Despite locally heavy rainfall and cooler temperatures beginning in mid-August, drought conditions persist in Kansas. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has responded by issuing a drought warning for the entire state.
As a result, public water suppliers, based on their self-determined water conservation plan, may impose mandatory water use restrictions. Urgent surplus water contracts from state controlled storage may be authorized.
The Governor's action came on the recommendation of her Drought Response Team, which met Aug. 18 to analyze conditions around the state.
"We can't make it rain, but we're doing all we can to best respond to the drought," says Sebelius. "We've simplified the availability of emergency water for communities, tapped reservoir supplies, and forged coordinated plans to prevent and fight wildfires."
To speed the availability of emergency water, the State of Kansas has simplified the process to provide water through surplus water contracts under the water marketing program. Any water owned by the state and not committed to either the marketing or assurance programs may be sold.
In the past, surplus water contracts, contingent on available supply, had to be approved by the Kansas Water Authority. Last week, discretionary interim contracting authority was given to the director of the Kansas Water Office by the Kansas Water Authority.
This authority will likely be used, as experts told the Drought Response Team that, while there have been hotter and drier summers, this one has set a new benchmark for record low stream flows in many areas. Eleven streams at 13 stream gauge locations are not meeting target flow levels.
More than normal rainfall is needed to bring the Palmer Drought Severity Index back to a not-too-wet, not-too-dry mode, state climatologist Mary Knapp told the Governor's drought team. September and October normally are wetter months and global climatic conditions favor a wetter fall than last year.
Reorganized in 2003, the Governor's Drought Response Team is chaired by the director of the Kansas Water Office. Members include representatives from the Kansas Water Office, the Governor's Office, Adjutant General's Department, the Departments of Agriculture, Administration, Health and Environment, and Wildlife and Parks, the State Fire Marshal, Kansas State University, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the USDA Farm Service Agency.