Monday, December 23, 2013

Water Water Everywhere

Far above our heads, there are currently astronauts working away in attempt to repair the International Space System's cooling station .  Currently the space station in operating on only one cooling system which would leave the astronauts vulnerable to being left without a working system should the current cooling unit fail.  After a seemingly successful mission on Saturday, astronaut Rick Mastracchio discovered something interesting in his spacesuit, water had gathered in his suit's sublimator which is a device that's designed to dissipate excess heat.  Usually the suits have water based systems in them that remove moisture, and cool the astronauts.  But it is unusual for the water to accumulate.  The spacewalk on Saturday consisted of a 5 hour and 28 minute mission removing a faulty coolant pump module, this mission will continue tomorrow December 24th and no further issues are expected to arise.  This unfortunately is not the first time that water has been a problem is space.  In July an astronaut's suit malfunctioned causing him to nearly drown inside his suit.  NASA officials have declared that the two problems are not related and they believe the suits to now have a "clean bill of health" although they have added makeshift snorkels and absorbent pads to the suits as a precaution.  Water water everywhere, even up there.

Friday, December 6, 2013

LEMA Awards presented by 'Water +Energy Progress'

    With a busy year coming to a close for Groundwater Management District No. 4, so does an equally busy year for the producers of the Sheridan-6 LEMA.  As many of you may know, a LEMA, or Locally Enhanced Management Area is crafted on the community level, giving producers and community members an opportunity to discuss ways in which they may hope to extend the life of the Ogallala Aquifer by reducing their water usage over a set period of time.  For the Sheridan-6 LEMA, this time period consisted of 5 years and an approximate 20% water reduction.  Many years of hard work and dedication went into this LEMA, from the initial idea, to working with both the Kansas Legislature and local Ag producers, and finally to the implementation of the first LEMA in the Sheridan-6 High Priority Area.  GMD4’s now retired Manager Wayne Bossert, Assistant Manager Ray Luhman, and countless others, contributed so very much in to making this incredible dream a reality.  The kind people at the Water + Energy Progress organization, which is in association with CEP(the Climate and Energy Project) have decided to honor the efforts of these SD-6 Producers by featuring their efforts on the organization’s website in an extensive article featuring two of the producers from the SD-6 LEMA.  Recognizing such a forward thinking tool, which has so successfully brought people together to discuss future water concerns and hopes is truly Inspiring.  I encourage anyone to visit the link below in order to read further information provided by the Water+ Energy Progress organization.  The appreciation of this recognition is, I am sure very great by many.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

It's Not Just Happening to Us...

Several years of dry winters and unusually hot summers have left Canada's subarctic regions in serious trouble, causing severe and worrisome desiccation of the regions' lakes.  After the exclusive study of 70 lakes near Old Crow, Yukon and Churchill, Manitoba it became apparent that most of the lakes had become less than a meter deep, with dead vegetation banking the shores.  The problem comes primarily from a decline in "melt-water" that usually supplies the lakes.  For example, from 2010 to 2012 the average winter precipitation in Churchill decreased by 76mm when compared to the average that had been recorded between the years 1971 and 2000.  "With this type of lake, precipitation in the form of snow represents 30% to 50% of the annual water supply," explained the study's lead author, Frederic Bouchard.  Clearly, a lack on snow fall will rapidly and drastically affect the water levels and viability of the lakes.  With several ecological and environmental concerns buzzing through the air researchers have become increasingly concerned, in addition to the realization that this decline has not been seen in the 200 years of its observation.  So folks, back here in the USA we surely are not the only ones feeling the pressure and concern associated with water resources and conservation.  Just one of the many issues concerning water around the globe.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Reduced Ethanol??

