Category Archives: Work

Who gets to use the last of the water?

I am just back from Sublette, Kansas (Haskell County, southwest Kansas) after being at the center of an intense 3-day trial over a water dispute. Shown with me are the DWR testifiersothers with the Div. of Water Resource who testified with me.  It was intense, boring, encouraging, and frustrating at various times over the days.

The case is a pretty big deal with Kansas water law. The immediate issue in this small pocket of southwest Kansas (about two square miles) which is nearly out of water is a dispute over who gets to use the last of it: the irrigator who is “first in time”, as our law says, or whoever can pump it last. It is a big deal as over time, more and more areas are running out of water, so the winner here will determine what happens elsewhere.

I am glad to be home “de-compressing” (my term for the couple of days it takes me to unwind for intense work periods like this).

For those few of you who want to know more about this particular dispute, you can read the Kansas Court of Appeals decision on part 1 of the case: a temporary injunction against two of neighbors pumping based on DWR’s investigation. See…/op…/ctapp/2015/20150403/111975.pdf.

The current trial segment is the larger fight over a permanent injunction on the pumping. Whoever wins this case in Haskell County District Court will likely appeal to the Court of Appeals and likely to the Kansas Supreme Court eventually.

Progress at work Summer 2016

Below is a note I sent to my staff at the Kansas Division of Water Resources last week to announces three recent water agreements that were signed during late August and early September resolving long-standing disputes.


This last week, several of us had the pleasure of joining in a celebration of the State of Kansas and Kickapoo Tribe signing the Kickapoo water right settlement agreement.  This comes close on the heels of our long-term agreements with Colorado and Nebraska on the Republican River Compact matters.  Below is a bit more about each matter and links to more information on these and two other high-profile matters we are working through.

Thanks to all that staff that have been helping us work through these complex and time-consuming issues and to all of you who hold down the fort on our other important work as these things consume some of us.


Republican River Compact (RRC) agreements

Most of you are aware that the RRC has been taking a lot of time for several of us over the years (decades really). The late 1990’s through 2002 was one intense
period including our first trip to the U.S. Supreme Court on the RRC, which ended with a settlement of the matter in the Final Settlement Stipulation. Several years of relative quiet on the RRC followed. Then Nebraska violated the Settlement and we had to go back to the U.S. Supreme Court again (2010-2015). Concurrent with this court case, we had a number of additional disputes on Colorado’s and Nebraska’s compliance plans that we attempted to resolve unsuccessfully via non-binding arbitration.

In June 2014, with the Court case and arbitrations winding down, the States decided to try a new approach, entered into monthly discussions in an effort to reach agreements that would both provide appropriate credit in the Compact accounting for Colorado’s and Nebraska’s compliance activities while providing Kansas users the water they are entitled to in a way that maximizes its usefulness and minimizes waste.

After more than two years of negotiations among the States and numerous short-term agreements, at the August 24, 2016 RRCA annual meeting, the Administration approved two resolutions establishing long-term agreements among the states related to Colorado’s and Nebraska’s compliance activities in the Republican River basin. These long-term agreements align Colorado’s and Nebraska’s compliance activities with Kansas water user’s needs in both the South Fork Republican River of Northwest Kansas in the main stem Republican River of Northcentral Kansas.


We have the agreements and more background and explanation on our web site at:

Kickapoo Tribal Water Right Settlement

The Kickapoo Tribe of northeast Kansas has a federal water right linked to the establishment of the reservation in 1832. Like the other Tribes in Kansas, as well as most in the U.S., this water right was not quantified.  Over the last decade, the Tribe has been seeking to secure a more dependable supply for its current and future uses. Ultimately, disputes arose which led the Tribe to sue the state and federal government, with the issues of quantifying and protecting their right being among the issues in litigation.

Late last week the State of Kansas and Kickapoo Tribe signed the Kickapoo water right settlement agreement aimed to resolve these concerns. The settlement agreement quantifies the Kickapoo’s reserve water right and enumerates the state’s obligations to protect it. This is the first quantification of a Tribal Reserve water right  in Kansas.  Both the State and Tribe believe it to be a fair resolution of the matter.

The settlement is innovative in a number of respects, particularly:

  • the method of quantification is not based on the use of the normal standard used in the West of “practicable irrigable acreage” but on a municipal build out concept using methods consistent with the Kansas law for Kansas water users, andimage004
  • the settlement includes a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the State and Tribe which will be reviewed annually to make transparent the specifics of our administration and to keep it current as the Tribe develops storage.

