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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

NY Times talks real talk about depleting ground water aquifers in Kansas and other regions.... sure to spread. Farmers feel the effects from lack of water for irrigation.

posted last night on NY TImes

Wells Dry, Fertile Plains Turn to Dust

HASKELL COUNTY, Kan. — Forty-nine years ago, Ashley Yost’s grandfather sank a well deep into a half-mile square of rich Kansas farmland. He struck an artery of water so prodigious that he could pump 1,600 gallons to the surface every minute.
Last year, Mr. Yost was coaxing just 300 gallons from the earth, and pumping up sand in order to do it. By harvest time, the grit had robbed him of $20,000 worth of pumps and any hope of returning to the bumper harvests of years past.
“That’s prime land,” he said not long ago, gesturing from his pickup at the stubby remains of last year’s crop. “I’ve raised 294 bushels of corn an acre there before, with water and the Lord’s help.” Now, he said, “it’s over.”
The land, known as Section 35, sits atop the High Plains Aquifer, a waterlogged jumble of sand, clay and gravel that begins beneath Wyoming and South Dakota and stretches clear to the Texas Panhandle. The aquifer’s northern reaches still hold enough water in many places to last hundreds of years. But as one heads south, it is increasingly tapped out, drained by ever more intensive farming and, lately, by drought.
Vast stretches of Texas farmland lying over the aquifer no longer support irrigation. In west-central Kansas, up to a fifth of the irrigated farmland along a 100-mile swath of the aquifer has already gone dry. In many other places, there no longer is enough water to supply farmers’ peak needs during Kansas’ scorching summers.
And when the groundwater runs out, it is gone for good. Refilling the aquifer would require hundreds, if not thousands, of years of rains.
This is in many ways a slow-motion crisis — decades in the making, imminent for some, years or decades away for others, hitting one farm but leaving an adjacent one untouched. But across the rolling plains and tarmac-flat farmland near the Kansas-Colorado border, the effects of depletion are evident everywhere. Highway bridges span arid stream beds. Most of the creeks and rivers that once veined the land have dried up as 60 years of pumping have pulled groundwater levels down by scores and even hundreds of feet.
On some farms, big center-pivot irrigators — the spindly rigs that create the emerald circles of cropland familiar to anyone flying over the region — now are watering only a half-circle. On others, they sit idle altogether.
Two years of extreme drought, during which farmers relied almost completely on groundwater, have brought the seriousness of the problem home. In 2011 and 2012the Kansas Geological Survey reports, the average water level in the state’s portion of the aquifer dropped 4.25 feet — nearly a third of the total decline since 1996.
And that is merely the average. “I know my staff went out and re-measured a couple of wells because they couldn’t believe it,” said Lane Letourneau, a manager at the State Agriculture Department’s water resources division. “There was a 30-foot decline.”
Kansas agriculture will survive the slow draining of the aquifer — even now, less than a fifth of the state’s farmland is irrigated in any given year — but the economic impact nevertheless will be outsized. In the last federal agriculture census of Kansas, in 2007, an average acre of irrigated land produced nearly twice as many bushels of corn, two-thirds more soybeans and three-fifths more wheat than did dry land.
Farmers will take a hit as well. Raising crops without irrigation is far cheaper, but yields are far lower. Drought is a constant threat: the last two dry-land harvests were all but wiped out by poor rains.
In the end, most farmers will adapt to farming without water, said Bill Golden, an agriculture economist at Kansas State University. “The revenue losses are there,” he said. “But they’re not as tremendously significant as one might think.”
Some already are. A few miles west of Mr. Yost’s farm, Nathan Kells cut back on irrigation when his wells began faltering in the last decade, and shifted his focus to raising dairy heifers — 9,000 on that farm, and thousands more elsewhere. At about 12 gallons a day for a single cow, Mr. Kells can sustain his herd with less water than it takes to grow a single circle of corn.
