Farmers using tech to preserve water

Moisture censors can reduce pivot use

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (KSNW) – Future water is a concern for the whole state, especially farmers.

Currently 65 percent of the state is dealing with some amount of drought.

A year ago this month, it was only 2-percent, but two years ago, it was 89 percent.

Tuesday, the Kansas Water Office was in Garden City to talk to the agriculture industry about preserving water.

With a dwindling aquifer and a persistent drought, farmers in southwest Kansas are taking water conservation seriously now more than ever.

“I think we’re being proactive,” said Dwane Roth, a Finney County farmer. “I think we’re doing the things that need to be done in a good manner.”

Technology like soil moisture censors are helping farmers track how much water their crops are getting naturally and how best to run their pivot.

“If you have corn or wheat or milo,” said Roth, “there’s even different apps for that to tell you maybe how fast to run your pivot, how much water to apply.”

Roth has been using moisture censors for two years now. He says with the money he saves on water, the technology quickly paid for itself.

“A soil moisture probe, it would actually return the profit back,” he said. “If you spent $1,500, you’d get that $1,500 back that same year.”

Probes and other conversation methods are crucial for preserving the aquifer for the next generation of farmers.

“If we can maybe double the life, 20 years, 30 years,” said Roth, “that’ll give the next generation an opportunity, the ability to come up with an idea to extend it even farther than that.”

Some farmers want the ag community to voluntarily adopt water-saving methods before the shortage forces the government to step in.

“I’m more concerned from the state side, legislative side, regulation side that they try to make a blanket covers-all, and that doesn’t always work,” said Ted Boersma, who has a dairy farm near Cimarron.

According to the US Drought Monitor, 27 counties in western Kansas are still facing moderate or severe droughts. Southwest Kansas is hit the hardest.