On November 15th 2013 USA Today came out with an article explaining the changes in recent Ethanol use regulations and how this once championed bio-fuel law of 2007 has not been working as had once been expected.  In fact for the first time, officials are planning to reduce the amount of ethanol in the US's fuel supply.  At the beginning, the law had hoped to address climate change concerns while encouraging homegrown bio-fuels that would burn cleaner than gasoline.  The ethanol cut back, would require approximately 3 billion gallons less ethanol to be used.  The variable that had not been considered during the initial bio-fuel discussions, was the possibility for such fuel economy improvements as what has taken place over the last several years.  "Bio-fuels are a key part of the Obama administration's 'all the above' energy strategy, helping to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, cut carbon pollution and create job," stated EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.  This proposed ethanol reduction could bring some flack, when reflecting on statements of the past.  In addition the ethanol mandate has caused quite a stir amongst both oil companies and environmental groups.  As the market continues to fluctuate and technology undoubtedly progresses, what will be the future of bio-fuel vehicle use?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Governor's Conference Calls for Change

The second annual Governor’s Conference; The Future of Water in Kansas took place in  Manhattan Kansas at the end of October.  The Conference drew over 500 participants from across the state including several state officials and agricultural producers as well as numerous vendors and exhibitors.  The conference itself centered around water usage in the state of Kansas, and what we may be able to expect in coming years.  Three main speakers took the stage including author Charles Fishman, who has written books such as the “Wal-Mart Effect” and “The Big Thirst.” In addition, The Southern Nevada Water Authority ‘s Director Pat Mulroy, was also in attendance discussing the severe water shortages Nevada has experienced in recent years.  She also touched on the ways in which the authority has dealt with and solved resource issues such as municipal water supply security, and implemented water use reduction policies.  The final speaker was Dr. James Stack, who is currently serving as the Director of The Great Plains Diagnostic Network while continuing his work as a Professor for Kansas State University in Plant Pathology.  Dr. Stack is responsible for coordinating a 9-state project, enhancing the rapid detection and diagnosis of high consequence plant pathogens and pests.  All three speakers provided tremendous insight on relevant water issues.
            The two day conference also included several breakout sessions, providing wonderful opportunities for individuals from across the state to update one another on current events happening in different regions.   A topic which was touched on several times throughout the conference was the concept of Local Enhanced Management or the LEMA law, and how this tool could now be used in the effort of prolonging the life of the Ogallala Aquifer.  Throughout the presentations, breakout sessions and guest lectures, one thing became even more apparent to the audience, that the State of Kansas as a whole has only become increasingly concerned with the future of the state’s water resources.  During the Governor’s opening speech on Thursday morning, he called for the development of a 50 year water plan for Kansas to be completed by November 2014.  In this plan, he hopes to see several ways in which each region of the state will address future water resource concerns and present issues, as well as to set goals indicating what the state of Kansas would like to see for their future.  With such a great task at hand the Kansas Water Office indicated that they would immediately begin working with several state agencies and focus committees as well as the state’s five Groundwater Management Districts in order to accomplish this undertaking.  In all, the 2013 Governor’s Conference provided an incredible opportunity for ideas and research to be shared, making it clearer than ever that this precious water resource will remain to be one of the most important issues of our lifetime.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

NYC's Underground Undertaking

On October 16th the mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg announced the opening of the Manhattan section of a water tunnel project that began in 1950 but didn't get under way till 1970.  The $4.7 billion dollar project has already claimed the lives of 24 people during its construction so far.  Once the massive construction is finally complete, the tunnel will stretch more than 60 miles bringing water to Brooklyn and Queens from reservoirs located north of New York City.  The tunnel will both serve as a backup for the primary water tunnel used in the area and will give city workers and engineers an opportunity to inspect and repair the old tunnel for the first time in almost 100 years.  In order to finance this project, the city Water Board has initiated years of rate hikes, and bills are projected to continue increasing 7.5% a year for the next three years.  Definitely quite the underground undertaking here if you ask me.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Stretching the Colorado River

You can only stretch a river so far, and The Colorado river which serves as a water source to seven states including parts of Mexico, has possibly reached its temporary breaking point.  The Colorado River is responsible for filling both Lake Mead and Lake Powell.  In response to the recently released report from the Bureau of Reclamation's anticipated 24 month study, the agency is looking to cut water realeased from Lake Powell's Glen Canyon Dam by a staggering 750,000 acre feet which averages out to serving approximately 1.5 million homes.  It is the first time in in the history of that dam that water heading downstream will be cut.  This shortage has raised concern for municipalities, agricultural communities as well as environmentalist groups concerned for the fish and wildlife habbitats that will be directly affected.

