TOPEKA — Kansas now is drought-free for the first time since April 2011, the state said Friday.

All counties are free of drought, Gov. Sam Brownback’s office said. In response to the development, Brownback made the drought-free designation official in an executive order.

Kansas actually has been drought-free since the week of May 17, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, though Brownback didn’t make an official declaration until Thursday.

“We are thankful the recent rains helped remove all counties from a drought designation,” Brownback said.

“Agriculture plays a key role in the Kansas economy, and this is particularly good news for our farmers and ranchers. Water is a precious resource, and the fact that Kansas is officially drought free for the first time in more than five years, is excellent news.”

The governor’s office encouraged Kansans to take steps to conserve water through daily habits in an effort to lessen the effects of the next drought, whenever it might strike.

The director of the Kansas Water Office, Tracy Streeter, had sought the drought-free designation. Streeter also chairs the governor’s drought response team. The group has been monitoring precipitation, reservoir and public water conditions, stream flow, soil moisture, climate and other factors.

“Drought response over the past several years as well as all water resource management has been a collective effort of all Kansas citizens and county and state officials,” Streeter said.

“This break in drought now gives the response team an opportunity to evaluate how we did in drought mitigation and prepare for the next drought, which we know will come. We encourage cities and rural water districts to also evaluate conservation and drought response plans to improve on lessons learned.”

As recently as April, much of Kansas was still in midst of some level of drought. Early that month, data from the U.S. Drought Monitor showed nearly 75 percent of Kansas was experiencing some drought at the end of March. That compared with barely 2 percent just three months ago, the Associated Press reported at the time.