“The water’s going to flow to where it’s most valuable, whether it be industry or cities or feed yards,” he said. “We said, ‘What’s the higher use of the water?’ and decided that it was the heifer operation.”
The problem, others say, is that when irrigation ends, so do the jobs and added income that sustain rural communities.
“Looking at areas of Texas where the groundwater has really dropped, those towns are just a shell of what they once were,” said Jim Butler, a hydrogeologist and senior scientist at the Kansas Geological Survey.
The villain in this story is in fact the farmers’ savior: the center-pivot irrigator, a quarter- or half-mile of pipe that traces a watery circle around a point in the middle of a field. The center pivots helped start a revolution that raised farming from hardscrabble work to a profitable business.
Since the pivots’ debut some six decades ago, the amount of irrigated cropland in Kansas has grown to nearly three million acres, from a mere 250,000 in 1950. But the pivot irrigators’ thirst for water — hundreds and sometimes thousands of gallons a minute — has sent much of the aquifer on a relentless decline. And while the big pivots have become much more efficient, a University of California study earlier this year concluded that Kansas farmers were using some of their water savings to expand irrigation or grow thirstier crops, not to reduce consumption.
A shift to growing corn, a much thirstier crop than most, has only worsened matters. Driven by demand, speculation and a government mandate to produce biofuels, the price of corn has tripled since 2002, and Kansas farmers have responded by increasing the acreage of irrigated cornfields by nearly a fifth.
At an average 14 inches per acre in a growing season, a corn crop soaks up groundwater like a sponge — in 2010, the State Agriculture Department said, enough to fill a space a mile square and nearly 2,100 feet high.
Sorghum, or milo, gets by on a third less water, Kansas State University researchers say — and it, too, is in demand by biofuel makers. As Kansas’ wells peter out, more farmers are switching to growing milo on dry land or with a comparative sprinkle of irrigation water.
But as long as there is enough water, most farmers will favor corn. “The issue that often drives this is economics,” said David W. Hyndman, who heads Michigan State University’s geological sciences department. “And as long as you’ve got corn that’s $7, then a lot of choices get made on that.”
Of the 800 acres that Ashley Yost farmed last year in Haskell County, about 70 percent was planted in corn, including roughly 125 acres in Section 35. Haskell County’s feedlots — the county is home to 415,000 head of cattle — and ethanol plants in nearby Liberal and Garden City have driven up the price of corn handsomely, he said.
But this year he will grow milo in that section, and hope that by ratcheting down the speed of his pump, he will draw less sand, even if that means less water, too. The economics of irrigation, he said, almost dictate it.
“You’ve got $20,000 of underground pipe,” he said. “You’ve got a $10,000 gas line. You’ve got a $10,000 irrigation motor. You’ve got an $89,000 pivot. And you’re going to let it sit there and rot?
“If you can pump 150 gallons, that’s 150 gallons Mother Nature is not giving us. And if you can keep a milo crop alive, you’re going to do it.”
Mr. Yost’s neighbors have met the prospect of dwindling water in starkly different ways. A brother is farming on pivot half-circles. A brother-in-law moved most of his operations to Iowa. Another farmer is suing his neighbors, accusing them of poaching water from his slice of the aquifer.
A fourth grows corn with an underground irrigation system that does not match the yields of water-wasting center-pivot rigs, but is far thriftier in terms of water use and operating costs.
For his part, Mr. Yost continues to pump. But he also allowed that the day may come when sustaining what is left of the aquifer is preferable to pumping as much as possible.
Sitting in his Ford pickup next to Section 35, he unfolded a sheet of white paper that tracked the decline of his grandfather’s well: from 1,600 gallons a minute in 1964, to 1,200 in 1975, to 750 in 1976.
When the well slumped to 500 gallons in 1991, the Yosts capped it and drilled another nearby. Its output sank, too, from 1,352 gallons to 300 today.
This year, Mr. Yost spent more than $15,000 to drill four test wells in Section 35. The best of them produced 195 gallons a minute — a warning, he said, that looking further for an isolated pocket of water would be costly and probably futile.
“We’re on the last kick,” he said. “The bulk water is gone.”

