August 9, 2013

Wichita city official: Drought is over

In case you hadn’t noticed, the drought in Wichita is over.

In case you hadn’t noticed, the drought in Wichita is over.

City officials made it official Friday.

“I’m pleased to report the drought is over in the city of Wichita,” said Alan King, the city’s public works and utilities director.

The city has been in drought mode for two years and in February began calling for residents to conserve water. But the city has seen more than 15.5 inches of rain over the past few weeks, including 7.9 inches this month.

Cheney Reservoir, a main source of the city’s water, has filled up. After its conservation pool – where the city gets its water – dropped to 58 percent full in February, the pool reached 100 percent this week.

The lake’s flood control pool level was more than 28 percent full Friday afternoon and increasing, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Cheney was built decades ago to catch floodwater. Its flood pool can handle about 7.5 feet of water, and space remained for more than 5 feet as of 4 p.m. Friday. Before it would completely fill up, the Corps would let some of the water out.

King encouraged residents to continue conservation efforts. He said the city has used 20 percent less water (2.7 billion gallons) so far this year in comparison to this time last year.

“Some of the reductions are due to the rain,” he said, “but city records show that customers used less water even when rainfall and temperatures were similar to last year.”

Meanwhile, the city may catch a brief break from the rain this weekend before it returns next week.

While there may have been some overnight showers Friday, the forecast calls for less than a 20 percent chance of rain Saturday and during the day Sunday, said Mick McGuire, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Wichita.

“We’re expecting a brief break from this rain pattern,” he said. “Saturday should be a dry day. We haven’t had one in a while. And most of Sunday should be dry.”

The rain pattern is expected to return next week, though.

“It’s pretty much a broken record,” McGuire said.

State officials asked people to be cautious around the lakes, rivers and streams swollen by the rain. As of late Friday afternoon, flood warnings were still in effect for 16 counties, including Sedgwick, Reno, Harvey, Butler and Sumner.

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