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SPOTLIGHT
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Water woes spread well beyond water rich areas

Published on -6/17/2011, 9:50 AM

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A column published on last week's Outdoors page, dealing with a crush of water in Waconda Reservoir, ended abruptly and prematurely.

It should have included Sebelius Reservoir as a site needing some of the water that otherwise has flowed eastward. Sebelius joins Cedar Bluff Reservoir.

First, let me offer my apologies to those of who faithfully read the column, only to be left hanging.

Sometimes, it's a mystery how these things happen, but there is only one person to blame here: Me.

I was the last person to touch the page, and, as a result, would have been responsible for whacking off the last line.

Rather than let you hang once again, I'll use this opportunity to update you on the situation with water in area lakes.

Even though it isn't in northwest Kansas, Waconda remains flush with water, 10.7 feet above its designed operating level.

But as you look about at area lakes, only Kirwin remains above conservation level, and only 1.5 feet above that level.

Webster, after months of above-average water levels, now has dropped a foot below its designed operating level. That is, however, a far cry from the levels had seen just a few years ago.

Lake Wilson, over in Russell County, is as close to normal as possible, less than a tenth of a foot high.

That might have been little more than the wind blowing in a particular direction, someone told me once.

But that leaves Cedar Bluff and Sebelius Reservoir.

Sebelius is 6.3 feet low, about where it has been in recent months. That's only 65 percent of its operating capacity.

And Cedar Bluff, the lake is 15.24 feet low, only 51 percent of its designed operating level.

"We just keep missing, missing," said Park Manager Chris Smith. "Our time is coming up, I'd think."

Cedar Bluff has been at that level for months now, unable to catch any of the lake-filling rains that have fallen elsewhere.

In fact, in May, only about 1,213 acre-feet of water flowed into the lake via the Smoky Hill River.

Evaporation, however, from the 4,118 acres of water, amounted to 2,371 acre-feet.

To put that into gallons, 395.4 million gallons of water flowed into Cedar Buff in May. Evaporation, however, took nearly 773 million gallons of water from the lake.

Cedar Bluff was the only Bureau of Reclamation lake in Kansas and Nebraska with a loss in May, and all of that to evaporation.

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