Colyer issues drought declarations for all 105 Kansas counties

? Gov. Jeff Colyer issued a drought declaration Tuesday for all 105 counties in Kansas, including 28 counties in the southwestern corner of the state that have been placed in “emergency” drought status.

“We’ve seen droughts in the past, and they have a tremendous economic impact across the state,” Colyer said during a news conference announcing the declarations. “We’re seeing this happening early on, and so we wanted to get out ahead of it.”

Colyer said one purpose of the orders was to notify counties about the seriousness of the drought so they can start preparing to implement their own local response plans.

Counties listed in the emergency stage are also eligible to use water from certain state fishing lakes, according to the governor’s office.

Tracy Streeter, director of the Kansas Water Office and chairman of the Governor’s Drought Response Team, said that over the past six months, statewide rain and snowfall has been only 66 percent of normal, while the months of January and February saw only 43 percent of normal precipitation.

Streeter said wildfires are the biggest concern in the most drought-stressed parts of the state, but water supplies soon could become an issue in some places.

So far, Streeter said, no Kansas communities have imposed water use restrictions such as limits on watering lawns or washing vehicles.

Kansas Agriculture Secretary Jackie McClaskey said her agency is looking at options that could include asking the federal government for permission to open Conservation Reserve Program, or CRP, land to grazing.

CRP is a federal farm program in which farmers sign leases agreeing to remove environmentally sensitive land from production in exchange for annual rent payments.

In addition to the 28 counties in emergency status, another 28 counties, most of which border the emergency counties, have been placed on a drought “warning,” meaning emergency conditions could soon develop if the drought doesn’t break.

The remaining 48 counties, including Douglas County and most of northern and eastern Kansas, are listed as being in a drought “watch.”