Tag Archives: work

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:  http://www.agriculture.ks.gov/divisions-programs/dwr/interstate-rivers-and-compacts/republican-river-compact

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:http://www.agriculture.ks.gov/divisions-programs/dwr/interstate-rivers-and-compacts/kickapoo-indian-reservation.

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 http://agriculture.ks.gov/divisions-programs/dwr/water-appropriation/impairment-complaints/quivira-national-wildlife-refuge

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 http://agriculture.ks.gov/divisions-programs/dwr/water-appropriation/change-applications/hays-change-and-water-transfer


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: http://www.linkedin.com/in/davidwbarfield.

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.