Again, we have posted the settlement agreement with much more background on our web site at:

Other on-going events:

We continue our work to determine how to remedy impairment that is occurring from groundwater pumping above the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. See

We are working through the process of evaluating the City of Hays changes applications from their R-9 Ranch (formally Circle-K) in Edwards County, which they are seeking to change for the long-term supply. When our process is complete, the Kansas Water Transfer Act Process will be triggered. See


Christmas letter 2014

My wife and I wish you all a Merry Christmas. Below and attached is this year’s Christmas letter to family and friends. Click this link to see a pdf: Christmas letter 2014. The first page is a set of images shown below; page two is text highlighting the year’s news: two more grandchildren coming in 2015, our work lives, our books recommendations and more. Enjoy.

Pictures from the Barfields year 2014

The year’s big news: two more grandchildren coming in 2015! Our first grandchild, Ain, is approaching 18 months, a busy boy. Lord willing and the ultrasound is right this time, he will have a little brother in March. Recently we learned that Megan and Brandon are expecting their first child in June.

Our work lives

David’s job – David’s challenging work as chief engineer of Kansas’ Division of Water Resources continued to be intense but rewarding. The office made the transition to Manhattan this summer. So David is making the 90 minute commute about 3x/week (he telecommutes day a week or so). David has found he can be fairly productive on the van the agency is providing. So far the Division has retained key experienced staff and been able to recruit some good, young staff as well.

The interstate battles continue. David was able to attend oral arguments before the US Supreme Court this fall in Kansas case against Nebraska. With the conclusion of the last of 5 arbitration trials, Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado have finally started working on negotiating some disputed issues, developing three agreements for 2014-2015 as they work toward longer term solutions.

Cathy continues to teach science classes to Lawrence homeschoolers as well nearby Gardner. The three classes she is teaching keeps her busy. After developing PowerPoints for her Advanced Biology and Biology over the last 2 years, this year she is doing physical science (with Amy’s help).

More news

  • Our daughters and their husbands – Everyone is well. Betsy is gradually cutting back on her work outside the home with her growing family. Amy’s piano business is becoming well established and she is doing some part-time work as a “virtual assistant”, and she has a growing number of people following her blog. Megan works part time for a local radio station, KOFO Country, writing and reading the news.
  • Vacations – We got away quite a few times this year, mostly to our timeshare in the Branson area including a time in June with the girls and their spouses. We also enjoyed our annual 4th of July trip to Gene and Sara’s cabin on Long Lake in Wisconsin. Finally, we also did a Texas trip with David’s work that included San Antonio and Houston/Galveston.
  • We continue to make health a priority by regular exercise and eating well. David’s morning exercise routine has had to change due to his commuting. Fortunately, the office in Manhattan has a shower and he has been running more regularly and was able to take a minute off of his best 5k of last year. We have started a web site on how we stay healthy (org) with favorite recipes, exercise suggestions, and more.

Book (listening) recommendations:

  • David – The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics (D. Brown); Tale of Two Cities (Dickens); Red Moon Rising: Sputnik and …the Space Age (M Brzezinski).
  • Cathy – Elephant Whisper (L. Anthony);   I am Malala (Yousafzai); and   Invention of Wings (S. Kidd).

Wishing you the best in this blessed season.

David and Cathy Barfield and Bingley and Bear

Touring and talking horizontal drilling in Kansas

I left this morning (October 2, 2012) before sunrise and returned after sunset. I toured, with other state officials, Ford, Harper, and Kiowa Counties, looking at some of the horizontal drilling (fracking) that is occurring, but mostly talking to local officials in these areas about the impact to their community and what needs to done to prepare for its growing influence. This including, of course, how we deal with insuring that the water needed for both fracking and potential future growth of these rural communities can occur in a way that protects other water rights and the environment. An interesting day. I saw a lot of windmills as well.

Oil and gas produced from horizontal wells is still a very small part of the total (well under 1% at this point), but it has doubled over the last 6 months and will continue to expand at a significant rate during this “exploratory” phase. But from what I could see, it seems it is here to stay; the question is the scale.  For more information see the links below.

Picture of a drill in Ford County

I think Kansas is fortunate that the development occurred in North Dakota and Oklahoma first as we are learning from their experience. The rate of growth is also manageable so far. Time will tell if this remains true.

For more information:

March madness: basketball and work

As I walked with the dogs this morning, two things were on my mind: the Jayhawks game tonight (playing Ohio State in the Final 4 match up) and my work. While basketball is the connotation most of us have when it comes to the phrase “March Madness”, I could not help to think it described my work this month, and for that matter, most of the last 15 months.

