Family tests Kansas water law, claims impairment

FILE - In this Aug. 28, 2003 file photograph, a sprinkler sprays water onto a hay field near Hoxie, Kan. Continued irrigation in western Kansas has led to declining water levels in the Ogallala Aquifer. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 28, 2003 file photograph, a sprinkler sprays water onto a hay field near Hoxie, Kan. Continued irrigation in western Kansas has led to declining water levels in the Ogallala Aquifer. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

SUBLETTE, Kansas (AP) – A western Kansas family concerned about the future of the Ogallala aquifer is testing a state water law that allows senior water rights holders to force junior rights holders to reduce irrigation or be shut off completely.

Fifth-generation farmer Jay Garetson and his brother Jarvis first filed an impairment claim in 2005 in Haskell County but dropped it two years later because of backlash and threats from the community.

The brothers filed another impairment claim in 2012. Last week a judge issued a temporary injunction against a plaintiff forbidding him from pumping water from his junior wells to irrigate crops.

Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration has said the state’s water resources could be nearly exhausted in 50 years if pumping continues at the current pace.

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