Ag News -
State Ag News
Friday, 07 December 2012 23:35
A program aimed at conserving water but giving irrigators more flexibility in managing the way they use their allocations has about 750 irrigators enrolled.
The multi-year flex accounts were created by the Kansas Legislature this year in an effort to conserve the life of the Ogallala Aquifer.
The drought last year caused the Kansas Department of Agriculture to issue about 2,300 drought emergency term permits for 2011 that allowed irrigators to pump 2012 water allotments to save their crops, said Lane Letourneau, water appropriations program manager for the Kansas Department of Agriculture's Division of Water Resources.
In all, farmers pumped roughly an extra 100,000 acre-feet of water in 2011, Letourneau said.
However, a multi-year flex account program will now allow irrigators to use more water during drought years, including this one, managing their water rights over a five-year period and thus helping the state's aquifers to recover during better years. Irrigators who enrolled by the Oct. 1 deadline were forgiven of their overuse last year.
Letourneau said 750 people signed up for the flex account program for 2012 by the deadline. About 500 were conversions from the drought emergency permits. Those 500 were forgiven of the 27,000 acre-feet they over-pumped in 2011.
For the remaining 70,000 acre feet not forgiven from the 2011 over-pumping - those farmers reduced their pumping by that amount in 2012, Letourneau said.
But irrigation woes could continue into 2013, he said.
"We're pretty concerned," Letourneau said. "There are a lot of folks having to irrigate right now to make their wheat successful, and with the pumping taking place now, the water table could be pretty daunting. But we are hoping that folks use this multiyear flex account tool.
"It kind of changes that mind-set to have to use my last acre inches available this year to saving those acre inches for next year."