Currently, Las Vegas Nevada has 2 'straws' in Lake Mead, which is approximately 300 miles from Lake Powell, in order to provide enough water for the city's ever growing urban population.  At this time officials are already having to consider drawing from deeper in the reservoir to avoid price hikes and shortages on water for surrounding municipalities.  Brad Udall from the University of Colorado's Law School, explains how, "Something very, very unusual is going on." With the combination of a staggering drought and increased demands, an incredible 8.23 million acre feet of water is supposed to reach Lake Mead and Powell each year in order to serve Nevada, Arizona, California and Mexico.  "Basically, Mead has lost the equivalent of one entire year's worth of flow." Udall explained, "It's missing 8 million acre feet of water."  In addition to this frightening statistic, Lake Powell is also missing a years worth of water, an estimated 15 million acre feet.  So, while the drought rages on, many states in the west will spend the winter praying for heavy wet snow and rain to hopefully buffer this rather remarkable shortage.  Time to rapidly preform a dozen snow dances, no time to waste here folks. 
Photo: Compliments of National Geographic

Monday, October 14, 2013

Water in its Colder Form.....

As we know, water has not only many forms and uses, but impacts as well.  In South Dakota ranchers are slowly discovering more damage caused by the horrific blizzard that has left more than 75,000 livestock dead.  With up to 4 feet of snow in some areas, falling rapidly last weekend.  Many cattle found themselves trapped and eventually killed.  In many cases, the animals had begun to move south, or migrate towards small inlets or valleys in the land.  But, with the speed of the storm many were trapped by fences or in mud and deep snow.  Rancher Heath Ferguson, told USA Today, that 96 percent of his black Angus and Limousin herd was killed in the storm, totaling an estimated loss of $250,000 or roughly $1,000 a head.   Surrounding counties have opened mass pits for carcass disposal, but emotions are high as ranchers are literally forced to bury their livelihood. 

Many state agencies are urging ranchers to document all animal losses with pictures and hauling receipts in case disaster payments are available in the future.  On the political side many county agencies are becoming forced to intervene since the US Farm Service Agency is currently closed because of the recent Government shut down.  At the same time, the Stockgrowers Association, South Dakota Cattleman's Association and the South Dakota Sheep Growers Association are seeking donations for a relief fund that has been set up to help these communities.  We can only hope in time, these hard working ranchers can rebound from this terrible loss.  Just another terrifying reminder of mother natures power and strength.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Nile Not in Egypt?

While water issues in the US will quite certainly continue to heighten in severity over the next 50 years, one must take a moment to turn their attention to a very significant issue happening overseas between Ethiopia and Egypt.  "Ethiopia is Killing us," stated taxi driver Ahmed Hossam of Cairo, "If they build this dam, there will be no Nile.  If there's no Nile, then there's no Egypt."

This man is referring to the proposed project known as the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which would re-adjust water-sharing arrangements with Ethiopia's surrounding countries.  The current arrangements have been in place since 1959 and allocate three-fourths of the Nile waters to Egypt.  Its proposed length would be approximately 1.1 miles long, and could cost upwards of $4.7 billion dollars.  Many Ethiopians are viewing this as an immense source of national pride and a symbol of how the country has rebounded from the debilitating famines of the 1980's and 90's.

As maybe expected, this controversy has caused quite an out poor of concern from many different groups of surrounding and upstream countries.  So far there have been reports of various physical assaults, as well as other violent or provoking acts in protest.  Only time will tell how the world will react to this project, but currently, the World Bank is sticking to their decision to not fund the Renaissance Dam.  The whole deal leaves several questions, and an uncertainty for many areas and surrounding countries who will be directly affected.  With an estimated population forecast of 150 million by 2050, almost doubling Egypt's current population, these tense dynamics are assured to remain.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Aquifers Found In Kenya

The Sahara, Kalahari and Namib, are three of the largest deserts in Africa, with the Namib Desert spanning an incredible 31,274 square miles of Southern Africa.  In recent news, satellite and advanced radar technology has detected two large aquifers throughout the Turkana and Lotikipi basins and another in Namibia, which is Sub-Saharan Africa's driest country.  In the Turkana region of Kenya, many areas have been hit extremely hard in recent years by drought, and have suffered economically due to the high population of nomadic herders, who depend on natural precipitation.  Once test drilling began, it was discovered that the aquifers were thought to contain up to 250bn cubic meters of water. 