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Walleye Rodeo 2013 Results

May 16, 17, 18, 19, 2013

Registration:       272            
Oklahoma Residents:       249
Out of State:                       24  

Sunday Kids’ Derby    187

Walleye                                            204   @      535.00 lbs
Large Mouth Bass                              8     @      23.79 lbs
Small Mouth Bass                             0
Hybrid Bass                                       14   @      33.79 lbs    
Crappie                                             44   @      49.99 lbs  
Channel Cat                                      25    @      89.06 lbs  
White Bass                                        55    @      60.14 lbs
Flathead Cat                                      2     @      11.31 lbs
Sun Fish                                           17    @      7.53 lbs
Carp                                                  17    @      102.44 lbs
Drum                                                13    @      15.97 lbs
Buffalo                                              2     @      33.41 lbs
Striped Bass                                       0

TAGGED FISH CAUGHT:      $1,510.00

$500 tagged Walleye – Lindsey Cravens & Troy Little Raven

12 & UNDER

Kid’s Derby Winners receive a Trophy & Rod &, Reel

10th Place –         Taylor Dowell              2lb 5oz Walleye                   
 9th Place  -          Cody Conrady             2lb 5oz Flathead Catfish               

 8th Place  -          Cayle Mitch                 2lb 6oz Largemouth Bass              

 7th Place  -          Ledger Lewallen          2lb 15oz Channel Catfish             

 6th Place  -          Charlie Evans               3lb 1oz Flathead Catfish               

 5th Place  -          Bryan Nyberg              3lb 1.4oz Carp                      

 4th Place  -          Belle Swartwood                   3lb 7oz Drum

 3rd Place  -          Tyler Hicks                  3lb 9oz Channel Catfish                         
 2nd Place  -         Jace Nelson                  4lb 7oz Channel Catfish                         
 1st Place  -          Jarrett Sinclair              7lb 7oz Carp                         

Striped Bass – #                                                none

Largest Drum#53                               Corinne Pitcher, Amarillo, TX
          3.68 lb

Largest Buffalo – #153                          Brevin Nyberg, Seiling, OK
          17.90 lb

Largest Carp – #23                                Jerry Reed, Canton, OK             
          11.76 lb

Largest Sunfish – #126                          A.J. Lindsey, Weatherford, OK
          .58 lb

Largest Flathead – # 121                      James Hromas, Waukomis, OK
          7.62 lb

Largest White Bass – #223                             Jake Sinclair, Watonga, OK
          1.65 lb

Largest Channel Cat – #33                            Greg Ryan, Canton, OK
          9.79 lb

Largest Crappie – #  97                        Clyde Hood, Sr., Canton, OK
          2.04 lb

Largest Large Mouth Bass – #151      Donnie Bromlow, Canton, OK
          6.24 lb

Largest Small Mouth Bass - #              none

Largest Hybrid – #72                                      Justin Brodie, Canton, OK
5.59 lb
Largest Total Poundage of Walleye – #133 Larry Hromas, Waukomis, OK
69.31 lbs.                               $500.00 Sponsored by
Pioneer Energy Services     

5th Largest Walleye - #262          Easton Louthan, Weatherford, OK
4.71 lb                                    $200.00 Sponsored by
Premium Beers of Oklahoma

4th Largest Walleye - #54             Rob Pitcher, Amarillo, TX
4.73 lb                                    $350.00 Sponsored by
Pope Distributing

3rd Largest Walleye - #8               Dean Nickel, Enid, OK
          4.79 lb                                    $500.00 Sponsored by
Dobrinski Chevrolet

2nd Largest Walleye - #264          Annabelle Hromas, Waukomis, OK
5.12 lb                                    $750.00 Sponsored by Lucky Star Casino Concho, Clinton, Canton & Watonga

1st Largest Walleye - #24             Rick Jackson, Ringwood, OK
5.73 lb                                    $1,000.00 Sponsored by Lucky Star Casino, Canton
                                                          Rod & Reel & Free Fish Mount
                                                Sponsored by Canton Lake Walleye Rodeo                                                                                

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Senate Bill 965 give a voice to rural Oklahoma about water concerns?

WATER policy and the apportionment of seats on the Oklahoma Water Resources Board typically fly below the radar. Residents of Oklahoma City and Tulsa, in particular, have reason to pay attention.

