The Lower Smoky Access District provides the opportunity for surface water users along the Smoky Hill River, below Kanopolis Lake, to obtain long term water storage in Kanopolis to back up their water rights when natural flows do not meet their needs. The Access District can include the special irrigation district, municipalities, industries and recreational water right holders that want to participate.
In 2002, the state of Kansas purchased 46 percent of the conservation pool in Kanopolis Reservoir for water supply purposes. In 2006 drought brought very low levels of supply to the area. The Kansas Water Office (KWO) was considering a request for a deviation of minimum water quality releases; this was met with considerable concern by stakeholders. The deviation was not submitted and timely rains refilled the reservoir in 2007. However, KWO continued to work with the downstream community to make sure water supply would be met as often as possible.
In 2011 Water Plan Policy development and legislation was passed that authorized formation of an access district which could acquire storage in Kanopolis. The city of Salina and a group of surface water irrigators voluntarily joined together to obtain water storage in Kanopolis Reservoir. The Lower Smoky Special Access District Legislation and rules and regulations provide a coordinated system of reservoir operations designed to supplement natural flows in the specific area to meet the demands of municipal, irrigation, industrial and recreation water right holders during low flow periods by release of water from Kanopolis Reservoir.
The operations agreement between the Access District, KWO and the Department of Agriculture, Division of Water Resources (DWR) was signed in May 2017 to complete the process to provide water to participants. No release from storage was requested in 2017.
- 2007 to 2009: Improved understanding of the water resources provided a basis for changing the management of the river system with hydrologic modeling of the Smoky Hill River system below Kanopolis
- 2009: Evaluation of the minimum water quality release schedule by KWO (OASIS model) suggested modification of releases to meet a target was a more efficient use of available water
- 2011: Water Plan Policy development and legislation was passed that authorized formation of an access district which could acquire storage in Kanopolis
- June 2012: In coordination with the Kansas City District, modification of the release schedule was finalized.
- The major change was making releases to meet target flows at the USGS Mentor gage rather than a set release quantity. Working with stakeholders to release as needed, resulted in a savings of 1600 AF of water quality storage in 2012
- 2013: The rules and regulation process was completed in August, with the Lower Smoky Hill River Irrigation District formed in December 2013
- 2014: The Petition for Access District formation was received and Incorporation approved through the Secretary of State’s office
- December 5, 2016: The Access District was formally incorporated at a special work session of the Salina City Commission
- December 15, 2016: The Kansas Water Authority approved the Director of the KWO to negotiate a contract with the Access District for purchase of storage space in Kanopolis, which was signed on December 29, 2016
- May 2017: The operations agreement was signed
No specific funding was allocated for this project. The Access District purchases state owned conservation storage in Kanopolis Reservoir paying costs for the annual operations, maintenance, major replacement and rehabilitation costs allocated to their storage and annual costs to administer the agreements.