The National Weather Service has been rainfall data stretching back to 1895. Below are the precipitation deficits in inches for the last few years and how they rank with deficits historically.
Looking back one year
-7.07 2012-13 (8th Driest)
-2.64 2011-12 (42nd Driest)
Looking back two years
-9.59 2011-13 (15th Driest)
-4.56 2010-12 (37th Driest)
Looking back three years
-11.06 2010-13 (16th Driest)
+0.18 2009-12 (62nd Driest)
Looking back five years
-1.19 2008-13 (54th Driest)
+8.82 2007-12 (92nd Driest)
A gentle, brief rain fell on Great Bend Monday morning.
It was nice, but it and other recent showers are only drops in the bucket when it comes to alleviating the drought that has plagued the region for the past three years, said Amy Miller, Barton County emergency management director.
“Everyone has become kind of complacent because of the recent rains,” she said. “You’d have thought we would have been more caught up by now.”
According to the Kansas Water Office, all Kansas counties remain under an Emergency Drought Stage under an executive order issued by Gov. Sam Brownback on July 25, 2012. This means all 105 counties are under state Drought Emergency and citizens are asked to take steps to reduce water usage as well as be conscious of fire hazards.
Miller and the National Weather Service note that the near to above normal precipitation since February has allowed for much improvement in short-term and long-term drought improvement, especially in the eastern half of Kansas. Shallow soil moisture has improved, helping farmers.
Additionally, reservoir and river levels along with deep soil moisture deficits have improved, indicative of easing long-term drought conditions.
However, “there is good news and bad news,” Miller said.
Various levels of long-term drought continue, worse over western portions of central Kansas, showing up the below normal aquifers, wells and other ground water supplies, as well as near to below normal rivers and reservoirs. Precipitation deficits of 10-15 inches dating back to 2011 are the primary driver of this continued long-term drought.
As the dog days of summer arrive, the NWS predicts drought conditions continuing to ease over generally the eastern half of Kansas. But, it sees them persisting (although some improvement possible) over generally the western half of the state.
The latest Drought Monitor indicates some deterioration in conditions in Kansas and persistent drought in the west. The Monthly Drought Outlook (for July) and the Seasonal Drought Outlook through October both indicate drought conditions to persist in the west and portions of central and eastern Kansas.
This is also the case in Barton County, Miller said. The western half is suffering more than the eastern.
The eastern sliver of Barton County falls in the “severe” drought category while the remainder falls in the “extreme” classification. Extreme is the second-worst category, coming right below exceptional, which is the case in the western quarter of the state.
However, all 105 Kansas counties have been declared federal disaster areas due to drought in 2013, making producers eligible for relief programs and assistance through USDA.
Over 164 water conservation plans have been developed or updated to aid public water suppliers in addressing drought conditions, the KWO noted. In addition, 218 public water suppliers have requested or mandated water conservation practices including Water Marketing Program customers from Clinton Lake, Hillsdale Lake, Melvern Lake, Pomona Lake, Council Grove Lake, Marion Reservoir, Big Hill Lake, Elk City Reservoir, and Kanopolis Reservoir and those in the Cottonwood/ Neosho, Kansas and Marais des Cygnes rivers assurance districts.
Several communities and rural water districts fall under conservation stages. These range from mandating restrictions on such activities as yard watering to water rationiong.
Among these are Abilene, Augusta, Ellis, Ellsworth, Independence, Medicine Lodge, RWDs in Montgomery County, Mulvane, Reno RWD 1, Russell and McCracken.
Lakes and streams
There are 10 streams in Kansas that fail to meet minimum stream-flow. Restrictive orders were issued effective July 13 for the Walnut River at Winfield, July 15 for the Whitewater River near Towanda, July 18 for the Little Arkansas River at Alta Mills and Valley Center and Chikaskia River near Corbin, and July 19 for the Little Blue River near Barnes.
Health Warnings are in effect for lakes due to concentrations of harmful toxin(s), such as blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria cell counts: Buhler County Lake, Reno County; Colwich City Lake, Sedgwick County; Logan City Lake, Phillips County; Veterans Memorial Park Lake, Barton County; Riggs Park Lake, Sedgwick County; and Overland Park South Lake, Johnson County. Marion Reservoir, Marion County and Milford Reservoir, Geary, Dickinson, Clay counties are under a public health Advisory. Livestock, Feed and Water
On July 16, emergency haying and grazing of CRP acreage became available for 66 Kansas counties, if eligible. Also, on April 2, legislation was signed to automatically increase hay truck transportation limits upon drought declarations in Kansas. This will temporarily suspend certain motor carrier rules and regulations in order to expedite the delivery of hay to livestock in drought-stricken areas.
Producers may be eligible for FSA emergency loans and other federal disaster programs in 2013, if they meet requirements due to USDA agricultural disaster due to drought declared in 2013. Furthermore, emergency livestock water may be available from certain federal reservoirs and state fishing lakes.
On the national level
On Jan. 9, 597 counties in the United States were designated as primary disaster areas due to drought by U.S. Department of Agriculture for calendar year 2013. Designation was based on a drought intensity value of at least D2 (Drought Severe) for eight consecutive weeks based on U.S. Drought Monitor measurements.
All Kansas counties have been designated as primary disaster areas due to drought. (Jan. 9, 88 counties were designated a primary disaster areas with all 105 counties being eligible for emergency programs as either primary or contiguous counties. On Jan. 16, the remaining 17 Kansas counties were designated).
Nationally, 1,008 counties are designated as primary and 270 as contiguous, as of July 17. All Kansas counties are eligible to apply for low-interest emergency (EM) loans. Emergency loans help producers recover from production and physical losses due to drought, flooding and other natural disasters or quarantine.