AUGUSTA Triple-digit temperatures have led some Kansas communities to start restricting water usage and have left many farmers unable to pump enough from wells to satisfy thirsty crops.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture earlier this month issued a drought disaster declaration for 49 Kansas counties. Some parts of the states have received less than half of their typical rainfall.
The Wichita Eagle reported that the Augusta City Lake, which is surrounded by acres of dried out mud, could be tapped out as a water source by mid-August unless heavy rains or water conservation extends its life.
Violations of outdoor water usage restrictions announced this past week can draw fines of $50 to $300 — and result in loss of service. If the drought continues, the city may consider closing pools and coin-operated car washes.
Linda Williams, who has lived in a home near the edge of Augusta City Lake for 25 years, doesn’t like to watch her normally green front yard turn brown.
“But we don’t have a choice. We’re all in the same boat so we may as well work together,” she said.
The city of Hesston has declared a water emergency, and residents will soon be required to limit outdoor watering. Residents are being asked to voluntarily conserve water until Thursday, when the resolution goes into effect, said City Administrator John Carder.
“Hopefully, it will rain,” he said, noting the city had received about 4 inches of rain since June 1.
In Larned, the heat and lack of rain has been blistering. Farmer Tom Giessel bought a new corn header earlier this year with hopes of another bountiful harvest. But now that his 1,200 acres of corn has shriveled, he doesn’t expect to pull his combine out of the shed.
“Kiss her goodbye,” he said as he stood in the middle of a patch of dryland corn, inspecting what was left of his drought-stricken crop.
Even irrigated crops are suffering because farmers can’t pump enough to keep them from withering. Many farmers are abandoning half their circles in an effort to save the other half, said Joey Kuehler, a Satanta-area crop consultant with Dodge City-based Servi-Tech Inc.
“I’ve made more recommendations in the past three weeks for farmers to do that than I have in the past 25 years combined,” Kuehler told The Hutchinson News. “When you have a 125-acre circle and you abandoned one half to save the other half, that pretty much shows we are in dire straits.”
The state is taking steps to help. Seward County K-State Extension Agent Mike Hanson said under an old law, producers were only allocated so many inches of irrigation water per acre per year. One effort aimed at helping is a flex account that gives farmers a five-year allotment of water based on their past usage over a 10-year period.
“They can spread that allocation over five years, and hopefully, we’ll have a couple of wet years if they do that,” he told The Leader & Times newspaper in Liberal. “It gives them a chance to plan ahead and maybe put in more water-efficient crops.”