21-02: Groundwater Monitoring Resolution

Submitted by Sheridan County CD, 2021

(Amended to combine with Resolution 21-03)

WHEREAS, according to MCA Code 85-2-316, the state, any political subdivision or agency of the state, may apply to the department to acquire a state water reservation for existing or future beneficial use. Furthermore, the Department has the ability to modify existing water reservations. There are currently 36 Districts that have been entrusted with water reservations; and

WHEREAS, buried valley aquifers in northeastern Montana are critical sources of groundwater for irrigation development; and this development has increased agricultural production in Sheridan, Richland, and Roosevelt counties, among others; and concerns over the frequency of droughts  increases the interest in irrigation development; and

WHEREAS, groundwater monitoring activities benefit water users by defining the areas where aquifer water is usable for irrigation versus marginal or unusable water quality or quantity. It is important to understand the water quality and quantity limits of irrigation development to prevent producers the  expense associated with attempting to develop unusable parts of these aquifers; and only producing  from the sustainable portions of the aquifer; and

WHEREAS, long-term groundwater monitoring has proven to be an essential tool for aquifer management allowing the current level of development from the Clear Lake aquifer in Sheridan County. Recent shorter-term monitoring from the West Crane aquifer in Richland County is showing promise to provide information to expand irrigation development, but needs long term data to adequately drive groundwater modeling and other water management tools; while preventing any negative impacts to other water users or the aquifer. However, responsible management requires continued long-term data to adequately drive groundwater modeling; and 

WHEREAS, the need for long-term monitoring requires long-term funding and asking the legislature for funding every two years is cost and time prohibitive; and short-term funding grants and sources are unpredictable and unreliable; Unsecured funding sources make quality employees hard to find and retain when funding sources are unknown; and 

NOW THEREFORE LET IT BE RESOLVED, that the Montana Association of Conservation Districts pursues additional funding for groundwater reservation monitoring and supports Sheridan County and Richland Conservation District and any other Conservation Districts who have active groundwater reservations or are pursuing groundwater reservations.

NOW THEREFORE LET IT BE FURTHER RESOLVED, that MACD actively encourage DNRC Water Resources Division to pursue the ability to expand current groundwater reservations and, or, the creation of new water reservations, where the preponderance of evidence shows there is additional water available for agriculture use.