NewsOK Related Articles

Senate Bill 965 would dilute the influence of a majority of Oklahomans while granting outsized power over water issues to a minority. This could have serious, long-term consequences for the state economy, especially in Oklahoma's two major metro areas.
Under current law, five seats on the OWRB are appointed based on congressional districts (which have roughly equal populations), while the remainder are at-large appointees. SB 965, as filed, would change that system so that OWRB appointments are instead based on planning regions established in the 1995 Comprehensive Water Plan.
The impact of this mapping change would be substantial. The central region, including most of the Oklahoma City metro area, would have one board member representing more than 1.2 million citizens. The northeast district, including more than 1.2 million citizens mostly in the Tulsa metro, also would be represented by one board member. In comparison, the Panhandle district, with a population of 29,474, would get a separate board appointee, as would the northwest district, which has a population of 65,077.
In other words, SB 965 would give fewer than 2.5 percent of Oklahoma citizens the same clout on the OWRB as nearly 66 percent of the state population. The concept of “one man, one vote” would clearly go out the window when it comes to implementing state water policies.
SB 965 is authored by Sen. Bryce Marlatt, R-Woodward, and Rep. Mike Jackson, R-Enid. It's hard to believe this proposal isn't driven by Marlatt's objections to Oklahoma City's recent withdrawal of water from Canton Lake. Marlatt blamed the withdrawal on Oklahoma City's “failure to adopt a proactive water conservation plan.”
In reality, Oklahoma City leaders did a good job of water planning decades ago. That's why the city owned the water rights to Canton Lake. Marlatt apparently felt those legal obligations should be scuttled in favor of peripheral tourism benefits the lake created locally. Can it really be coincidence he now seeks to give his Senate district the same number of OWRB seats as Tulsa and Oklahoma City combined?
The OWRB oversees water use appropriation and permitting, water quality monitoring, supply planning and resource mapping. The group's decisions can have major statewide impact affecting all of Oklahoma's economy. All parts of Oklahoma — urban and rural — should have a voice in these discussions.
But instead of encouraging evenhanded, proportional balance, SB 965 would ensure that representation of some rural residents dramatically outweighs those of metro residents who comprise a far larger share of the state population and associated economic activity.
SB 965 is a throwback to the worst examples of rural-urban division in Oklahoma history, such as apportioning state House seats by county instead of population. By the 1950s, a University of Oklahoma study found that a single citizen in Cimarron County was equivalent in representation to 10.1 people in Oklahoma County. By the 1960s, 29 percent of Oklahoma citizens elected a majority of House members.
That system eventually was declared unconstitutional. SB 965 should never get the chance for a similar legal challenge. The bill is in conference committee, and there it should remain.

Real water rationing in the future for OKC?? We are trying to see to it!

Worst-case scenario

OKC officials roll out a possible water conservation plan in case of a brutally dry summer.

Tim FarleyMay 8th, 2013
If drought conditions worsen in Oklahoma City, homeowners won’t be mowing thick, lush lawns this summer.

Credit: Mark Hancock
Already, the city has implemented mandatory odd-even lawn watering, but even that could get more restrictive depending on the amount of rainfall received by OKC and its other water resources in southeastern and northwestern Oklahoma.
Recent rains have replenished a portion of the city’s water supply with lake capacity now at 56 percent, City Manager Jim Couch said.
But there’s still a need for a water conservation plan in case of a worst-case scenario this summer. As a result, the Oklahoma City Council last week approved a progressive, five-stage measure based on lake levels.
If lake capacities are 50 percent or less, the plan’s second stage will take effect. Using an irrigation system or a sprinkler device, homeowners with an address ending in an odd number could water lawns and landscaping on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Homeowners with addresses ending in an even number could water on Thursdays and Sundays. All other customer classifications could water lawns on Tuesdays and Fridays.
If lake levels drop to 45 percent or less, watering days are limited to once a week. Single-family homes with addresses ending in 1 or 3 would water on Saturdays while homes with addresses ending in 5, 7 or 9 would water Wednesdays.
Furthermore, addresses ending in 0 or 2 would water on Sundays, and homes with addresses ending in 4, 6 and 8 would water on Thursdays. Remaining property owners would be allowed to water on Fridays.
The plan, however, allows homeowners to use a hose and water by hand every day for the plan’s top three stages.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 50 percent of the water used to irrigate landscapes is wasted by spraying water at the wrong time of day, watering too much and spraying hardscapes.
“In Oklahoma City, that could be as much as 15 million gallons a day,” said Marsha Slaughter, utilities department director.
In the event lake levels drop to 40 percent or less, the plan bans all lawn watering and allows only hand-watering for gardens and flower beds.
Commercial car washes would be permitted to operate if they have water recycling system.
Stage five — the worst-case scenario with lake levels at 35 percent or less — would ban all outdoor watering and car washing.
“We’re hopeful we can get some nice rain in May and June. If that holds true, that will be beneficial to everyone,” said Debbie Ragan, spokeswoman for the OKC Utilities Department.
The current drought is the worst Oklahomans have witnessed since the 1950s, city officials said.

