basis for the formal and informal norms and practices adopted for managing the local groundwater resources that best protect the equities, investments, and resource service interests from available usable groundwater in the public interest.  An up-to-date management program document is necessary to aid state agencies and other partners in solving water supply problems.  Any revision of state administrative rules that may alter the management program standards for the District, other than emergency rules, should occur only after the process for revising the Management Program Document has occurred as prescribed by law.  Following the process for revising the management program will assure proper implementation of rights and responsibilities delegated to the GMD3 in the Kansas Groundwater Management District Act, the State Water Resources Planning Act and the Kansas Water Appropriation Act.  This in turn gives structure to consider and set needed planning, regulations and practices that govern the present and future District water supply in the public interest.

Local groundwater governance can be difficult for many reasons, including:

  1. Groundwater is a shared resource;
  2. Groundwater inflows and outflows are difficult to observe and cannot be measured directly;
  3. Surface and groundwater are interconnected;
  4. Aquifer boundaries and characteristics may be locally unknown or poorly defined;
  5. Groundwater management requires specialized tools like supply and economic models;
  6. Groundwater conditions can vary on multiple time scales;
  7. Groundwater use can pit present needs against future needs; especially in declining aquifers;
  8. Diverse local, state and federal interests, institutions and authorities require significant coordination activity to accomplish productive partnerships that accomplish the purposes of the groundwater governance in the public interest.


Kansas Groundwater Policy: The Kansas Groundwater Management District Act (GMD Act) (K.S.A.82a-1020 et. seq.) does not specify how GMD’s should govern local groundwater resources, nor does it provide details on the interplay between federal, state and local actions,

except to maintain that effective groundwater management programs are best developed and adopted locally. The GMD Act declares two key concepts of Kansas water policy:

1)         “Nothing in this act shall be construed as limiting or affecting any duty or power of the chief engineer granted pursuant to the Kansas water appropriation act.”

2)         “… preserve basic water use doctrine and to establish the right of local water users to determine their destiny with respect to the use of the groundwater insofar as it does not conflict with the basic laws and policies of the state of Kansas.”

More recently, Kansans have favored collective conservation program initiatives relying on provisions of the GMD Act over strict application of some historical western water law doctrines that constrain efficient groundwater management. This has occurred primarily in declining and non-replenishing groundwater aquifer areas that comprise the District High Plains Aquifer when the doctrine of beneficial use requires use or else water right owners risk suffering loss of rights to use water, which frustrates conservation efforts. Also, the doctrine of prior appropriation contemplates earlier (senior) water rights must be satisfied before later in time (junior) rights can access water, which also inhibits collective conservation efforts, use efficiencies and the public interest.   Improved modern access to water data and information has allowed water policies to be applied through adaptive implementation strategies and for institutional tools to be added that accommodate more informed and efficient groundwater supply management in near real time conditions and for future needs. Significant work remains in education and implementation of effective groundwater conservation for on-site management of water and District wide programs. Equally important is the intrastate and interstate policy development to facilitate water transportation infrastructure to meet future needs for water and energy services.


Act on a shared commitment to conserve and develop water supply to grow the social, economic and natural resources well-being for current and future generations in the public interest.

In 1972 the Kansas Legislature ratified the GMD Act to affirm rights to locally formed Districts of organized land owners and water users that implement the policies of the legislature through a groundwater management program.

Legislative objectives for forming GMDs:

  1. Proper management of the groundwater resources of the state;
  2. Conservation of groundwater resources;
  3. Prevention of economic deterioration;
  4. Associated endeavors within the state of Kansas through the stabilization of agriculture;

To secure for Kansas the benefit of its fertile soils and favorable location with respect to national and world markets

Purposes for which GMD3 was organized in 1976:

  1. To organize and develop the efforts of the entire Groundwater Management District for the proper management and conservation of its groundwater resources;
  2. Provide local input into the use and management of groundwater;
  3. Provide for the greatest total social and economic benefits from the development, use and management of groundwater;
  4. Support research and education concerning proper water management;
  5. Work cooperatively with all federal, state, and local units of government to accomplish the objectives of the district and the Groundwater Management District Act and amendments thereto.

Guiding Principles of the District:

  1. Represent all District eligible voters for groundwater management purposes.
  2. Promote a culture of conservation.
  3. Protect and enhance access to safe and usable water.
  4. Pursue the highest value for the groundwater consumed.
  5. Develop data and information needed to support prudent water management decisions.
  6. Target management programs to meet local water needs for today and in the future.
  7. All water rights in the District are real property owned by eligible voters and are to be justly represented and administered.

Management Program Policy Statements:

  1. Water Supply – Conserve present water use benefits and grow the future District usable water supply for the health, safety and welfare of all citizens.
  2. Aquifer supply dedication to existing real property rights – Aquifers closed to new water rights at the request of the District are considered fully and completely dedicated to existing real property rights of eligible voters, except for domestic use.
  3. Drinking water – Safe drinking water is a fundamental necessity of every person.
  4. Donations to Future Supply – An acre foot of groundwater available from a declining aquifer source that is physically and lawfully divertible from an existing operable well for beneficial use has a present conservation value to the future District supply that may be donated by an eligible voter.
  5. Communications – Good communications between GMD3 and diverse local, state and federal interests, institutions and authorities are necessary for good groundwater management partnerships.
  6. Mutual Benefits and Good Will – Encourage all water users and land owners to make decisions, agreements or stipulations affecting their real property water rights that promote mutual benefits and goodwill in the use and conservation of the groundwater supply in the District for a reasonable future period of time.
  7.  State Administrative Reviews – Any state administrative review of an application or request for an order that may affect the status quo groundwater supply to a well owned by any District eligible voter should identify and disclose to the owner the considerations ofK.S.A. 82a-711 and what may be needed to satisfy prior rights to that supply over a given future period of time.
  8. Board Intervention – The Board may seek to intervene on behalf of all eligible voters if any process fails, or threatens to fail, to adequately implement the District groundwater management program and policies in the public interest.
  9. Groundwater management information – Management program operations and policy implementation shall be based upon the best data, models, and information available.

