News Feature | January 8, 2014

Idaho, Kansas Courts Decide Major Water Cases

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

courtreg

The Idaho Supreme Court weighed in on a major water controversy last month. 

The debate addresses a 2005 water call made on groundwater pumpers by a group of canal companies and irrigation districts known as the Surface Water Coalition. The group “argued that the groundwater pumpers along the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer encroached on the coalition’s water supply,” according to Twin Falls Times-News

The court concluded that that the Idaho Department of Water Resources had overstepped its authority when it ruled on a water complaint without holding an official hearing. "The panel of justices added that [state] officials applied the proper method when measuring the losses of the aggrieved Coalition members," the report said. 

The decision marks "the close to the decade long debates on managing surface and groundwater in southern Idaho," according to Twin Falls Times-News.  Idaho has a lengthy history of court cases regarding water rights dating back to the '90s, the report said. 

The Kansas Court of Appeals weighed in on a major water rights case last month, as well. 

The court said that the state's top water regulator does not have "the power to reduce a landowner's water rights once a permit has been issued," according to the Associated Press. 

The decision said that "once a permit is issued and finalized, the chief engineer may not go back later and reduce the amount of water appropriated, unless the permit holder abandons the water right by not using it," the AP explained. 

The decision could result in the need for expensive water equipment.

"In the ruling, the court also found that the chief engineer of the Division of Water Resources may require farm irrigators to install costly metering equipment on their wells to ensure compliance with their permits," the report said. 

Image credit: “gavel," © 2007 bloomsberries, used under an Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

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