Evaluating Groundwater Management Districts’ Efforts to Conserve Water
In Kansas, groundwater is managed by multiple state and local agencies, including the Kansas Water Office, the Department of Agriculture, and groundwater management districts. In 1972, the legislature established the process by which local voters can form groundwater management districts. Local voters have established 5 districts in central and western Kansas. Groundwater management districts provide input but have little independent authority over many important state groundwater policies and actions. State law only requires groundwater management districts to do a few things, including having and reviewing a management program. All 5 groundwater management districts had a management program as required by state law, but we identified a few concerns with how those programs are reviewed and revised. Groundwater management districts currently operate programs related to data collection, research, and public education which appear reasonable for the purposes of groundwater management districts. In 2021, the 5 districts spent a total of $6.1 million, mostly on salaries and benefits and professional services. Overall, an estimated 75% of districts' expenditures were for programs related to an area of concern the district identified. In the last 10 years, 3 of the 5 groundwater management districts experienced overall water level declines but we could not evaluate water quality. Last, we could not determine the impact district programs had on these trends but some research suggest some positive results.