Walnut Creek IGUCA


Update 12-22-2021
In response to the announcement of the Walnut Creek IGUCA review, Big Bend GMD No. 5 has begun a focused update to the GMD No. 5 groundwater model to help inform the review. The scope and timeline of the GMD No. 5 model update will affect the timeline of the Walnut Creek IGUCA review. Updated expected dates for draft IGUCA review report publication, final IGUCA review report publication, and the public IGUCA review hearing will be provided when the effects of the GMD No. 5 model update on ongoing review work become clearer.

Original Release 10-29-2021
The Kansas Department of Agriculture’s Division of Water Resources has begun the formal review of the Walnut Creek Intensive Groundwater Use Control Area (IGUCA). 

The review process has three main phases. First, KDA–DWR will gather data, analyze the performance of the IGUCA, and draft a report; KDA–DWR expects to publish a draft report for public review and comment by December 31, 2021. Then a final report with recommendations will be published in February 2022. Finally, KDA–DWR will hold a public hearing in the spring of 2022. 

Due to the timing of the review and hearing process, KDA–DWR does not expect that this review will affect the calculation and assignment of 2022-2026 water allocations for water right holders within the Walnut Creek IGUCA.

IGUCA Overview

Walnut Creek IGUCA LocationTo see a full size map of the Walnut Creek IGUCA, click the map image to the right.

In response to declining groundwater levels and lack of sufficient streamflow within the Walnut Creek basin to satisfy senior surface water rights, the Chief Engineer initiated the IGUCA process in March 1990. Hearings were held in Great Bend between December 1990 and March 1991, as well in Topeka in April 1991, and the initial IGUCA Order was issued in January 1992. A request for partial stay was filed in February 1992, a Supplemental Order was issued in December 1996, an Amended Order was issued in June 1998, and two more Supplemental Orders were issued in June 2001 and July 2017. 

Pursuant to K.A.R. 5-20-2, each of the eight IGUCA Orders in place before July 1, 2008 must be reviewed in a process that includes a public hearing conducted by the Chief Engineer. While a brief summary of the Walnut Creek IGUCA has been provided below, the actual IGUCA Order is also available and should be referred to for detailed conclusions and provisions.


March 13, 1990: IGUCA proceedings initiated by the Chief Engineer

  • KDA-DWR completed a report titled, "Availability of Water in Walnut Creek, Its Tributaries, Their Valley Alluviums, and Hydraulically Connected Aquifers" in September 1989.
  • The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks requested that the Chief Engineer initiate IGUCA proceedings in areas that affect their senior water right (priority date of October 8. 1948) which supplies Walnut Creek surface water to the Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area.
  • Groundwater levels appeared to be declining or to have declined excessively, the rate of withdrawal of groundwater equaled or exceeded the rate of recharge, and conditions existed which required regulation in the public interest.
  • Big Bend GMD No. 5 requested that the Chief Engineer initiate IGUCA proceedings in the Walnut Creek basin in Barton County.

December 1990 - April 1991: Public hearings

  • Formal public hearings were held in Great Bend on December 4-7, 1990; January 3 and 4; February 5-8; and March 19-22 and 26-28, 1991 in Great Bend; and on April 18, 1991 in Topeka.

January 29, 1992: Initial IGUCA Order issued

  • Established the IGUCA boundaries
  • Closed the area to further surface water and groundwater appropriation
  • Required the installation of flow meters
  • Required water users to file annual water use reports
  • Set five-year water quantity allocations
  • Determined the long-term sustainable yield of the aquifer within the IGUCA boundaries to be 22,700 acre-feet per year
  • Defined reasonable allocations for irrigation water rights based on water right priority, the reasonable average irrigation water use requirement for the county, and the maximum acres irrigated from 1985-1990
  • Defined reasonable allocations for non-vested municipal water rights as the reasonable per capita water use for the 1989 population or the full annual authorized quantity, whichever is less
  • Defined reasonable allocations for non-vested water rights for all other beneficial uses of water as 90% of the maximum use reported from 1985-1990 or the sum of the annual quantity of vested and senior water rights and 44% of the authorized quantities for junior water rights owned by the entity, whichever is less
  • Allowed groundwater users to divert their allocation to any of their authorized places of use from a combination any of their authorized wells
  • Allowed the Chief Engineer to, approximately every five years, evaluate any information collected from additional studies and the status of water rights and permits within the IGUCA and make adjustments to the corrective control provisions related to allocation calculations to prevent groundwater use from exceeding 22,700 acre-feet per year
  • Required that if a water user exceeds their allocation during any five-year period, their allocation for the following five-year period shall be reduced by twice the amount of the exceedance
  • Instructed KDA-DWR to inform water users of their five-year allocations
  • Required all owners of vested groundwater rights, municipal or industrial appropriated groundwater rights, and non-domestic surface water rights to implement conservation plans
  • Allowed the Chief Engineer to adopt any special policies and procedures, or make any changes to the Order, deemed to be in the public interest
  • Incorporated the corrective control provisions as conditions of each water right in the IGUCA
  • Established the Walnut Creek IGUCA Advisory Committee to make recommendations to the Chief Engineer. Each formal party to the IGUCA hearing was invited to designate a representative to serve on the Advisory Committee. The Committee met 16 times between 1992 and 2001 and made several recommendations to the Chief Engineer which have been adopted. Although it has not met in recent years, the Advisory Committee is still in existence.

February 19, 1992: Partial stay and request for temporary remedies filed by the Walnut Creek Basin Association and Mid Kansas Quality Water Association

  • The Order issued on January 29, 1992 stayed in full force and effect as written.
  • The request for partial stay and temporary remedies was denied in part and granted in part.

December 6, 1996: Supplemental Order issued

  • April 9, 1996: The Advisory Committee recommended that the Chief Engineer:
    • Increase the allocation for the City of Otis's helium plant
    • Allow water right owners to carry over unused allocation from the 1992-1996 allocation period to the 1997-2001 allocation period
    • Establish fair allocation computation methods for irrigation water rights that had been enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) from 1985-1990
  • Regarding irrigation water rights that had been enrolled in CRP from 1985-1990, the Supplemental Order provided that their allocation for 1997-2001 would be calculated using the maximum number of acres irrigated during the six years prior their enrollment.

June 24, 1998: Amended Order issued

  • Provided a method for calculating an allocation for irrigation water rights found to be in good standing but enrolled in CRP, with no reported irrigated acres during the six-year period prior to enrollment. This had not been taken into account by the Supplemental Order. For such water rights, the maximum number of acres irrigated in the last year of reported water use prior to CRP enrollment would be used for the allocation calculation.

June 29, 2001: Supplemental Amended Order (III) issued

  • February 7, 2001: The Advisory Committee recommended that the Chief Engineer:
    • Allow water right owners to carry over unused allocation from any one five-year allocation period into the next allocation period
    • Allow applications to be filed for additional rate, with acceptable conditions

July 31, 2017: Supplemental Order issued

  • Allowed for the filing of term permits for use of non-fresh sources (waters having a chloride concentration greater than 5,000 milligrams per liter) not connected to Walnut Creek, its tributaries, or its aquifers, with acceptable conditions

Supporting Documents

Individuals who have questions regarding the Walnut Creek IGUCA should contact Lizzie Hickman at Elizabeth.Hickman@ks.gov for more information.