The Well Driller Licensing Program of the Office of the State Engineer has moved from the District II-Roswell office to the Statewide Projects Group within the District VI-Santa Fe Water Rights Division in the Bataan Building at 407 Galisteo Street, Santa Fe NM 87504-5102.
To drill a well in New Mexico, the well driller must hold a valid license issued by the Office of the State Engineer. Continuing education is required for license renewal every two years for well drillers and drill rig supervisors. This education is part of the Rules and Regulations Governing Well Driller Licensing, and Construction, Repair and Plugging of Wells.
New rules adopted by the Edwards Aquifer Authority Board of Directors at its monthly meeting May 10 simplify the process for well owners to properly cap (or temporarily close) wells when they’re not in use. The new rules eliminate the current requirement that a well owner acquire at least a half-acre foot of Edwards groundwater rights for a well when capping it.
By simplifying the well capping process, the Authority believes well owners will be more likely to properly close their wells when not in use rather than leaving them open and susceptible to pollution risks. The changes to the rules also set a well inspection fee and clarify the criteria for determining when a well is considered “abandoned.”
Well capping is the practice of temporarily sealing the top of the well casing until such time that the well is put back into service or permanently closed. Both practices, temporarily capping or permanently closing, are performed to prevent the infiltration of pollutants into the aquifer through unattended wells.
Other rules changes approved by the board include a clarification to the eligibility requirements for granting applications to convert base irrigation groundwater to unrestricted use based on changes in land use and the installation of conservation equipment. The rules take effect on May 20, 10 days from the date of their adoption. The revised rules, in their entirety, can be viewed online at www.edwardsaquifer.org.
Prompted by water supply concerns, the Washington Department of Ecology is appealing the environmental approval of a large development in the Okanogan Valley.
In the action filed with the Okanogan County Board of Commissioners, Ecology is challenging the environmental approval of Silver Spur North Ranch because the project, which has no water rights, will draw more water than is allowed under the state’s groundwater permit exemption.
Silver Spur North Ranch proposes to develop approximately 766 acres, creating 220 individual lots, a 15-site recreational vehicle park, an equestrian center, and recreational center with swimming pools. The first phase of the project estimates it will use 18,800 gallons of water per day, relying on the drilling of permit-exempt wells for its water supply.
That is well in excess of 5,000 gallons of water per day, the limit allowed by common subdivisions without water rights, as confirmed by the state Supreme Court’s opinion in the “Campbell and Gwinn” case. Under the law, the project will require a water right for use in excess of 5,000 gallons per day.
[see Washington Department of Ecology, March 26, http://www.ecy.wa.gov/news/2010news/2010-054.html]
A report by the Springfield (Missouri) News-Leader found weak oversight of major well reports in one county (Greene) with indication that state administration of the system is lax.
Missouri, a riparian doctrine state, has only slight regulation of water, requiring reporting by pumpers only when they exceed 100,000 gallons a day. Even there, the paper said, records were often incomplete or erroneous.
The paper followed that report with another inquiring about the possibility of stronger water management.
It noted that “Legislative attempts to strengthen Missouri water well laws have been thwarted in the past by a perception that meters monitoring use would be an intrusion of private property rights. Bills designed to give the Department of Natural Resources enforcement power of current statutes have been opposed by mostly agricultural interests that fear state government may someday seek to ration the amount of water farmers can pump from the underground aquifer, lawmakers say.”
The paper quoted Representative Jim Viebrock, R-Republic, as saying, “I just don’t think it’s anybody’s business knowing how much water I’m pumping out of the ground on my home. I think it’s a personal property rights issue and I’m not going to be the guy who steps in there and tries to change that.”
But it also quoted others, including Representative Jason Holsman, D-Kansas City, who thought the state’s water supply could be at some risk. Holsman remarked that “At the very minimum, Missouri needs to get its arms around who is using our water and how much they’re using. I think that’s a reasonable and rational approach to protecting our environment. The small step forward would be to collect the data.”
[see Springfield (MO) News-Leader, November 1]
At the request of Washington Governor Chris Gregoire, Washington Ecology Director Jay Manning met with Kittitas County Commission Chair Alan Crankovich and, as a result, negotiations regarding an alternative groundwater management rule will recommence as early as next week.
“We’re pleased that the commissioners have agreed to work with us in a renewed effort to develop a permanent groundwater management rule that protects senior water rights and streamflows, but is more flexible than a complete moratorium on new groundwater pumping,” Manning said.
Manning also announced today that the current emergency rule will be amended to clarify that people with vested building permit applications or issued building permits as of July 16, 2009, will not be subject to the groundwater closure and may use permit-exempt wells.
On July 16, Ecology filed the emergency rule after nearly two years of negotiations failed to gain a commitment from the Kittitas County Board of Commissioners on a groundwater management agreement that would have limited the uncontrolled proliferation of wells exempt from water permits in the upper county.
Although these wells are exempt from permits, they are subject to all other water resource regulations, and their use may be curtailed in times of water shortages to ensure that senior water right holders get their water.
The temporary, emergency rule will be in place for a maximum of 120 days in upper Kittitas County. A map of the affected area is available on Ecology’s web site at: www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wr/cro/kittitas_wp.html. Continue Reading »
Kittitas development images/CELP
The Washington Department of Ecology on July 16 issued an emergency rule shutting down the upper Kittitas Valley groundwater basin – east of the Cascade Mountains roughly east of Seattle – to new wells, including wells exempt from ordinary filing requirements.
The decision marks something of a turnaround for Ecology, which had been more supportive of at least exempt well drilling in the area.
The Center for Environmental Law & Policy, which together with the local group Aua Permanente had sought restrictions, praised the decision.
CELP and Aqua outlined the background for the case as, “Currently more than 7,000 permit-exempt wells are being drilled EACH YEAR in Washington state. Exempt wells are fueling rural sprawl, and used in unlimited quantities for feedlots and dairies. Because these wells are not subject to regulation, there is no control over when and where they are drilled. There is also no control over the impact of these wells on other water users and on hydraulically connected streams. Counties have the power to determine that water is not available for new subdivisions and building permits. But they are generally unwilling (with a few exceptions) to exercise this authority. Thus, rampant new development is being built on exempt wells without oversight or consideration of public interests.”
The state Department of Ecology reported its rule-making decision this way:
After nearly two years of negotiations, Ecology was unable to gain a commitment from the Kittitas County Board of Commissioners that they were willing to move forward with a memorandum of agreement and alternative rule approach that would have limited the uncontrolled proliferation of so-called “exempt groundwater wells” in upper Kittitas County.
Since 1998, nearly 3,000 wells have been drilled in Kittitas County, prompting concerns that groundwater pumping in the headwaters region of the county threatens senior water users and streamflows in the Yakima Basin. A number of parties, including the citizens group Aqua Permanente, the Yakama Nation, and the city of Roslyn, have asked that Ecology close the groundwater to further appropriation while a groundwater study is completed. Continue Reading »