Ms. Wakhungu, at a meeting of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization UNESCO, was quoted saying, "This newly found wealth of water opens a door to a more prosperous future for the people of Turkana and the nation as a whole.  We must now work to further explore these resources responsibly and safeguard them for future generations."  With debate rising as to the future of this water, many have begun to urge the government to engage in dialogues with local communities.  "We need to put in place a sound management system" stated Abou Amani, UNESCO's Africa Hydrologist.  The issue raised will now be deciding how this abundance of water will be managed, distributed and saved for future uses; whether they be industrial, agricultural or municipal.  "It is critical for governments to realize they don't...come up with programs without community ownership...and linking it to economic development."  Currently 17 million people of Kenya's 41 million total population, lack the ability to access safe water.  So the question presented, is not only how, but by whom Kenya will establish methods of managing such a quantity of water, found so suddenly.  This is certainly to be an extraordinary task with many facets to be considered along the way, as the plan is further developed.  Such an amazing find, with such incredibly possibilities for this region and all of Kenya.   

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The South Platte River; Affected by Neighboring Flooding

In the last week, parts of Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska are experiencing the affects of heavy, long term rain fall and river flooding.  Many Colorado communities have experienced neighborhood evacuations and extensive damage to residential and agricultural areas.  So far, throughout the state's affected areas, spanning from the foothills resting town of Boulder CO all the way East to Greeley and as far North as Laporte CO, there have been 8 confirmed casualties from the flooding as well as a reported 658 people missing state wide.  As in the west, canyons have been flooded and roadways destroyed, Nebraska's South Platte River is expecting to feel a bit of the impact as the National Weather Service has predicted that possible flooding of the South Platte River will begin Wednesday and likely continue for several days.  although the affected area is doubted to reach many residential areas, agricultural areas are thought to be possibly affected.  National Weather Service Meteorologist Bill Taylor indicated that it is difficult to estimate the degree of flooding possible along the South Platte, because of the several gauges that have been damaged by debris, upstream of Nebraska.

He went on to explain that water levels could reach record highs in areas that run along the South Platte River and Interstate 76.  Towns such as North Platte and sections of Lincoln County are preparing as the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross send teams to Ogallala to prepare shelters if necessary.  With North Platte resting only a skip and a jump from the Kansas border, it leaves many wondering if Northwest Kansas will see any impact of this flooding.  Once again, mother nature has chosen to remind us of her mighty powers, and we feel deeply for our neighboring agricultural communities and residential areas that have been affected.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Republican River Compact Meeting in Colby

The Republican River Compact Administration (RRCA) will hold it's Annual Meeting in Colby, Kansas tomorrow and Thursday.  Tomorrow's meeting will be for the technical committees from each state.  The agenda is: 

1. Welcome and introductions
2. WaterSmart Basin Study update and discussion
3. Status of annual reports and transcripts
4. Meaning of Colorado’s water-short year requirement
5. Harlan County Lake evaporation accounting for Compact year 2013
6. Monitoring of non-federal reservoirs in Kansas
7. Engineering Committee report
  a. Active Items
      i. Data exchange status
      ii. Ground and surface water irrigation recharge and return flows
      iii. Principia Mathematica contract
      iv. Nebraska proposal for relocation of Guide Rock stream gage and accounting procedure
      v. Adoption of revised area-capacity tables for Bonny Reservoir
      vi. Applied PRISM procedure for missing precipitation data for 2008-2010
      vii. Finalizing accounting data for 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011
      viii. Issues preventing agreement on final accounting for 2006-2011
  b. Items tabled for future
      i. User Manual
      ii. 5 year accounting spreadsheet
8. Review and finalize agenda for RRCA annual meeting

This meeting will be in our (GMD 4) new office facilities at 1290 W 4th - beginning at 2:00 PM CST.

