- Associated Press - Thursday, August 20, 2015

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Some parts of western Kansas still need about five inches of rain before they can make up what they lost in a recent drought, according to an environmental specialist with the Kansas Water Office.

Diane Knowles, who spoke Wednesday at the Kansas Environmental Conference, adds that despite more frequent rainfall this year in northeast Kansas, some areas still haven’t benefited from it, The Topeka Capital-Journal (https://bit.ly/1fq8ko1 ) reported.

Knowles said 33 western Kansas counties were still under a drought watch in June due to low stream flows and soil moisture. In some areas, the drought was severe enough to raise concerns about water supplies.

Overall, most Kansas counties have more moisture than they did a year ago, she said. Rainfall can be scattered so crops have struggled even in eastern Kansas.

“We’ve had more in Topeka and certain other places,” Knowles said. “Until last week, a friend of mine up in Holton, they’d been missed every time, so they were hurting.”

The severity of a drought depends on the level of precipitation, temperatures, how long it lasts and whether it occurs at a time of year when rainfall usually occurs, Knowles said.

The water office monitors how far behind an area is on precipitation, soil moisture levels, satellite photos of vegetation cover, stream flows and lake levels. She said the governor’s office can then use that data to declare when a drought has become an emergency and special provisions should come into effect.

Knowles said the state has taken steps to ease the economic impact of future droughts, including easing trucking permits for hay hauling during droughts and allowing the state to sell any surplus water in reservoirs for irrigation.

“We’re hoping to be more prepared,” she said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to get through (the next drought) at least as well, if not better.”

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Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, a href=”https://www.cjonline.com”https://www.cjonline.com/a

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