To the editor:
Saturday, the Salina Journal reprinted an editorial from the Lawrence Journal-World that addressed the proposal to build an aqueduct that would move water from the Missouri River to western Kansas. The editorial observed that “five years of drought in the western third of the state have taken their toll on the aquifer.”
The western third of the state has not seen five years of drought. The 12-month standardized precipitation index, a measure of departure from normal, shows that two of the last five – 2009 and 2010 – actually were slightly wetter than normal. The next two — 2011 and 2012 — tended toward drier than normal. Only 2013 had a significant number of drought months.
The Palmer Drought Severity Index gives a similar perspective — mild drought in 2011 and 2012, moderate in 2013.
It’s no mystery what is really taking a toll on the aquifer: over-appropriation. The state of Kansas started issuing water rights in the 1940s. By 1967, the quantity of groundwater appropriated west of Hutchinson equaled the annual recharge. By 1976, groundwater appropriations were double annual recharge. Today they approach three times annual recharge.
Let’s not be blaming nature for the problems we create ourselves.