Ocamb is state director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Sierra Club-- A message about water

It’s often said you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. In terms of resources, nothing could be closer to the truth. Oklahoma is blessed with many resources — resources that have helped us build Oklahoma City from the desolate ghost town I remember as a child, during the oil bust, into one of our country’s best-kept secrets for quality of life.
However, one resource is running out. And once it does, the very future of our city is at risk.Water is Oklahoma’s greatest resource. Without it, Oklahoma’s very way of life is threatened.
Few Oklahomans alive today can remember what life was like for the Okies during the Dirty ’30s. Our only frames of reference are books and historical accounts discussing dust storms so bad you couldn’t see a mile in front of you, let alone breathe, and farmers losing everything to the banks. We study The Grapes of Wrath in school, yet we see it as a different time with a historical distance that makes it almost seem like fiction.
However, global climate disruption is providing a firsthand lesson in what life could be like going forward if we don’t immediately take steps to fight back.
Over the past two years, farmers have lost more than $2 billion to our drought. Wildfires have ravaged our state. Interstate highways have been forced to close due to dust storms.
Our streams, rivers and lakes have dried up. Fish are dying, and blue-green algae is threatening Oklahomans’ ability to recreate. Lake Hefner and Lake Thunderbird, the two largest sources of water for Oklahoma City and Norman, are experiencing historic lows.
Instead of acting sensibly, Oklahoma City has chosen to use interbasin transfers to move water from rural parts of our state into the metroplex, devastating the aquatic life of these lakes as well as the tourist trade that helps their local economies survive.
This is like a person whose bills massively exceed their income draining their savings account to get by. Once the water is transferred from Canton Lake or Lake Sardis, it’s gone.
And what then? When will we institute the sensible measures that have been so successful for Texas cities like San Antonio and El Paso? San Antonio has managed to add more than 300,000 people to its city while utilizing the same amount of water.
Replacing older toilets with newer models alone saves 12,000 gallons of water per household annually. Toilets account for approximately 25 percent of the water usage for a typical home. This is an extremely easy thing for cities to incentivize.
Oklahoma City needs to institute meaningful water conservation programs in order to meet our demands as a growing, thriving city.
We cannot afford to do nothing and relive the Dirty ’30s.

Ocamb is state director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Sierra Club.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Our pressure is making a difference. We must keep it up!

