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Opinion

Opinion

Editorial: Water pressure

Continuing drought conditions point to the need for long-term change in how Kansas uses its water resources.

March 15, 2013

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The recent rain helped to clean our streets from the dingy mess the late winter had left behind. After the snow and the fun of sledding and making forts and snow creatures, the warmer temperatures and rain were welcome.

That modest amount of precipitation (less than 2 inches so far in 2013 in Lawrence) did not, however, make any meaningful impact on the drought.

The entire state remains in a severe drought condition. Last year at this time, less than a fifth of the state was so afflicted.

Although reservoirs in the Kansas River basin got a recharge of nearly 9,000 acre-feet from the melting snow and the rain that followed, Milford, Perry and Clinton already are receding from the brief peak they enjoyed about a week ago.

Data from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers shows the reservoirs are down 59,000 acre feet from last September, but the deficit has been reduced from a high of 76,000 acre feet at the beginning of 2013. Although the reservoirs are benefitting, it will take years of normal precipitation to recover from the drought, now in its third year, and predicted to continue throughout the state and the western U.S. for at least another two months.

Experts on climate science, geology, agriculture and water policy addressed a symposium at Kansas University recently and many warned that the long-term outlook is not favorable because the region’s climate is warming, so that even when precipitation returns to normal, it’s likely that greater losses to evaporation and transpiration will impact the state’s limited water resources.

They also called attention to the increasing severity of the cyclical droughts that historically have impacted the region.

They preached the same message that has been carried, unheeded, for years: It’s time to adapt, to change practices so that agriculture and other major water users no longer require so much of the available, but dwindling, supply.

It’s a message that, unfortunately, goes against the economic self-interest of many, and, until there’s something more than words to incite change, until there’s something more than a symposium to bring the message, the course we’re on is likely to be the course we stay on.

Over the long term, this is a more important matter for the state to address than nitpicking university budgets or legislating basketball schedules. Signs along the Kansas Turnpike warn: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Maybe we should pay attention.

Comments

Richard Heckler 1 year, 9 months ago

Lawrence could start reducing it's water usage simply by seriously reducing watering weedless lawns. Yes this is a hidden cost of large grass areas that which are designed to demand more water and more mowing. Further promoted by use of toxic chemicals.

Another avenue could be decrease the grassy areas substantially with mulched perennial Kansas landscapes that require much less attention = heat and drought resistant. Plant herbs and veggies throughout the landscape.

Instead of having leaves and grass cuttings hauled away use these resources for mulching.

The park department might want to consider the above.

camillia 1 year, 9 months ago

Like Alvamar being watered when its 40 degrees out in the winter when no one golfs.

kernal 1 year, 9 months ago

I don't know what type of grass they grow on their fairways, but suspect they are trying to keep the roots alive through this drought so they don't have to reseed in the spring which would use even more water. Even though grass goes dormant during the winter, it still needs more moisture than what we've had this winter.

camillia 1 year, 9 months ago

They need to address how the whole Utility Dept is incompetent! My water bill jumps up and down in price but I will have the same usage. I was told I would be on a "set price" for regular usage b/c I had prior service in another KS town. My bill has fees and charges that they just blow off and give lame or no excuse at all. Anyone else having this issue?

THIS MY MY WATER USAGE/BILL (NOT SEWER)

8/15 71.00 Units $50.12 9/14 45.00 Units $40.30 10/15 65.00 Units $27.93 11/15 43.00 Units $19.54 12/17 54.00 Units $23.73 1/15 48.00 Units $21.44 NOW 71.00 Units $117.00

skull 1 year, 9 months ago

Sorry, you missed the point entirely.

Ken Lassman 1 year, 9 months ago

Camilla, You may have had a different point than the editorial, but that wouldn't be the first time a commenter has talked about other things, and your point is a legitimate one. I'm on a well in the country, so don't know beans about the city water bill, but my guess is that the amount your per-unit-of-water fluctuates so much from month to month is because there is a minimum base charge that you have to pay even when you don't use much water, meaning that the per-unit cost goes up when you use less than that minimum. I'd call the city water dept. (832-7878) and get the scoop from a voice on the other end to confirm that, tho.

As far as water and the changing climate, well, we already are downstream from a bunch of thirsty towns, so getting some statewide vision on more efficient use of our dwindling supplies makes a whole lot of sense, and since we're upstream from KC, I'm sure they'd agree with that. Using native plants, which are both beautiful and drought tolerant, along with changing over from those European style monoculture lawns, could greatly cut back on residential water consumption. Rain gardens that absorb runoff from roofs could become part of new construction zoning and help keep the water here a bit longer, too. I think this editorial makes some fine points.

JohnBrown 1 year, 9 months ago

Since when should we allow facts to change our beliefs? Especially when money, power and prestige are involved.

JohnBrown

headdoctor 1 year, 9 months ago

Wait until Brownback and company get through turning everything over to the corporations. Especially corporate farms. There wont be much water left to fight over and what little there is wont be worth drinking.

voevoda 1 year, 9 months ago

Without actually using the word, this editorial advocates sustainability. Too bad that the State Legislature is on the verge of banning governments from practicing sustainability.

Hudson Luce 1 year, 9 months ago

No, they object to the words "sustainable" and "sustainability" because the author of the legislation has concerns about UN treaties which might affect the sovereignty of the government of the State of Kansas. There's no object to the phrase "conservation oriented" - and this is what permaculture is about, the conservation of water, soil, and plant resources.

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