Some water rights in Pratt County have not been used and could be lost if action is not taken.

Pratt leaders met last week with Jeff Lanterman, Department of Agriculture water commissioner, and learned the City of Pratt does have an option to apply for a five year extension on water rights with the chief engineer of the Kansas Department of Agriculture.

The 40-year perfection period for water rights in Pratt County will expire on Dec. 31, 2019. At that time, Pratt County could lose some water rights that might be needed for unknown future development in the county.

Currently, the authorized use is 942 million gallons a year. Records show that the most gallons used in a year from 2006-2015 is 658 million gallons and that’s how much would be authorized at the end of 2019. So 284 million gallons in water rights could be lost if city leaders do not take action.

Pratt County has been conserving water from its water rights wells for years and some of the water rights have not been used. As a result, the county will lose those unused rights if no action is taken.

“The Department of Agriculture chief engineer can grant a waiver if it’s in the public interest and will not impair other water rights,” Lanterman said. “But, there is no guarantee that the waiver will be granted so some water rights could be lost.”

Lanterman said he had already delivered the necessary paperwork to the appropriate city officials and encouraged them to start the application process now because it does take some time.

By starting now, it would give the city some additional time to act. The application process doesn’t take very long, usually a couple of months but it takes lots of documentation and letters of support are helpful.

If the waiver is granted, it would be five years before they have to go through the process again. The amount of water rights the county would retain depends on water use in that five year period, Lanterman said.

Unused water rights can’t be sold but they can provide water to new users inside their boundary and immediate vicinity and that can help keep water rights in place. Lanterman said the state would have no objection to let someone else use the water.

Pratt Utilities Director Russ Rambat said the amount of water usage varies in the city depending on the temperature and if there were a power failure, it would take more water it they fired up the steam generator because it takes a lot of water.

Water use in the county is critical for agriculture production which accounts for 95 percent of county water use with most going to irrigation.

Pratt County is in Groundwater Management District No. 5.

In 1998, the district was closed to new water rights additions but exceptions were available for domestic use, temporary and term permits.

The Kansas Legislature approves the rates and regulations for water usage.