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Irrigators running dry in drought
new slt irrigation-by-deh
This 2011 photo shows an irrigation sprinkler on milo stubble in Barton County. - photo by Dale Hogg/Great Bend Tribune

Information for irrigators

All irrigators as well as irrigated land owners are invited to attend a meeting at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday in the Kansas Room at Perkins Family Restaurant, 2920 10th St. in Great Bend. David Barfield, chief engineer of the Kansas Division of Water Resources, will speak and answer questions concerning the multi-year flex account program for irrigators’ water rights. This meeting is hosted by Barton County Farm Bureau and Kansas Farm Bureau.
For more information call Farm Bureau, 620-792-2236.

When the clouds opened and it started to rain Friday, it was an answer to many prayers. But that brief downpour dropped less than half an inch of moisture on area lands, which is still about 10 inches under the average rainfall for this time of year.
Because of the drought, some irrigators have struggled since 2011 to stay within the water rights allocated to them – typically 10-18 inches per acre per year. This year the Legislature attempted to address the issue by creating a multi-year flex plan that allows farmers to exceed the limit one year by reducing water use later.
“You lose 10 to 25 percent over five years if you go into it,” local Farm Bureau member Keith Miller said, noting farmers who pump more one year may have to plant dry-land crops in another year to make up the difference.
“The Legislature wants to make sure the aquifer stays intact,” Miller noted, which is also in the best interest of irrigators.
“The drought has caused some real concerns,” he said. “It’s an issue everywhere.” There are 14 ponds on the lands managed by Miller, but only one has water left in it. Ranchers throughout the area are hauling water to their cattle this summer.
Miller farms several tracts in the area but only one is irrigated. This year he had to shut that sprinkler down before the crop was finished. “We’re kind of caught between a rock and a hard spot,” he said.
Many Barton County farmers do use irrigation on many acres, mostly for corn but also for crops such as milo. To help irrigators better understand the new flex plan, Miller helped set up an informational meeting that will be held this Tuesday in Great Bend. A representative from the Kansas Division of Water Resources will be at Perkins Restaurant at 1:30 p.m. to answer questions.
The flex plan is voluntary, but the deadline for signing up is Oct. 1.