Management Considerations for GMD3 Aquifer Infrastructure:

As water supply for local projects in the District declines in the absence of alternative imported sources, the value of water will go up and pressure on water users to seek waivers of standards increases. The Board of GMD3 may include the following considerations in their deliberations and recommendations to members, officials and the public concerning governance of groundwater, supply augmentation and aquifer pore space infrastructure as appropriate to manage groundwater resources within the District

1.Drinking Water Goal

It is in the public interest to ensure that quality drinking water is available for people and animals. No modification to historic terms of groundwater use should occur that may create an unreasonable or unreliable safe drinking water supply, including deteriorating drinking water quality (Water Usability Depletion).


2.  Maximum Allowable Rate of Aquifer Depletion

 For evaluation purposes, the maximum allowable rate of consumption of the aquifer supply shall not exceed 40% in 25 years to manage excessive aquifer depletion rates in the public interest.


3.  Culture of Conservation 

a.)  Activity promoting present use efficiency and usable groundwater preserved in storage for future supply should receive due consideration for contributing to the GMD3 management program in the public interest


b)  Planned conservation activity may be established in unique groundwater management (GMA) areas as non-water right management plans ordered for corrective controls in the public interest, including and not limited to: Intensive Groundwater Use Control Areas (IGUCA’s), Groundwater Quality Management Areas (GQMA’s), Local Enhanced Management Areas (LEMA’s), and Water Conservation Areas (WCA’s).

4.  Groundwater Conservation Reports

 Water right owners or water users with water conservation activities or agreements may voluntarily submit annual water conservation reports in a manner similar to state water  use reports and receive due consideration for contributing to the GMD3 management program in the public interest.

Groundwater conservation includes any action or activity that materially improves the future usable supply from a declining local aquifer source that is presently physically and lawfully available from an existing operable well.


5. Water Right Priority Contributions

 Senior water right interests who withhold priority calls for groundwater against other users in a local source of supply should be recognized as contributing to mutual benefits and good will and the purposes of the GMD3 management program in the public interest.


6.  Modifying Historical Terms of Groundwater Use

 Changing terms, limitations or conditions of historically authorized use caries both statutorily prescribed considerations and management program considerations. Water right owners seeking modified terms of use should review the considerations required in K.S.A. 82a-711, what is needed to satisfy prior rights for the following 25 years, and any corrective controls needed to meet management program goals in the public interest.


7.  Economic Use Value

 Managing water as an economic good is an important way of achieving efficient equitable groundwater use and encouraging conservation of water resources. A proposal that adds resource responsible use value should be recognized for contributing to the GMD3 management program in the public interest.


8.  Supply Development

 Proposals to conserve High Plains Aquifer water by seeking an economically and technologically feasible lessor quality source or by importing an alternative source, should be recognized as contributing to the GMD3 management program in the public interest.


9.  Groundwater Supply Estimate Improvement

 Additional detailed aquifer information that improves groundwater knowledge and supply estimates can be recognized and credited as contributing to the GMD3 management program in the public interest.


10.  Water Importation Improvement

 Water demand within GMD3 far exceeds long term water availability. It is therefore in the public interest to pursue additional sources of water as part of the long-term strategy for water services to the District, the state and the region of the United States in the public interest.


The US Army Corps of Engineers and the Kansas Water Office in 2015 updated a transfer study from 1982 with financial assistance from GMD3 to investigate the feasibility of transferring water from the Missouri River to western Kansas. GMD3 will pursue partners to evaluate opportunities to develop the feasibility of interstate compact authorized water transfers from southeast Kansas sub-basins for water otherwise lost to Kansas beneficial use. Work is also occurring to form multi-state study partnerships to investigate transfer of Mississippi River water to the western United States across GMD3 for future flood protection and supply benefits in the public interest.

11. Aquifer Model Improvement.

 The most recent aquifer modeling effort of the District with partners was a two-phase study to determine hydrologic and economic aquifer use characteristics. The first phase of the study produced the reports “Ground-Water Model for Southwest Kansas Groundwater Management District No. 3” and “Ground-Water Model for Southwest Kansas Groundwater Management District No. 3: Future Scenarios.” These reports show model results for remaining aquifer water and usable life estimates based upon aquifer characteristics and provide guidance as to how the aquifer will respond based upon various pumping scenarios. The second phase of the study produced the report “Potential economic impacts of water-use changes in Southwest Kansas.” This study considered three policy scenarios aimed at reducing groundwater consumption in three different areas within GMD3. Given model information is based on data more than 10 years old. A set of model updates and tools is needed with greater conservation and aquifer augmentation utility for District member use to achieve Management program purposes.

12.  Aquifer Interstate Management Improvement.

GMD3 has initiated an AIMI initiative in providing letters of invitation to state officials in both Kansas and Colorado to encourage development discussions of interstate aquifer equitable use and management programs now that the leadership of GMD3 has been demonstrated in closing the District to additional development in the public interest.