The formal annual meeting of the RRCA will be held Thursday in the Colby Community Center, 285 E 5th Street, beginning at 9:00 AM.  This agenda is:

1. Introductions
2. Adoption of the Agenda
3. Status of Report and Transcripts for 2012 Annual Meeting and subsequent Special Meetings
4. Status of Previous Annual and Special Meetings Reports and Transcripts
5. Report of Chairman and Commissioners’ Reports
   a. Kansas
   b. Colorado
   c. Nebraska
6. Federal Reports
   a. Bureau of Reclamation
   b. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
   c. U.S. Geological Survey
7. Committee Reports
   a. Engineering Committee
      i. Assignments from 2012 Annual Meeting
      ii. Committee Recommendations to RRCA
      iii. Recommended assignments for Engineering Committee
8. Old Business
   a. Status of unapproved previous accounting
9. New Business and Assignments to Compact Committees
   a. Issues raised by the States
      i. Nebraska
         1. Article IX of the Compact
         2. Harlan County Lake evaporation accounting for Compact year 2013
         3. Monitoring of non-federal reservoirs
      ii. Kansas
         1. Beaver Creek allocations during Water Short Years
      iii. Colorado
   b. Action on Engineering Committee Report and assignments
   c. Resolution honoring Scott Ross
10. Remarks from the Public
11. Future Meeting Arrangements
12. Adjournment

These should be interesting meetings and I'm looking forward to attending both.  More later.  

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Another Abandoned Well Story

Winter sledding in 2009 at their grandparents house in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho turned frightful for 5 year old Mason and his 7 year old sister Maya when their last run of the day found them crashing and tumbling off the sled right into a 2 foot by 2 foot concrete opening for a well on the property.  The unknown well was located at the very bottom of the hill in a patch of weeds, was not covered and was nearly filled with icy water.  Maya was able to get out, but brother Mason could not.  He went under several times as Maya worked to extricate him.  Exasperated, she wedged the sled into the hard packed snow and dropped the rope into the well telling Mason to hold on as she went for help.  Running up the hill screaming "Mason is drowning!", she soon caught the attention of granddad Mike.   The race back down the hill was won that day and Mason was pulled out unhurt, though a little rattled.  There is no doubt about it - Maya saved the life of her brother by her quick thinking and hard-charging run up the hill.

Once again we see the potential danger of abandoned, improperly maintained wells.  I cannot overstate how important it is to bring these dangers to the attention of the proper authorities - starting with the landowner and then upward if not taken care of immediately.
The plugging of abandoned wells might be a great program for groundwater districts or other civic groups interested.  GMD 4 has already inventoried our district area and caused the plugging of just over 2,000 abandoned wells that were located.  Not only are these wells a danger to life and limb, but they can also be conduits for surface contamination of the groundwater.  Something to consider, anyway.  For the rest of our abandoned well stories, click on the "wells and accidents" tag below.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Federal Dilemma Discovered

Water rights in any state are usually complicated, but in Kansas they can be especially so.  Over the past 7 or 8 years Kansas has been working with the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) on implementing a pretty savvy EQIP offering.  For the most part, we have worked and played well together, and the EQIP program that has resulted has been useful and used.

Basically, EQIP is incenting producers to set aside irrigated ground for non-irrigated production in order to achieve a water quantity resource goal set by NRCS at the recommendation of the Kansas Technical Committee.  The EQIP contract requires the water right to be set aside and not used for the contract period plus one "maintenance" year.  Moreover, the water from that water right cannot be used on any other land.  All this sounded pretty reasonable as the effort was being wordsmithed, as all Kansans were thinking water rights.   

However, we have just now reached one of those "humps in the road" with a program interpretation that, if not re-interpreted by NRCS, is going to be problematic.  NRCS has told program enrollees that the well itself cannot supply water for any other use during the contract period.  They have apparently linked the well to the water right in a black and white fashion.  They have obviously been thinking "water" when we were thinking "water rights".

The problem is that in Kansas multiple water rights can be, and often are, associated with a single well.  Even when an irrigation water right is forfeited, dismissed, sold or otherwise eliminated, nothing precludes the use of that well for domestic purposes, or any other water right or term permit that is associated with the well.  Each of these would have a different priority date, water right file number and use type, so using them would insure that no water from the contracted irrigation water right would be used.

What the current NRCS interpretation is actually doing, is preventing Kansas citizens from accessing any of their other valid water rights that may be associated with the subject well - including domestic uses - and we think this would be in violation of Kansas water law. 