Water worries spilling over: Rural lawmakers question cultural center, OKC withdrawals
By M. Scott Carter
Oklahoma City / Capitol bureau reporter. Contact:, @JRMScottCarter.
Posted: 06:20 PM Tuesday, April 30, 2013
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The American Indian Cultural Center and Museum under construction. As of June 2012, the center was at an estimated 50-percent completion. (Photo by Brent Fuchs)
OKLAHOMA CITY – The fate of Oklahoma City’s unfinished $80 million American Indian Cultural Center and Museum may depend not on private funds so much as rural water.
While officials from the cultural center continue to push hard for state funding for the struggling project, a behind-the-scenes effort at the Legislature to secure a $20 million appropriation for the center this year is facing mounting opposition from some rural lawmakers who are frustrated with what they call Oklahoma City’s heavy-handed approach to water policy.
The center has sat unfinished after legislation that would have authorized $40 million in state bond funds failed by a single vote in May 2012. Since then new members have been named to the center’s governing board and new fundraisers are being sought.
However, even with those efforts, lawmakers in rural Oklahoma said the attitude toward Oklahoma City has turned negative because of Oklahoma City’s approach to water policy – specifically in southeastern and western Oklahoma.
With the margin of support for the cultural center razor-thin, the loss of even a few votes could stop the proposal cold.
“I’ve heard several rural legislators say: ‘Why should we help Oklahoma City with their economic development efforts when they aren’t willing to help us with ours?’”, said state Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City. “That’s the problem we’re trying hard to address.”
Loveless, who authored a Senate joint resolution to fund the cultural center, said he understands the concerns of both sides. He said he’s working with rural lawmakers and Oklahoma City officials in an effort to bring both sides together.
“We’re working to get everyone together and discuss the issues,” he said. “I think it’s better whenever everyone sits down and talks.”
Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said he has a meeting planned with several rural legislators on Wednesday. Cornett said he wanted to hear the lawmakers’ concerns.
“I’m just going to listen,” he said. “If they have questions about our water policy, we’re willing to talk to them.”
Lawmakers from the state’s rural areas said residents of their districts have been frightened by Oklahoma City’s battles over water in southeastern and western Oklahoma.
“Yes, you could say there are big concerns,” said state Sen. Bryce Marlatt, R-Woodward. “Many residents in my district are worried by how water was taken out of Canton Lake.”
In January, the Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust said it needed extra water because of drought conditions and tapped thousands of gallons from Canton Lake in western Oklahoma. Oklahoma City has owned the water storage rights to the lake since the 1950s.
At the time city officials announced their plans, Marlatt and other lawmakers issued a media statement asking city officials to delay drawing the effort until later in the spring because they feared the draw on Canton Lake would devastate the lake and the businesses surrounding it.
“What we feared would happened, happened,” Marlatt said. “We understand they owned the rights to the water, but we were just asking them to delay the release until after we saw what type of spring rains we would get.”
Oklahoma City, he said, went ahead and tapped the lake. A short time later, the metro area saw heavy rains that raised the water level at Lake Hefner, but missed Canton Lake.
“They got rains here that raised Hefner’s lake level,” Marlatt said. “But we didn’t get rains in western Oklahoma, and Canton is way down.”
Cornett defended the city’s tapping of the lake. He said the city has owned the water storage rights to the lake for decades and has a very sophisticated water system.
“We rely on them heavily for service to our customers,” he said.
Cornett said the city had also announced it was willing to contribute $9 million to help fund the cultural center.
“We’re willing to contribute $9 million to help fund a state agency,” he said. “I’d think they’d (state lawmakers) would be grateful.”
Marlatt said he didn’t want to disrupt talks between rural lawmakers and Oklahoma City officials, but the discussions between both sides would probably continue.
“I expect there will be heated, passionate discussions for a long time to come,” he said.
Other legislators from the area echoed agreed. State Rep. Jeff Hickman, R-Dacoma, said the issue of water policy and out-of-basin water transfers is now a major topic of discussion across rural Oklahoma. At Canton, he said, the lake level is so low there is no more water for Oklahoma City to take.
“Unless Canton gets more rain, there is nothing else to send,” Hickman said. “They’ve taken it all. The water’s gone. There’s nothing else.”
Hickman said rural lawmakers have made economic development projects across the state a priority. In his district, he said, Canton Lake is a key part of the area’s economic development.
“People come to the lake, then go buy supplies and gas and go out to eat,” he said. “All that is economic development; tourism money coming to the area. But that can’t work when they take almost all the water out of the lake. It’s frustrating when I drive by Lake Hefner and see sailboats there and when I go back home and then see the dry lake bed at Canton,” he said.
For Hickman, the rural-urban fight over water is a bigger issue than out-of-state water sales.
“I am a lot more concerned about Oklahoma City’s use of our water than I am Texas,” he said. “Texas is at least willing to pay us.”