The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced last week it would not make a request to the State of Kansas for water for the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge in Fiscal Year 2020. The chief engineer of the Kansas Department of Agriculture Division of Water Resources had publicized in 2016 that the agency’s Quivira water right was being impaired by junior water users in the Rattlesnake Creek Basin. This recent announcement means the chief engineer will not send his recently proposed administrative orders restricting water use to water right owners in the basin. Since the chief engineer announced his intention to restrict water use in August, KLA and NCBA staff have been working with USFWS leadership, the Kansas congressional delegation and local Groundwater Management District officials to find a less restrictive compromise solution to the Quivira impairment.
USFWS indicated it would continue to work to find local, voluntary, collaborative and non-regulatory solutions, including augmentation, to address the water needs of the community and the wildlife conservation purposes of the refuge before determining if more formal measures are necessary to ensure the refuge’s water rights are secured. While the temporary pause is good news, much work remains to be done on a compromise solution, as USFWS also announced it expects “all water users to develop concrete milestones and lasting solutions.”