The Board of Directors of the High Plains Underground Water Conservation District No. 1 has approved rule amendments to implement the district's 50/50 management goal to have 50 percent of the saturated thickness of the Ogallala Aquifer as of 2010 available for use in 2060.
State law requires that groundwater conservation districts adopt and enforce rules to implement and achieve their established management goals in order to maintain local control over groundwater management.
In order to achieve the 50/50 goal, the rule amendments establish the first-ever production limit for groundwater pumpage by water users within the 16-county High Plains Water District service area. This includes agriculture, municipalities, public water suppliers, and others.
"These rules are a good start, but the High Plains Water District Board of Directors and staff are committed to the rules being a living document as we go forward. We know issues will arise that can be addressed through tweaks and adjustments," Board President Robert Meyer of Canyon and General Manager Jim Conkwright agreed.
Beginning in 2012 and continuing through 2013, all persons owning or operating an existing, new, or pre-district well or well system pumping groundwater from the Ogallala Aquifer must limit the total amount of production to 1.75 acre-feet (21 inches) per contiguous acre per year. The production limit drops to 1.5 acre-feet (18 inches) per contiguous acre per year during 2014 and 2015, and is lowered to 1.25 acre-feet (15 inches) per contiguous acre per year in 2016 and beyond.
In addition, metering of groundwater and submission of annual production reports to the district will be required in the future.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2012, all new water wells or well systems in the district are required to have a meter in place before pumping can occur. Existing water wells or well systems may measure groundwater through an alternative measuring method from 2012 to 2016. These systems must be equipped with meters no later than Jan. 1, 2016.
A list of approved meters and alternate measuring methods will be made available on the High Plains Water District web site on or about Sept. 1, 2011.
Wells or well systems with fully functioning meters as of the date that the District's approved meter list is published are "grandfathered" and will remain so as long as the meter remains fully functional.
Owners or operators of wells required to be metered must submit annual production reports to the High Plains Water District. The first annual production report is for production during calendar year 2012 and must be submitted to the district no later than March 1, 2013.
The 4-0 vote to adopt the proposed rules was preceded by a public comment period in which agricultural producers and others spoke for and against adoption of the new rules.
Precinct One District Director James Powell of Lubbock thanked those in attendance for their participation in the rulemaking process.
"We may not all be right and we may not all be wrong. But one thing is for certain—when the water is gone, none of us will be here. We encourage you to stay engaged as the Water District continues the process to meet its 50/50 management goal. I assure you there will be adjustments, as needed, along the way," he said.
Created in 1951 by local residents and the State Legislature, the High Plains Underground Water Conservation District No. 1 is charged with the responsibility of conserving, preserving, protecting, and preventing waste of groundwater within its 16-county service area.