Marion among state reservoirs approved for emergency use

Prompted by extreme drought conditions statewide, Marion Reservoir became one of 44 federal or state water areas available July 25 as an emergency water source for domestic, municipal and livestock uses.

The order was signed by Gov. Sam Brownback.

In an updated Drought Decla­ration for Kansas, Brownback put all counties in an emergency status.

“The Kansas Water Office’s focus at this time is to ensure communities, livestock producers and farmers have the available water resources they need to cope with this drought,” said Tracy Streeter, KWO director.

However, any farmer or livestock producer is required to have permission from the KWO before obtaining water.

“It is imperative producers contact our office first so we can coordinate access to a water supply in closest proximity to them,” Streeter said.

If harmful algae blooms are present in water then access might be denied, another state official said.

The permit required for additional water limits the types of water use and a fee may be set for use of the state fishing lakes’ water supply and federal reservors, Streeter noted.

Robin Jennison with the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks and Tourism also emphasized that state fishing lakes are not intended to be long-term water supply sources.

“While we are happy to help if there is an emergency need for water,” Jennison said, “we have to remember that these are smaller lakes that are managed primarily for fishing. Our state fishing lakes are also affected by the drought so we have to be careful to conserve water like other Kansans.”

Brownback’s executive order will remain in effect for those counties identified as emergency status until rescinded or superceded by another order revising the drought state status, said Katie Patterson-Ingels, KWO media contact.

No requests yet

Emily Coffin, lead ranger at Marion Reservoir, said no requests for access have been received yet.

Even if there were, she said, none would be processed while the reservoir is under an advisory for blue-green algae by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

“We wouldn’t want to contaminate the water someone would use to water their livestock,” she said.

As for the amount of water farmers and livestock producers can access once the advisory is lifted, Coffin said this would be a question for the Kansas Water Office.

“KWO would better know the limits,” she said. “They have rights to the water and would be able to determine the level amounts in coordination with us for the access.”

Marion Reservoir is about 2 feet lower than normal, she said.

“The elevation is 1,348.57 feet and our normal elevation is 1,350.5 feet,” Coffin said. “We don’t fluctuate a whole lot here in Marion.”

Whether the 2-foot drop is something to be concerned with, Coffin said: “If it were to continue in this fashion, we could be in worse conditions.”

Even though water cannot be accessed for farmers and livestock producers, Coffin said the beaches are open.

When KDHE issues a warning, it means everyone is prohibited from any direct water contact.

“Right now with the advisory, beaches are open, but ‘advising’ that a hazard does exist in the water at some locations,” she said.

For more information about permits, call KWO at 785-296-3185.

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