Governor holds drought meeting
By Doug Rich
A snowstorm delayed the start of Gov. Sam Brownback's drought meeting on Dec. 20, but no one was complaining. In fact, everyone at the meeting agreed that the state could use moisture in any form right now.
"The drought is severe," Brownback said. "In many respects this is the worst drought on record since the 1930s."
Tracey Streeter, head of the Kansas Water Office and chairman of the Drought Response Team, said conditions are dry and there is not a positive outlook at this time. His office is preparing for 2013 to be very dry. Street said 200 of the public water supply systems in the state are under conservation measures of some sort. Nine of these are in a water emergency stage. Many of these nine have banned or restricted outdoor watering.
Kansas has a good reservoir system but the water levels are very low at this time.
"Lake levels are going down at a rapid pace," Streeter said.
John Redman Reservoir, which is the backup for the Wolf Creek Nuclear Power Plant, is currently at 41 percent full. Streeter said there are other reservoirs in poor condition including Toronto, Fall River, Tuttle Creek, Chaney, and Kanopolis. Total system storage for the state of Kansas in April was nearly 2 million acre feet of water, but by December that total had been reduced by approximately 600,000 acre feet.
"We have some historic low stream flow measurements across the state," Streeter said. "That is an important statement when you think about our history of drought."
Public water suppliers were advised to make sure they had conservation plans in place. These suppliers need to know how much water is available in their primary source, whether it is wells or a reservoir. Streeter said the State Water Office could assist communities in projecting water usage based on their supply.
Take advantage of every opportunity to conserve water.
The Kansas Adjutant Generals Department has developed a state Emergency Water Support Plan that was put together with help from several state agencies, according to Gen. Lee Tafanelli. This plan has been shared with all of the county water managers.
"Many counties in the state have already started to take action by restricting water usage and put in place burn bans," Tafanelli said. "Currently 18 counties have burn bans in place."
Dale Rodman, Kansas Secretary of Agriculture, says more funds are needed for pond restoration projects. To date 200 pond restorations using cost-share funds have been completed and there are applications for another 400 projects. Rodman said USDA has pledged more funds will be provided for pond restoration. Ponds provide the cheapest water storage available in the state.
In January the Drought Response Team will begin meeting on a weekly basis.
Doug Rich can be reached by phone at 785-749-5304, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.