I don't think this was the NRCS intent, and I'm holding out that they will listen to our concerns and eventually agree with us because they understand Kansas Water Rights better as a result of our discussions.  It'll end up being just a minor misunderstanding. But, if they refuse, one will have to wonder if this is not another federal incursion into state's water rights - by design.  More information later.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

KSU High Plains Aquifer Study Hits a Nerve?

David Steward, Paul Bruss, Xiaoying Yang, Scott Staggenborg, Stephen Welch and Michael Apley just released a special study report on the productivity of the High Plains Aquifer in Kansas over the next 100 years, or to the year 2110.  Their Executive Summary says:

"Groundwater provides a reliable tap to sustain agricultural production, yet persistent aquifer depletion threatens future sustainability. The High Plains Aquifer supplies 30% of the nation’s irrigated groundwater, and the Kansas portion supports the congressional district with the highest market value for agriculture in the nation. We project groundwater declines to assess when the study area might run out of water, and comprehensively forecast the impacts of reduced pumping on corn and cattle production. So far, 30% of the groundwater has been pumped and another 39% will be depleted over the next 50 y given existing trends. Recharge supplies 15% of current pumping and would take an average of 500–1,300 y to completely refill a depleted aquifer. Significant declines in the region’s pumping rates will occur over the next 15–20 y given current trends, yet irrigated agricultural production might increase through 2040 because of projected increases in water use efficiencies in corn production. Water use reductions of 20% today would cut agricultural production to the levels of 15–20 y ago, the time of peak agricultural production would extend to the 2070s, and production beyond 2070 would significantly exceed that projected without reduced pumping... Findings substantiate that saving more water today would result in increased net production due to projected future increases in crop water use efficiencies."

This 4-year study can be found within the National Academy of Sciences website, and was financially supported by the National Science Foundation, USDA Agricultural Research Service and US Department of Transportation through the Kansas State University Transportation Center. It has made quite a splash.  Within just a few days we have been contacted by National Public Radio (Washington, DC), the Kansas City Star (Kansas City), Matter Magazine (California?) the Farm Futures Magazine (Chicago) and several of our GMD members - and we're not even specifically mentioned in the study, although the SD-6 LEMA is. 

Anyway, the interesting thing about this study is its conclusion that local folks can make significant economic impacts by taking positive steps now to reduce current water use which will make the same water available later when production and returns are considerably higher.  Any thoughts?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Colorado State University - AWCC

I first heard of the Ag Water Conservation Clearinghouse (AWCC) website about 6-7 years ago - just as the pundits at Colorado State University were still conceiving its platform and ultimate function.  They had lofty goals then when they announced they'd like to eventually capture and make available all the irrigation literature in the midwest that dealt with irrigation water use conservation and efficient use.  I had some idea of the amount of material that was being generated on these topics by Kansas State University alone, so their goal I saw quickly would be quite enormous.

I see today, as I visited the site again, that they have expanded their focus worldwide - now encompassing many different climate regions, technologies, political and legal systems, etc., etc.  Impressive!

One thing I noticed on their website was the following, completely unqualified, comment on Ag Water Conservation:

What is Ag Water Conservation?
  • Increased crop water use efficiency
  • Improved irrigation application efficiency
  • Increased capture and utilization of precipitation
  • Decreased crop consumptive use
  • Increased irrigation water diversion and delivery efficiencies
  • Reduced water use through adoption of conservation measures and new technologies for water management
Without any explanation or point of reference on this list, I immediately started running it through my definitions, and quite frankly, not many of them were matching well with my list.  Until I came to "Decreased crop consumptive use", that is.  I don't know if the authors of this list meant for the answer to be "any of these" or "all of these", but if I get to vote, I'm voting that all of them need to occur before you get any real ag water conservation. 

Anyway, I'll check back in on the site a while later.  Maybe there'll be more information as to this listing.  And I wish them all the luck in the world in capturing the universe of ag water conservation materials.    

