Controversial water policy was decided on in the Upper Big Blue Natural Resources District Thursday.
The district hosted a heated public hearing back in November where many farmers said changes to allocation rules weren't needed because they work independently to conserve water when irrigating crops.
The board voted this week to require flow meters on all wells pumping more than 50 gpm.
Also, if the water table drops to 1961 levels farmers will be reduced to 30 acre inches of water over three years or 45 inches over five years.
The new rules and regulations will become effective on February 1, 2014.
Here is a full list of the changes:
1). Allocation Amount & Duration: The Board set the first allocation period of 30 acre inches over a three years. A second allocation period would be activated for 45 acre inches over five years. The Allocation Trigger on the Upper Big Blue NRD's average groundwater level chart has been in place since 1990. Because of the 2012 drought, and subsequent heavy pumping of groundwater to irrigate crops, the average groundwater level in the Upper Big Blue NRD has seen its largest one year decline since record keeping began in 1961. "We could get to allocation in one dry season, or we might get a wet season or two, and not get there for a few years, but the measures are in place to continue to maintain the sustainability of groundwater in our District" stated John Turnbull, General Manager of the Upper Big Blue NRD.
2). Flow Meters: The rule change now requires that ALL wells with a pumping capacity greater than 50 gpm be equipped with a mechanical flow meter if the District average groundwater level falls below the Allocation Trigger, or by January 1, 2016, whichever occurs first. It should be noted that, electronic flow meters will be grandfathered up to February 1, 2014, when the new rule changes take effect. Flow meters are necessary to accurately record water use.
3). NO RESTRICTION on expansion of irrigated acres; NO MORITORIUMS on well drilling: (Except for the already designated fully-appropriated area in Northern Hamilton County). Otherwise, there is no well drilling moratorium, and no restriction of expanding acres for irrigation.
4). Groundwater Transfers Would CEASE: Groundwater transfers will no longer be allowed if the Allocation Trigger is reached.
5). Certified Groundwater Use Acres and Pooling: The new changes to Rule 5 provide for the combining of certified groundwater use acres into units. A unit of groundwater use acres consists of acres in the same government survey section or irrigated by the same well that are under the control of one groundwater user. The term "pooling" refers to the combining of certified Groundwater Use Acres (irrigated acres) for the purpose of determining what lands will be assigned an allocation.