environment

United States Drought Monitor

Kansas' long drought is fading.

Drought covered more than 80 percent of Kansas in April. Now the National Weather Service says most of the state is drought-free.

Still, the dry conditions remain severe in parts of northeastern Kansas.

Brian Grimmett / Kansas News Service

New Trump administration rules aimed at protecting the coal industry reverse Obama-era regulations on greenhouse gases by letting states set their own rules.

That means Kansas regulators could clear the way for more coal, but economic trends have already driven a shift to natural gas and wind power.

Brian Grimmett / Kansas News Service

Seven years ago, a toxic form of algae bloomed in Milford Lake near Junction City. Kansas had never really seen a bloom quite like it before. It lasted for almost three months and has returned every summer since.

The event set state scientists looking for what spurred the blue-green algae, scientifically known as cyanobacteria, and how to stop the return of what is essentially killer pond scum.

Brian Grimmett

Evergy, the company formed in the merger between Westar Energy and Great Plains Energy, has announced the official retirement dates of several older power plants.

Tecumseh Energy Center, near Topeka, and two units at Gordon Evans Energy Center in Colwich will shut down on Oct. 1. Those will be followed by the last two units at Murray Gill Energy Center outside of Wichita on Nov. 1.

U.S. Geological Survey

Kansas water use is declining, according to a new report from the U.S. Geological survey.

In 2015, Kansas used on average more than 4 billion gallons of water each day. That’s down nearly 25 percent from 1990. Of that, 2.6 billion gallons per day are used for irrigation — a decrease of 36 percent from 1990.

“What we’re doing is great, it’s just not enough of it,” said Kansas Water Office Director Tracy Streeter.

File/Reno County Fire District #6

A legislative audit released Tuesday concluded that while wildfires in Kansas are becoming more frequent, a lack of resources and coordination are hampering the state’s ability to fight them.

Firefighting duties and resources are spread across three separate agencies, which auditors said is complicating wildfire response and communication between state and local officials.

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.”

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media/File photo

New research suggests that no-till farming could help mitigate climate change.

A study from Iowa State University, released Monday, examined Midwest land use between 1850 to 2015. As agriculture and the practice of tilling spread, less carbon was being stored in the ground and more was going into the atmosphere. That added to the carbon emissions already accumulating from burning coal and driving cars.

A solution, according to study co-author Chaoqun Lu, is ending tilling.

usgs.gov

Watershed conservation groups in Wichita made their pitch Wednesday for more money from the federal farm bill.

But for two Kansas congressmen, conservation falls a bit lower on the wishlist.

Flickr: Nick Varvel

The Trump administration remains unlikely to back off its plans to ease Obama-era restrictions that make it harder for utility companies to burn coal.

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