groundwater | KCUR

groundwater

ST. JOHN, Kansas — Water — who gets to use it, when and how — sparks fights all over the world.

The latest battleground is in south-central Kansas, near the federally operated Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.

In its simplest form, it’s a clash between the refuge, which isn’t getting its legal share of water, and the local farmers who may be forced to cut back on how much water they use on their crops.

Segment 1: Why the Federal Emergency Managment Agency recommends flood coverage for everyone.

Flooding occurs in 90% of natural disasters in the United States, according to FEMA, and a quarter of all flood claims come from low-risk areas. We cover common questions about what is and isn't covered by flood and homeowners insurance, and discuss what the future of flood insurance might look like.

Peggy Lowe / KCUR 89.3

Water is still on the mind of many Missourians right about now. As floodwaters crept their way down the Missouri River in recent weeks, questions outnumbered answers about how to best control future inundations.

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

The water we drink is protected by federal rules, which are at the crux of a long-running fight over how far upstream that protection extends.

“Agriculture is land and water. When you’ve got control of the water, you’ve got control of the land,” said Blake Roderick with the National Waterways Conference.

Crysta Henthorne / Kansas News Service

Powers of McGruff

If a police officer in Kansas thinks they smell weed — even an unlit bud in a plastic bag six paces away — the state’s high court says that’s reason enough to launch a search.

The Kansas Supreme Court has ruled recently that an officer’s belief she smelled marijuana from 30 feet away was probable cause to sweep an apartment in Douglas County and ask for a search warrant.

Flying east to west over Kansas, the land transforms from lush green to desert brown. Rectangular farm plots fill in with emerald circles, the work of center-pivot irrigation.

Outside Garden City, in the middle of one of those circles, Dwane Roth scoops up soil to reveal an inconspicuous PVC pipe. It’s a soil moisture probe that tells Roth exactly how much water his crops need. The device is one of many new technologies designed to help farmers make the most of every drop.

“All that you have to do is open up your app,” said Roth. “It’s going to tell you, you don’t need to irrigate or you’re going to need to apply an inch within  six days.”

Water is an in-demand commodity in Del Norte, Colorado.
Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

In the summer of 2002, water pumps in Colorado’s San Luis Valley stopped working.

The center pivot sprinklers that coax shoots from the dry soil and turn the valley into one of the state’s most productive agricultural regions strained so hard to pull water from an underground aquifer that they created sunken pits around them.

“This one right over here,” says potato farmer Doug Messick as he walks toward a sprinkler in the valley, near the town of Center. He's the farm manager at Spud Grower Farms. “I came up to it one day and I could’ve driven my pickup in that hole.”

Courtesy of the Governor's Office

After decades of alarming headlines, Kansas may be on the verge of preserving an ancient groundwater resource that helped make it an agricultural powerhouse.

Since the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s, researchers have warned that farmers were pumping water from the part of the massive Ogallala aquifer that underlies Kansas faster than nature could replace it.

But a new emphasis on conservation spearheaded by Kansas Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is starting to reverse that longstanding trend.