Enhanced Management

Ogallala Aquifer Sub-unit Management - an Overview

(For the specific enhanced management plans click on the desired HPA in the Navigation Bar)

The State Water Plan currently includes a section on the work of two state appointed special committees - the Management Advisory Committee (MAC) and the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC). The MAC and TAC met approximately 7 times throughout 2001 and finally made a series of recommendations.  In summary, the 5 most substantive recommendations were:

  1. Delineate the Ogallala Aquifer into aquifer subunits to allow management decisions in areas of similar aquifer characteristics.
  2. The Groundwater Management Districts and Division of Water Resources should identify each aquifer subunit in decline or suspected decline and establish water-use goals to extend and conserve the life of the Ogallala Aquifer.
  3. Identify aquifer subunit priorities to extend the life of the aquifer and sustain the vitality of western Kansas.
  4. Support and expand programs and activities to extend and conserve the life of the Ogallala Aquifer.
  5. Support and expand research and education on the Ogallala to extend and conserve the life of the aquifer. 

Revised Management Program

GMD 4 began implementing the MAC Report recommendations and eventually included a 7-Task local protocol process in their Revised Management Program. This has been the process used to establish the high priority aquifer subunits within GMD4.

Task 1) - Cluster Aquifer Sub-units:
Use existing KGS section-level data sets and other data available to cluster or otherwise be used in the determination of aquifer sub-units. This data will be clustered or otherwise considered based upon appropriate hydrologic parameter(s) of the board's choice in order to show reasonable regions of groundwater management need. This task will generate aquifer sub-units of similar groundwater dynamics within the district which can be prioritized for subsequent management efforts. The entire data set for NW Kansas will be used so as to minimize the boundary effects as much as possible.

Task 2) - Prioritize Aquifer Sub-units:
The board will set appropriate high, medium, and low threshold triggers based on the Task 1 parameter(s) chosen. The sub-units exceeding the top trigger will be designated as high priority aquifer sub-units for subsequent enhanced management efforts. Additionally, upon request of landowners and/or water users, any high priority area may be expanded to adjacent areas and considered a high priority area provided: the entire area is sufficiently sized to justify the expansion; the landowners and water users within have systematically met and prepared a specific enhanced management plan that meets or exceeds the basic goals and criteria of this protocol; and the board feels it is in the public interest to build upon the local momentum generated by the expansion group.

Task 3) – Verify data for each high priority aquifer sub-unit:
The board will consider KGS/GMD special study findings and other reports and information to more clearly assess if the existing data adequately supports any or all of the high priority aquifer sub-units rendered by task 1. If the data is considered sufficient, the board will continue to task 4. If not, before task 4 is started the board will work with KGS, DWR, KWO, USGS and others who are knowledgeable in data reliability and application to enhance, re-design, find funding for, or whatever else is necessary to obtain or enhance the data considered necessary to scientifically support not only the identification of the sub-units, but also any likely management options for the immediate future.

Task 4) - Establish preliminary water use goals and enhanced management actions for the high priority aquifer sub-units:
The board will conduct at least one public meeting within each high priority aquifer sub-unit in order to: a) inform the land owners and water users of the district’s process and findings; b) to discuss the area’s future outlook based on the district findings; c) to request input from the attendees about preferred future actions - specifically including preferences for a groundwater budget for the next 20 years; and d) what management policies/actions/strategies should be considered by the board to achieve the preferred groundwater budget.

Following the public meetings, the board will decide what groundwater use goals (groundwater budgets) are appropriate for each high priority aquifer sub-unit and what management approaches should be implemented. These decisions will be incorporated into the management program before being undertaken. If new regulatory authorities are considered necessary or prudent, either by the public or the board, they will be further explored at this step in the process.

(NOTE: In both the public meeting venue and the final board decision process, the following methods for reducing water use will be discussed: 1) targeting funding for water use efficiency improvements, water right set asides, or water right buyouts; 2) mandatory metering; 3) stricter regulation of water rights to include both negative and positive incentives concerning: a) overpumpage; b) tailwater control and reuse; and c) unreasonable pumpage; and 4) IGUCAs or other special management areas. Any other ideas brought up by the district members within either venue will also be considered.)

Task 5) – Assess the management program per board decisions resulting from task 4:
Any amendments the Management Program of the GMD needs to accommodate the developing protocol process will be done here.

Task 6) - Develop assistance plans to transition to dryland farming:
This issue may or may not be addressed within tasks 4 and 5. If it is, no further specifics need to be included here. If not addressed in tasks 4 and 5, the board will work with the district members and others (state agencies and private groups) to develop a list of economically acceptable transition plans/ideas. All plans/ideas identified through this effort will next be presented to the district members at a public meeting or public meetings if the board decides to pursue such plan(s).

Task 7) - Review, evaluate and reiterate:
On a regular, identified schedule the board will again cluster or otherwise consider each medium and low priority aquifer sub-unit and using the same threshold parameters as originally used and will re-prioritize each. The high priority aquifer sub-units identified through this task will start the process at that time at task 3.