I have not written much about my work here and I plan to remedy that in the coming weeks and months. We will start with the basics here, esp. how I got to my current position of Chief Engineer.

[I also plan to write in the coming months on my reading on the topic of stress management.  While I think I deal with stress fairly well, earlier this year, the effect of the seemingly unremitting pace of 2011 and the first quarter of 2012 showed itself in new ways. Fortunately, I recognized it for what it was and headed to the library…].

My work, an introduction – I was trained as a civil engineer (KU 1977), worked in consulting for three years in Minnesota, and then spent 3 years in developing Africa as a water resource engineer.

In 1984, on our return to the U.S, I began working for the Kansas Division of Water Resources (DWR) where I have worked since. Having decided that water resources was the specialty of civil engineering where I intended to devote my career, I worked on my master’s degree in water resources engineering, one class per semester from 1984 to 1991. Over the next 23 years I worked up the ranks of DWR in various positions. For a fuller treatment of these years, see my public profile at Linkedin at:

DWR’s major responsibilities include: administering the Kansas Water Appropriation Act (KWAA), the most significant of numerous Kansas water laws. The Act governs all water development and water use in Kansas. The Division also has significant responsibilities under numerous other statutes including exclusive state regulation over dams, levees, and other works in our streams and floodplains as well as administering Kansas interstate (water) compacts.

The Division is led by a position called the Chief Engineer (CE). The media regularly calls the position Kansas “water czar” due its significant regulatory responsibility of the state’s water resources.

How I came to be DWR’s chief engineer – I never really aspired to the position believing it above my capabilities.  When the position of Assistant Chief Engineer opened up in 2005, I did not apply for it because of this. I also never thought my career path within DWR was leading me there (I spent 15 years prior to 2007 out of the mainstream of the Division’s work, leading our technical team dealing with our interstate compact work). But I was wrong. My interstate work had me working regularly and closely with our chief engineer, David Pope. It had me regularly working through difficult, detailed, and very technical negotiations with our neighboring states and the federal government. It had me learning to work with the media and the public and to a limited extent the Legislature.

In 2007, when David Pope suddenly retired after 24 years as chief engineer, I was asked to be Acting Chief Engineer. I was shocked at the time, and agreed to be the Acting CE, but again, did not initially consider applying for the Chief Engineer position.  Over my 5 months as Acting CE, I was encouraged by many persons around me to apply for the job.  I thought long and hard about whether I could do the job well and whether I wanted a job with so much responsibility.

I found that I enjoyed the position, despite its demands.  I also believe it was more than just coincidence that David retired as our last daughter was graduating from high school. Further, during my tenure as acting CE, Cathy and I got some unique input in our lives (something called LEAD; we applied to go before David retired; more on this later) that helped me to see some of my key skills and abilities were well-suited to a position like a CE.

After praying about it, I ultimately decided to apply for the job and in November 2007 was made Kansas fifth Chief Engineer (since 1929; DWR has had 3 chief engineers that have served over 20 years each).

March madness – I have written more above than I intended so I will leave to later to describe the 15 months of madness I have been going through at work.  A lot of March’s work madness has been legislative in nature. This is my fifth legislative session as Chief Engineer and its significant in terms of water legislation is greater than the other four combined.

That is it for now. That other March Madness is calling. The first game is on now and KU plays in two hours. Rock Chalk Jayhalk, go KU.

Life is chaos but at least we are healthy

Wow,  I knew I had been remiss in writing on my blog but I did not it was this bad.

First, the reason for tonight’s post: to put in a link to a posting on Cathy and my blog ( related to a cookbook we just found and would recommend: Eating Well for Two (a great cookbook for empty nesters like us). See

Speaking of being empty nesters, I thought I had done a blog update on the June 18, 2011 marriage of our youngest daughter Megan to Brandon Hash. Wrong. Expect it in the near future.

But maybe not before November 18, the date my expert report is due in Kansas’ U.S. Supreme Court against Nebraska.

The year has been a remarkable full one both personally and professionally. Obviously the marriage of our youngest daughter (after doing the other two in less than a year before) was the big personal event. Work is always busy as Kansas Chief Engineer of the Division of Water Resources but add a major drought, a new governor’s major initiative on our Ogallala Aquifer over-development , a  U.S. Supreme Court lawsuit and more, and you have one busy man.

I will get back to finishing my series on investing. But again, not until I have a bit of recovery time after November 18.

Finally, in addition to eating well, the exercise program is going well, alternating between running and two Men’s Health exercise videos) More on this later as well.

Back to work on my expert report.

