Eagle editorial: State still needs more rain

Gov. Sam Brownback and state officials deserve credit for trying to help people deal with the drought punishing our state. But there is a limit to what they can do.

What’s needed is more rainy days like the past couple. A lot more.

Brownback met last week with more than 600 farmers, ranchers and industry representatives in Scott City and Garden City and discussed ways to conserve and extend the life of the Ogallala Aquifer. Though the aquifer has been declining for decades, the drought is worsening the problem.

Brownback also revised last week an executive order making it easier for livestock producers to get hay to their animals. And his administration recently launched a website, drought.ks.gov, that provides drought information including links to state and federal resources for farmers and ranchers, small businesses, and cities and counties.

Though cooler temperatures and the recent rain have helped, all 105 counties in Kansas have been designated federal natural disaster areas. According to a U.S. Drought Monitor map released Thursday, 67 percent of the land in Kansas is suffering exceptional drought. Two weeks ago, it was 39 percent.

“No matter where you go in Kansas right now, the ongoing drought is front and center,” Brownback said.

The Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service reported last week that more than 70 percent of the state’s corn, soybean and sorghum crops were in poor or very poor condition, and 92 percent of its range and pastures are in poor or very poor condition. As a result, many ranchers are having to sell cattle.

The drought also impacts cities. Lack of water in the Little Arkansas River has prevented Wichita from recharging the Equus Beds aquifer. So far this year, the city has been able to pump water into the aquifer only 14 days. The recharging is needed both to store water for future use and to prevent a salt plume from contaminating the aquifer.

There are small things individuals can do to help conserve water, such as cutting back on lawn watering and car washing. Some might also try praying.

William Lindsay White wrote a prayer for rain that was printed in the Emporia Gazette during the drought of 1935. The Eagle has periodically published it over the years. Given how desperately dry our state has been this summer, this shortened version of his prayer bears reprinting:

“O Lord, in thy mercy grant us rain, and by that we don’t mean a shower.

“O Lord of Hosts, we want to look out the windows and watch the regiments of close-packed raindrops march diagonally down. We want to hear the gurgle of the gutters under the eaves, and then the sputter of the downspout.

“God of Israel, Isaac and Jacob, let it come down so hard, let the drops dance so high that the streets and sidewalks seem covered with a 6-inch fog of spatter-drops. Then let it just keep up for a while, and then begin to taper off, and then turn right around and get a lot worse, swishing, pounding, splattering, pouring, drenching, the thunder coming – crackity-bam – and the lightning flashing so fast and furious you can’t tell which flash goes with which peal of thunder.

“Kansas is indeed the promised land, O Lord, and if it gets a break it will flow with milk and honey. But we can’t live much longer on promises. So in thine own way in thine own time, make up thy mind, O Lord, and we will bow before thy judgment, and praise thine everlasting name. Amen.”

For the editorial board, Phillip Brownlee