Watershed Districts

Overview

Recognizing that serious problems of water management resulting from erosion, floodwater or sediment damages or instability of natural water supplies were arising in the watersheds of the rivers and streams of the state of Kansas, the Kansas legislature established the Watershed District Act in 1953. The purpose of the watershed district is to construct, operate and maintain works of improvement needed to provide for water management within designated boundaries.

A watershed is all the land that drains to a particular water resource point, such as a lake or stream. Watershed district boundaries generally follow a natural watershed basin. There are 88 organized watershed districts in Kansas encompassing approximately 22 percent of the total land mass in the state. Organized watershed districts have taxing authority (within limitations) and the power of eminent domain, in addition to other powers granted by K.S.A. 24-1209. Each watershed district incorporated under the provisions of this act is a political subdivision of state government.

Since 1977, the Kansas Legislature has appropriated funds for assistance in the construction of flood detention and grade stabilization dams. These funds are appropriated to the Kansas Department of Agriculture, Division of Conservation (DOC) and allocated to watershed districts for flood control projects. The DOC has developed administrative regulations for the implementation of the state assistance in watershed dam construction, rehabilitation and inundation mapping.

The Watershed District Act, K.S.A. 24-1201 et seq. and the Watershed Dam Construction Program rules and regulations K.A.R. 11-3-1 to 11-3-12 provide guidance for the administration of the state cost-share funding. More information on state cost-share may be found on this website by selecting Flood Control and Lakes Programs from the Main Menu.

Local Leadership

A locally elected board of directors of three to fifteen members is responsible for administration of the watershed district. At least one director represents each subwatershed located within the district. The directors serve without compensation, but may be reimbursed for expenses incurred in the performance of their official duties. A watershed district board is required to have regular meetings no less than once each quarter during the year. An annual meeting is also held for the election of directors whose terms expire, as well as to report on the financial condition and activities of the district including proposed projects.

The watershed districts may employ personnel to assist in the performance of their statutory powers and duties. Most watershed districts do not employ full-time staff and do not have an office. One of the requirements for state assistance is a single contact person in the watershed. This person is called the "contracting officer." The contracting officer's primary duties are to handle the administrative procedures necessary in the construction of flood detention dams.

WATERSHED DISTRICT HANDBOOK

Map and Directory

Watershed District Act