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Recent rains raise lake levels, but more water is needed

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, May 30, 2013, at 9:03 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, at 2:53 p.m.

Recent downpours have slightly raised water levels at Cheney Reservoir and El Dorado Lake, but officials at both lakes said it will take more heavy rains to improve the drought situation.

“This certainly helps,” Brian Haug, park ranger at Cheney Reservoir said after Thursday’s deluge. “The key is going to be if we can keep catching rains like this over the summer, where the last couple of years we just haven’t had it.”

Cheney was 67.9 percent full as of Thursday afternoon, up 3 to 5 percent from last week, Haug said.

Cheney, which delivers 60 percent of the city’s water, was 58 percent full on Feb. 26 when public works officials told the Wichita City Council that the drought would cause the reservoir to quit providing water in August 2015.

A public works official said the city couldn’t provide an update Thursday based on the recent rainfall.

The city’s water advisory committee will present a conservation plan to the council on Tuesday.

In addition to weather conditions, usage patterns and supply resources are used to calculate the lake’s remaining life, officials have said.

Cheney had been 6.6 feet low prior to the rainfall, but was 5.8 feet low as of Thursday afternoon, Haug said..

More water from the recent rain is expected to flow into the reservoir as the Ninnescah River and smaller rivers and streams continue to feed it. Cheney is shallow, so water spreads out as it flows into the reservoir.

“We expect to gain at least another foot by the time all this rain ends up in the lake,” Haug said.

El Dorado Lake rose 4 to 5 inches since 1 a.m. Thursday but remained about 4 feet low, said Rick Sellers, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manager for Council Grove, John Redmond, El Dorado and Marion lakes.

El Dorado got a heavy inflow at first, but that slowed due to drought conditions, Sellers said.

Still, he said, “It’s a good start.”

The forecast of more rain was hopeful.

“Every storm that goes through in the next 48 hours, it’s going to continue to put more water in the lake. We should have a good opportunity to bring the lake up maybe a foot or two,” Sellers said.

“You just need consistent rains over a 30-day period to really get things going,” he said.

Reach Fred Mann at 316-268-6310 or fmann@wichitaeagle.com.

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