The first time frame will be to appropriately include the approved protocol into the next management program revision process. The board expects to begin this process in May, 2003, and have the new revised management program approved by the chief engineer by November, 2003. There are, of course, no guarantees to this time frame. The board would also expect to hold a public hearing on the revised management program during the February, 2004 (29th) annual meeting. If approved by the district members, this revised management program, including this protocol, would likely become effective by August, 2006.

Once a protocol is included into the management program and that management program is adopted, the timeframes for the individual tasks are expected to be:

Task 1: Cluster aquifer sub-units: This task should be completed within 3 months of approval of the management program.

Task 2: Prioritize aquifer sub-units: Within 3 months of completion of task 1.

Task 3: Verify data for each high priority aquifer sub-unit: This task will begin by January, 2006, but a completion date is impossible to predict. It should take about 6 months to assess the data originally used in identifying the high priority aquifer sub-units. If the data adequately supports the sub-unit identification, this task would be expected to be completed by July, 2006. However, if the data cannot adequately support the sub-unit identifications, the board believes it could take an additional 4-5 years to design what data sets will be needed, to obtain that data and to re-apply it to tasks 1 and 2.

Task 4: Establish preliminary water use goals and enhanced management actions for the high priority aquifer sub-units: This task should take 6-8 months of time following the completion of task 3. This could be as early as February, 2007 and as late as February, 2012.

Task 5: Assess the management program per board decisions resulting from task 4: Assessment of the management program should take 4 months of time following the completion of task 4. If no revisions are necessary (that is to say that all programs and regulations needed to implement the decisions made in task 4 already exist in the revised management program) the board will be able to begin implementation immediately. Should there be required management program revisions, the implementation process could take up to 2 years while the revised management program process takes place.

Task 6: Develop assistance plans to transition to dryland farming: It is possible that district transition plans can be incorporated in tasks 4 and 5 and that no special plans need to be developed. If so, no time frame needs to be identified. If district transition plans are not incorporated in tasks 4 and 5, this task would be begun immediately upon the conclusion of task 4. It would be expected to take 2-3 years to develop unique dryland transition plans as proposed.

Task 7: Review, evaluate and reiterate: This task will begin 5 years after the completion of task 2.

HPA Boundaries

Following are additional details of the process involving setting the HPA boundaries.

The Revised Management Program was approved on March 9, 2006 containing the above Enhanced Management Section. Keep in mind, that previously the board decided that the 1996-2002 percent decline of 1996 saturated thickness should be used as the parameter for determining GMD 4 aquifer subunits. The GMD 4 board also opted to use the updated KGS data set which was being updated to include all new bedrock data since the last rendering. The KGS section-level data base with new bedrock data was completed as of late September, 2004, and has been incorporated into the data being used. The board is scheduled to consider the final aquifer sub-unit areas soon.

Regarding Task 2: During the June, 2004 board meeting the board decided that the priority areas should be designated as such: LOW = any section declining less than 6% between 1996 and 2002; MEDIUM = any section declining between 6% and 8.999% between 1996 and 2002; and HIGH = any section declining 9% or more between 1996 and 2002. 2) To smooth out the data fluctuations, for the 1996 values the board uses the 1995, 1996 and 1997 values averaged. Likewise they use the 2001, 2002 and 2003 values averaged for the 2002 values.

During the May and June 2006 board meetings the Task 2 decision was revisited. The board wanted to incorporate reported water use density into at least the HIGH priority sub-units. After being provided a new data set from the Kansas Geological Survey (KGS) for reported water use density values at the section centers, and considering several combinations of trigger parameters, the board at their June 8, 2006 meeting adopted a new HIGH priority trigger - any section declining 9% or more between 1996 and 2002 OR any section with a 2-mile reported average water use density between the years 1990 and 2000 of greater than or equal to 275 acrefeet - except for those sections with less than 15 feet of saturated thickness or less than 25 acrefeet of reported water use density.

Finally, in March, 2007 the board incorporated their final criteria - that of dividing the district into 1/4 township areas and any 1/4 township area having 2 or more high priority sections, would be considered a high priority 1/4 township. With these decisions made, the high priority areas are now selected. They are the six YELLOW areas of the following map, which includes the 4-Township area in Thomas County consisting of TWPs 9s-32w; 9s-33w; 9s-34w and 10s-33w: 

Various HPA's

Regarding Task 4 - Public Meetings: The public meetings were approved in July, 2008 for conduct after farming operations were likely to be concluded for the season. They actually began in November, 2008 for all six HPAs, starting with a generic HPA Overview Presentation (PDF) covering how the enhanced management process got started and what it is supposed to accomplish.

Since the HPA approaches to Task 4, and everything beyond this point can (and probably should be) very individualized, the rest of the enhanced management process will be HPA specific. Please click on the HPA you are interested in on the Navigation bar at the top of the page.