Graduation thoughts for my niece

To my niece Bethany on her high school graduation

May 23, 2009

Bethany – congratulations on your graduation.  You are not a different person than you were yesterday, but your circumstances are changing in a significant way. You will not be going back to your high school; you will soon be moving from home; a great number of your friendships will change and others will come.

I think you have chosen well to serve in your church for the coming year.

You have been blessed as few have with loving and wise and discerning parents. God has also blessed you with a great big sister and great set of friends.  As you move on to the next part of life, do not fail to continue to benefit from them.

I want to briefly share a couple of verses that have meant much to me in my life journey. One is a verse with much encouragement; the other is a passage of challenge.

A verse of encouragement

Ephesians 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

My girls could write the script of what I am going to share here as they have heard it at their graduations. Here is what I find encouraging:

  • V 8-9 God has brought salvation, not dependent on our good works and therefore uncertain, but based on His grace and gift, we can freely receive.
  • For me as a Christian, who have accepted that gift, I find verse 10 very encouraging.  It should be encouraging to all who call Christ Savoir as I know you do.
  • You are not an accident: you have been made by God. You are His work of art. While you and I may be imperfect in many ways, God declares you as suitable for His purpose.
  • You were made for a purpose: for good works. God has specifically made you Bethany for a specific life work that it is your opportunity to find and do.
  • You are not alone: God goes ahead of you. Finding and doing that work is not always easy. God promises that you are not alone in it. He goes ahead of you and will help you at each turn.

So be encouraged Bethany.  God has saved you and made you to be a blessing to this world. Find it and do it.

A verse of challenge

As good as life is much of the time, seasons of life come that are a challenge. There are times when friends will leave or disappoint; when your work may not be particularly fulfilling; when you will be called to do hard things.  Despite all the good I have in my life in wife, kids, church, career and blessings of living in this free land, I have had difficult seasons of life.

The scriptures speak to this. In the books of Colossians, Paul writes to the slaves of that city and era. I cannot think of a situation where one would feel more trapped. But even in such circumstances, which is so much more difficult than I might have to experience, one can find the ability to live excellently, to do right, and to find reward.

Colossians 3:22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

The secret of contentment and progress in difficult seasons (really all seasons):

  • Do the work God has given you whole-heartedly. Even when parents, friends, employer or future spouse do not recognize you or praise you or reward you.  Do the work whole-heartedly.
  • Do it all to please Him, not people.  Three times in this passage we are told: we work for the Lord.
  • Realize God sees it all.
  • Realize God that will reward you for those labors to please Him even if no one around you does.

So when life is hard, do right anyway to please God. He will reward as parent, friend, employer, or spouse cannot.

In sum Bethany, do not forget the many, many blessings and benefits God has brought you. Chose and live well for many are distracted or stumble for lack of care of these things.

Uncle David

Balancing Work and Rest

Like many others, my life has been out-of-balance for many years, working too much. In taking the chief engineer position last year, I only complicated matters even more. When I volunteered to teach for my pastor during his Thanksgiving vacation, I decided to spend some time on a study of the Scripture’s perspective on balancing work and rest. Below is a summary of what I found and a link to the sermon on my church’s web site.


A summary of “Balancing Work and Rest”
A sermon for December 7, 2008
David Barfield, Community Bible Church, Lawrence, KS

  • To listen or download the sermon
  • Disclosure: The insights of Steve & Mary Farrar’s Overcoming Overload was helpful in my study. It is a good read if you want more on this topic.]

Introduction – This teaching was motivated my need to deal with my own imbalance. I love to do worthwhile work and have overfilled my life. So this sermon is for the overwhelmed. I believe it is also significant implications for the distracted, those who overfilled their life with other things.

We live in a unique day: “24/7; always on” society. A day that always offers “more”: more choices everywhere, more activities, endless entertainment, endless pursuits of whatever your interests.

The danger: squeezed out of our lives is time to rest and reflect, making it is easy Continue reading Balancing Work and Rest

Promoted to Chief Engineer

In June, my boss of 23 years, the chief engineer of the Division of Water Resource, retired rather suddenly when a great opportunity came his way (and being ready for a break from the responsibility to spend more time with his family) .  The  day he retired  they asked me to be acting chief engineer while they did a national search for a permanent chief engineer.

I never aspired to be chief engineer as it is a very big job. But the months of serving as acting chief has changed my mind as a result of the many who encouraged me that I could do the job, thegreat support from our central office, and the DWR’s great staff.  So I applied.

On November  19,  2007, it was announced that I had been selected to serve as Kansas 5th chief engineer (since the position was established in 1927). Below is a link to the press release.

Continue reading Promoted to Chief Engineer