Haskell County family tests Kansas water law

May 13, 2014

Haskell County, Kansas
Haskell County, Kansas
Credit commons.wikimedia.org

With the depletion of the Ogallala aquifer looming, a Haskell County family is testing Kansas water rights law.  First in time, first in right gives senior water rights priority over junior rights.  If the senior right is impaired, the owner of the junior right could be ordered to reduce irrigation from their well or even be shut down completely water reported Amy Bickel for Kansas Agland.

Fifth-generation farmer Jay Garetson says if nothing changes in the a few years his area of western Kansas will run out of irrigation.

“The Ogallala has been massively over-drafted,” Garetson said. “If we don’t make changes and large changes and make them soon, we might not have anything left to talk about other than what part of the country we are moving to.”

Jay and his brother Jarvis, filed suit against American Warrior, an oil company owned by Cecil O’Brate of Garden City.  The judge in the case issued a temporary injunction May 5.  That means the oil company can’t pump water from the junior wells in question to irrigate crops this summer. 

O’Brate declined comment at this time.

Garetson’s water rights date back to the 1930s.  HS003 was the third water right granted by the state in Haskell County. 

This is the second time the family filed suit.  The first impairment suit was filed in 2005.  The charges were withdrawn in 2007.

“Our goal has been to bring attention to the urgent state of decline of the Ogallala Aquifer in GMD No. 3,” the Garetsons wrote in their withdrawal letter. “Rather than being a positive catalyst for change in the effort to extend the useful life of the aquifer as a whole, we have been perceived as selfishly damaging our neighbors for our own gain.”

The current impairment case was filed in 2012.

Learn more about Garetson Brothers v. American Warrior from Kansas Agland.