Friday, August 9, 2013

1885 Water Rules in Kansas

The August 13, 1885 edition of the Thomas County Cat (Colby’s first newspaper) contained a listing of Rules imposed by the Kansas State Board of Health – directing every county and Municipal Board of Health in the state to see that they are strictly enforced in their respective jurisdictions.  Rule 1 is:  “No privy vault, cesspool or reservoir into which a privy, water closet, stable or sink Is drained, except it be water-tight, shall be established or permitted within fifty feet of any well, spring or other source of water used for drinking or culinary purposes.”   The next six rules also deal with protection of drinking water, which I thought was pretty interesting.

I also found the later rules for disinfection pretty cool as well.    For example, Rule 19:  “The room into which a person sick with small-pox,  varioloid,  scarlet fever, or diphtheria Is placed, must previously be cleared of all carpets, needless clothing, drapery and all other articles likely to harbor the disease. After the death or recovery of the sick, the room, furniture and other contents not to be destroyed must be immediately thoroughly disinfected.  The paper on the walls and ceilings, if any, must be removed and completely burned. The floor, woodwork and wooden furniture must be painted over with a solution of corrosive sublimate made by dissolving one ounce of corrosive in six gallons of water; let it remain one hour, and wash off with clean water. The walls, if not papered, must be thoroughly scrubbed and whitewashed.  For the sick room, small pieces of rags should be substituted for handkerchiefs, and when once used must be immediately burned.

And Rule 22:  “Fumigation with brimstone is a good method for disinfecting the house. For this purpose the rooms to be disinfected must be vacated. Heavy clothing, blankets, bedding and other articles which cannot be treated with zinc solution, must be opened and exposed during fumigation. To disinfect an ordinary room with brimstone:  Having tightly closed all the openings of the room, place in an open earthen dish one pound of brimstone, and burn for twelve hours, being careful not to breathe the fumes. After fumigation, the rooms must be thoroughly aired by opening the doors and windows for several hours.”

And finally Rule 23:  “All articles which have been in contact with persons sick with contagious or infectious diseases, too valuable to be destroyed,  should be treated as follows: (a) Cotton, linen, flannel, blankets, etc., should be put in boiling hot zinc solution, introducing piece by piece; secure through wetting, and boil for at least one hour. (b) Heavy woolen clothing, silks, furs, stuffed bed covers, beds and other articles which cannot be  treated with the zinc solution, should be hung In the room during fumigation, their surfaces thoroughly exposed and pockets being turned inside out. Afterward they should be hung in the open air, beaten and shaken. Pillows, bed, stuffed mattresses, upholstered furniture, etc., should be cut open, the contents spread out and thoroughly fumigated. Carpets are best fumigated on the floor, but must afterward be removed to the open air and thoroughly beaten."
Seems like the Board of Health was pretty serious about halting the dreaded diseases of the era.  And Kudos to anyone who knew what “varioloid” means.  I didn’t, but looked it up – initially thinking it was some contagious form of varicose veins.  Nah, I didn’t really think that, but I didn’t know what it really was.  For those who don’t have the time to look it up, it’s a mild form of smallpox affecting people who have already had the disease or have been vaccinated against it.  Now, be sure to use it in a sentence at least once a day for the next three days!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Water + Energy - Kansas Style

There is little doubt that water and energy are related - especially here in western Kansas where so much energy is used to pump groundwater.  That's one of the main reasons I was so pleased to participate on the nomination committee within the Climate + Energy Project (CEP) to seek out innovative water and energy activities.  I've blogged about this group before - here.

As a result of all this work, the CEP has been planning a website to showcase the selected activities following a nomination and selection process, and field interviews with the principals.  The CEP has just announced that their website,, is now up and running.  

You'll have to be patient, though, as the CEP is going to unveil the selected activities one at a time - one each month.  I won't tell you what the selected innovations are, but they are wide-ranging in nature, and involve conservation approaches that should be achievable by most producers.  

According to project manager Rachel Myslivy, "The stories will contain links to research, funding opportunities, and supporting organizations. Digital farm tours, podcasts, and written materials will be used to tell the story of each successful innovation.  You can look forward to guest bloggers, event announcements, spotlights on research and all sorts of great information about innovations in agriculture."

The hope is to tell about and spur discussion and further conversation about the innovative activities in such a way that will encourage and bring about collaborative research, a strengthing of personal networks, and a continuation of innovative thinking across Kansas.

That's a tall order, but an important one, none-the-less.