U.S. Water News Online
TOPEKA, Kan. -- Colorado and Kansas officials say they are close to an agreement to replenish Arkansas River water lost to groundwater use in Colorado. Colorado has agreed to store replacement water in the John Martin Reservoir where it can be periodically released to Kansas.
As the result of a lawsuit won by Kansas against Colorado in the U.S. Supreme Court, users of high-capacity wells in the Arkansas Valley must buy water and send it downriver to Kansas to the groundwater used by their water wells. Kansas had argued in its lawsuit that the hundreds of wells drilled after the 1949 Arkansas River Compact take water that should flow to Kansas.
The breakthrough agreement was announced at a recent meeting of the Arkansas River Compact Administration.
While details remain to be worked out -- such as how much extra water Colorado will have to supply to make up for evaporation and seepage as the water travels to Kansas -- officials in both states seem to feel a formal agreement is in the making.
"There's a fair chance we'll be able to work something out," said Dave Robbins, one of the attorneys representing Colorado in the lawsuit.
Colorado officials say the proposed storage account at the John Martin Reservoir is needed by well users so they can store water when they get it. Kansas could release the water down the Arkansas River when needed.
Without the storage account, well users have to send water to Kansas whenever their water wells are taking water that should cross the state line into Kansas. Those amounts are hard to gauge and may result in Kansas getting water when it is not ready to use it, Colorado water officials have said.
Water officials from both states said they hope to reach a formal agreement sometime in February.
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