Wichita's Drought Response Plan May Include Water Restrictions

By: Phil White Email
By: Phil White Email

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Thursday, January 10, 2013

The light rain that fell on many parts of Kansas Thursday was not enough to ease the drought that continues to grip the state.

That drought might mean water restrictions for the state's largest city later this year if conditions persist. So far, Wichita's water supply is adequate, but public works director Alan King told KAKE News Thursday his department is developing plans for what to do if that picture changes.

"We don't want to wait until it becomes a problem," he said. "That's why we're going to get some alternatives in front of the decision makers."

Those alternatives are being crafted by Wichita's public works department right now. They will be presented to the City Council Feb. 26.

King said the alternatives may include water restrictions for Wichita residents if Cheney reservoir remains at record-low levels and the city has to find a way to conserve water.

"Whether that's restricting it or through voluntary conservation measures, we're looking at changing the way that we operate our system," he said.

The drought's impact on agriculture continues to get worse as well. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has declared drought disasters in 104 of Kansas' 105 counties.

"What that does is allows farmers and ranchers to be eligible for low-interest loans," said Gary Cramer, K-State Research and Extension's agricultural agent for Sedgwick County. "It also allows them to graze their CRP ground."

Disaster aid, Cramer said, keeps farmers in business. It also helps keep grocery prices from soaring more than they already have.

"Everybody's getting hurt by this drought," he said. "It's a domino effect. Nobody's going to escape it."

Even if the dominos do not fall in the direction of water rationing, conservation never hurts.

"Water conservation is always a good idea, whether we're in a drought or not," King said. "I would urge people to consider ways that they can make wise use of their water."

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has also encouraged Kansas communities and rural water districts to implement conservation plans in response to the drought. The governor's drought response team is scheduled to meet at 2:30 p.m. Friday at the Kansas Board of Regents, 1000 SW Jackson Street, Suite 520, Topeka. The team will receive updates on the status of water supplies across the state.

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