A state where water access and development is notably lightly regulated could start to see some regulation.
The Missouri state Senate committee on natural resources is considering a law that would provide for state regulation for users of water exceeding 100,000 gallons a day. Some farmers, notably in the bootheel area, have expressed concern about running dry of water if neighbors make notably large withdrawals.
[see Missourinet, January 20]
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]
Missouri Basin/US Army Corps Engineers
The Des Moines Register reports today about the upcoming (starting in October) re-evaluation of the uses and management of the Missouri River, one of the nation’s longest and most contested.
The Register notes, “An exhaustive five-year, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study of the Missouri begins in October. The $25 million study is expected to set up another round of battles among states, tribes and organizations with competing visions of the historic waterway. At issue: Everything from future drinking supplies and cooling water for power generation, to flood control, barge traffic, habitat protection, untapped recreational opportunities and potential economic gain.”
The Army Corps provides regular annual reports and operating plans for the river, but also conducts some periodic long-range studies and planning.
Water concerns in the far southeast corner of Kansas have some local officials talking about the possibility of a “water war” – of a legal variety, of course.
The Ozark and Springfield Plateau aquifers, more than surface water, are the primary water sources in the area. But the Pittsburg (KS) Morning Sun noted, “The Springfield Plateau aquifer cannot be used because of lead, zinc and cadmium contamination from mining and other sources. As for the Ozark aquifer, there are reported declines in groundwater levels, brine from south-central Kansas migrating eastward, and concern as to whether the aquifer will be overused. These issues are currently being studied for a Regional Groundwater Study that is set to be completed next April. Also, there is a moratorium on new claims to the aquifer until 2010.”
As for surface water, “Most of the streams in southeast Kansas flow from Missouri into Kansas on their way to Grand Lake in Oklahoma. This includes Cow Creek, one of the major tributaries of the Spring River. This means Missouri has first dibs on the Spring River and other streams flowing through the area.
The problem about Missouri laying first claim to the surface water comes from a difference in how water rights are distributed between the states.”
Missouri, as a riparian water-law based state, does not have a complex appropriations process, instead generally allowing people to use water if it is available. It is among the states generally wet enough that water supply is not an issue in most places. [see the Pittsburg (KS) Morning Sun, November 8.]
North Dakota Governor John Hoeven on August 13 met at Fort Stevenson State Park with Army Corps of Engineers officials and members of the Mississippi River Commission to stress the need for drought conservation throughout the Missouri River Basin.
Hoeven said lower Missouri River and Mississippi River interests want water for barge traffic. Good drought management practices enable higher and more stable water levels in the Missouri River basin, while providing greater predictability for the lower reaches of the Missouri River and the Mississippi, according to Hoeven.
“Shortening the navigation season early in a drought cycle, instead of waiting until the region is deep into it, will help protect fisheries, recreational interests, water intakes and other vital uses in the upper basin, resulting in greater predictability for navigation downstream,” Hoeven said. “If reservoirs are drawn down too far, it results in a ‘preclude,’ which means adverse impacts to upstream interests, and no navigation season at all downstream. That serves nobody’s interest.”
The seven-member panel appointed by the president is touring the entire Missouri River system, which runs 2,341 miles from its origins near Missouri River Headwaters State Park near Three Forks, Montana, through North Dakota and other states until it meets the Mississippi River at St. Louis, Missouri.
North Dakota Governor John Hoeven