Archive for Monday, September 8, 2003

Half of state’s waterways remain below normal flow

September 8, 2003

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It wasn't exactly "too little, too late," but recent rainfall had little effect on Kansas rivers already in desperate shape because of the drought.

Prior to the storms, 65 percent of the state's 105 stream gauges, monitored by the U.S. Geological Survey for more than 30 years, were flowing below normal. Seven of them hit record lows on Aug. 24.

After the rains, normal flow returned to 50 percent of the gauge locations, said Jim Putnam, hydrologist with the Lawrence office of the Geological Survey.

"Things have improved, but we're still below normal, as much as 5 to 6 inches in some areas," Putnam said. "They (rivers) will probably drop right back to where they were."

Most of the stream gauges with record low flows were in parts of Kansas where the most severe drought conditions exist, Putnam said. Those seven locations were:

  • Smoky Hill River at New Cambria, Saline County.
  • Smoky Hill River at Enterprise, Dickinson County.
  • Kansas River at Fort Riley, Geary County.
  • Rob Catloth, head coach for Kansas University's rowing team,
navigates the Kansas River during a practice. Because the Kansas
River has been so low at times, the rowing team has been confined
to less than 3 miles of navigable water. Recent rains, however,
have increased the river's level in this area. Across the state,
rivers are at their lowest levels in a decade. Catloth raced across
the water Friday.

    Rob Catloth, head coach for Kansas University's rowing team, navigates the Kansas River during a practice. Because the Kansas River has been so low at times, the rowing team has been confined to less than 3 miles of navigable water. Recent rains, however, have increased the river's level in this area. Across the state, rivers are at their lowest levels in a decade. Catloth raced across the water Friday.

  • Soldier Creek near Delia, Shawnee County.
  • Marmaton River near Marmaton, Bourbon County.
  • Arkansas River near Kinsley, Edwards County.
  • Arkansas River at Derby, Sedgwick County.


Of those seven, only Marmaton might come off the critical list because of the rains, Putnam said. The storms that hit northeast Kansas moved to the south where more rain fell than in the Lawrence area.

The low rivers will affect area residents because water-use restrictions will likely continue, Putnam said.

The Kansas River in Douglas County and Johnson County is at or near normal. A stream gauge at Lecompton early last week showed the flow to be about 3,000 cubic feet per second. Before the rains it was averaging about 1,000 cfs, Putnam said.

"The rain raised the river level about two feet," he said.

The Kansas River at the De Soto gauge was averaging about 3,000 cfs before the rains, he said.

Conditions in most of Kansas are nowhere near what they were in harsher drought periods, Putnam said. For example, during a drought in 1956 the river at De Soto hit a daily low of 165 cfs, he said.

Though water levels earlier this year at Perry and Milford lakes were at record lows, springs rains had improved their condition slightly in June, Putnam said. Perry Lake added four feet after the August rains, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Clinton increased its water level by less than a foot, Putnam said.

The Kansas River's fluctuation with low levels is nothing new, said Laura Calwell, the Kansas riverkeeper.

"The Kansas River quite frequently gets real low," she said. "It makes it harder for catfishermen to get in and out of the water but that's about all."

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