Also, a well owner or operator can bank any amount of the APR for use during any of the following three years from the year the water was set aside. He must apply by March 1 of the year following the year the owner or operator banked the water.

McCain said all new wells or well systems required to be metered “must be equipped with a meter which complies with district meter specifications and is on the District Approved Meter List.

“All existing wells or well systems required to be metered must begin recording groundwater production through an authorized alternative measuring method.”

McCain said alternative measuring methods will be accepted until 2016.

“Once a meter has been installed on a well, the owner/operator must submit a form to the district. The district staff will then inspect and place a seal on the meter.”

All new wells must be registered with the district prior to drilling. Existing domestic wells do not have to be registered. Existing water wells used for oil and gas production that are exempt from permitting must register with the district.

“Existing wells producing 1.75 gallons per minute or less do not have to be registered,” McCain said.

“All other wells that are permitted by the district and are not pre-district wells and were exempt from permitting under previous district rules and do not meet one of the above exemptions, must register with the district.”

Cost of metering has created some controversy with farmers, many of whom use multiple wells to irrigate cropland and cite metering costs as high as several thousand dollars per well.

To address that issue, HPWD adopted a two-year moratorium on enforcement and civil penalties for exceeding the APR as well as failure to install meters on new wells or well systems by Jan. 1, 2012, and reporting requirements for groundwater production.

In late February, the district also adopted an 18-month study to determine:

  • A method to delineate areas within a district where the Ogallala Aquifer is incapable of producing 1.25 acre feet per acre per year,
  • Evaluating effectiveness and reliability of using alternative methods (other than water meters) to measure groundwater production, and
  • Creating an agricultural stakeholder advisory group to assist district staff with the study.

McCain said the 18-month moratorium will give the district an opportunity to develop a process “for monitoring and metering.

“Considering the current imbalance, we are trying to improve irrigation efficiency,” he said.