Archive for Thursday, August 7, 2003

Drought intensifies in Leavenworth County

August 7, 2003

State and county officials agree that drought conditions are getting worse for Leavenworth County, especially after the hot, dry weather in July.

Lawns and trees are turning brown, but the effects of almost no rain hit hardest where it will hurt--agriculture.

"Unfortunately, as far as agriculture goes, there are crops now that are beyond recovery," state climatologist Mary Knapp said. "Even if it rained all week, it would not benefit those crops."

Affected the most are soybeans and corn, Knapp said, which are two of Leavenworth County's top crops in production.

Leon Stites, Leavenworth County agricultural extension agent, said the county's crops have not been completely lost yet, but the drought has taken its toll on agricultural production.

"The corn is definitely damaged," he said. "If it started raining right now, we might have 60 percent of our crop. If it continues as is, we may have a total loss. Lots of guys are talking about chopping their corn now to use as feed."

Soybeans and livestock feed have also been damaged, Stites said, which leaves farmers having to buy feed for their livestock or to use their winter hay stores.

"The other part is production," Stites said. "Some guys are beginning to get concerned about their drinking supply. Mostly with livestock, but if this continues, it could affect people's drinking supply."

With agriculture as a main economic factor for Kansas, Stites said, a decrease in production would have a "trickle up" effect.

"As production goes down and income goes down, the available taxes to the state will have to go down," he said. "I think we'll see some economic impact if this continues. It's not necessarily a pretty picture in front of us--it's a major concern for all of us."

The preliminary reports from the county show 0.15 inches of rain in July, compared to the 4.41 inches Leavenworth County receives on average in July.

"That's not even enough to talk about really," Knapp said. "Storms that produce less than a tenth of an inch tend to not have much use at all. The only positive note on those storms is they may cool the temperature down."

Last year, Kansas had similar drought conditions, Knapp said, which makes water more scarce.

"Having this follow last year's extended drought, that means there were no reserves, and so as soon as it stopped raining, our supply deteriorated quickly," Knapp said.

Although conditions have not hit the water crisis point yet, Knapp said the indications are in place.

"Another thing that is a hidden factor in drought is stream flow, which is very, very, very low," Knapp said. "The streams and groundwater evaporation rates are high when it's this hot. And even in areas where they still have water, the water quality is not as good."

To divert the drought conditions, Kansas needs to have rain before October, Knapp said.

"Once we get into October and November, our moisture chances drop off fairly dramatically, because the winter season does not produce much precipitation," she said. "If we don't have a return to normal, it could be very devastating."

On Thursday, July 31, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius placed Leavenworth, Wyandotte and other counties under a drought warning.

A drought warning indicates the presence of a severe drought.

Other areas, including Johnson County, are under a drought watch, which indicates a moderate drought.

"By monitoring conditions and keeping citizens informed, we hope to avoid a water crisis," Sebelius said.

The governor also said all public water suppliers and self-supplied industrial, domestic and irrigation water users should monitor their source of supply and review legal agreements for any restrictions and responsibilities they have regarding their use of water.

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