Moisture Awesome; Drought Still Causes Worry

Kansas Viewpoint

Pastures, ponds, reservoirs all still affected by drought; wheat is green and growing but will need more water

Published on: March 28, 2013

It’s starting to look green in southern Kansas, in spite of the fact that the final remnants of the recent five-inch snow are still hanging around. They will be gone in today’s 60-degree sunshine.

That recent snow and the 20-plus inch blanketing we got a few weeks ago, along with a couple of showers in between is enough to bring out the smiles on the faces of farmers in this region, where wheat fields are looking great as the crop breaks dormancy and heads toward the spring growing season.

There is no doubt that the heavy, wet snow – and colder weather longer into spring – have helped the crop make significant recovery from the stresses of a dry fall and winter. Wheat is definitely a bright spot.

Looking a little deeper, however, reminds us that the prolonged drought we have suffered has taken a toll on resources and the moisture we have had so far hasn’t reversed that.

One of the major drought impacts is evident in the pastures of the Flint Hills where cattlemen are reducing stocking rates in some pastures to help the native prairie grasses recover from drought and eliminating stocking entirely in other pastures because of a lack of water. You’ll be reading more about that in Kansas Farmer in May.

Another concern is the water table in the state’s aquifers, which have taken a beating in back-to-back years of drought and heavy water use for irrigation. Of course, we have all long been concerned about the drawdown of the Ogalalla Aquifer in western Kansas, but this year there is concern even in areas that see good recharge, including the Equus Beds near Wichita.

There is also ongoing concern about stream flows across the state. At least eight locations are still under minimum desirable stream flow management, which prohibits irrigations with water rights after 1984 from pumping for irrigation.

And finally, the reservoirs that supply drinking water to the state’s most heavily populated areas are going into the season well below conservation pool levels – in some cases at only 50 to 60% of conservation pool.

Water is going to be a big issue this summer, even if we get normal rainfalls because we need more than normal to build back our stored water.

Here’s to hoping for more rain.