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Archive for Wednesday, April 10, 2002

State’s farmers hoping, praying for more rain

April 10, 2002

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Rain that fell Sunday and Monday across much of Kansas brought some relief from dry conditions but farmers and ranchers across the state continue to hope and pray for more storms.

"They need a month of that kind of stuff to even make a dent," said Mary Knapp, state climatologist. "We need a whole lot more, and we need it to be pushed farther west."

As much as 2 inches of rain fell, mostly in southern Kansas, on Sunday before moving northeast Monday, with Topeka recording 1.4 inches that day. But less than a half-inch fell in southwest Kansas, the driest part of the state.

The St. John Catholic Church in Spearville in southwest Kansas is conducting four special services this week to pray for more rain.

"We're mostly a farming community, so I think a lot of people will attend," said Spearville resident Eleanor Strecker. "It may be too late this season, though. It's rare to see a nice green field. I remember we used to get wheat to make Easter baskets. There's no way we can do that now."

The Kansas Water Office has not yet said the state is officially in a drought, and that designation may not come anytime soon, said spokesman Hank Ernst.

"We are a long ways from the drought we had back in 1999," Ernst said. "That's not to say there aren't some extremely dry places in Kansas, but this is one of the recurring things that happen."

But the dry conditions have taken their toll in places such as the Equus Beds aquifer, where the water level dropped an average of nearly a foot, and as much as 6 feet in some places, last year.

"We expected this, based on the hot and dry conditions last year, and a lot of irrigation that took place as a result," said Don Koci, hydrologist with the Equus Beds Groundwater Management District. "Our biggest concern is that we didn't get a lot of recharge in the fall."

The aquifer management district covers 1,400 square miles, and includes portions of Reno, Harvey, Sedgwick and McPherson counties.

Koci said he wasn't too concerned about the declines as long as drought conditions don't continue too long.

The continuing dry conditions also are obvious at Cheney Reservoir, where the lake, which relies on rainfall to stay filled, is 3 feet below normal, said Jerry Blain, water supply projects administrator.

"It's been that way for several months now," he said. "Most of its water comes from surface drainage, but right now it's being fed from Equus Bed water that feeds into the Ninnescah River."

In the southeast, the recent rains will be enough to green up the Flint Hills pastures, said Frank Brazle, southeast region extension livestock specialist. He said if the winds cooperate, that may allow many pastures to be burned. Much of the Flint Hills has been under burning bans this spring. Burning traditionally occurs from April 10-20.

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