Drought has exposed hazards on many reservoirs

PRATT -- While reservoirs in eastern portions of Kansas are currently holding water at normal levels, drought conditions across much of the rest of the state require that boaters be especially cautious. Large reservoirs in northcentral and northwestern Kansas range from 5 to 25 feet low, and continued irrigation and dry conditions will worsen without substantial rainfall. As a result, hazards such as tree stumps, old bridge frames, road beds, buildings, or rock ledges are now closer to the surface.

Under these conditions, boaters should keep a keen eye out for hazards because it is not possible to mark each one with a buoy. The most common boating-related claim reported to insurance companies is lower-end hull damage. Striking an object that is underwater can cause a boater to lose control of the boat. At this point, passengers or the operator could be ejected. In some cases, loss of control results in an accident with another boat. The following tips can lessen the chances of an accident:

  • it is the boater's responsibility to watch for hazards, no matter what the water conditions;
  • high or low water conditions will create hazards not seen when the lake is at normal level. Boaters who use the same lake daily are lulled into a false sense of security because they know the lake;
  • everyone in the boat should wear life jackets. Should they be ejected from the boat, the life jacket will help them survive. Many people killed in boating accidents nationwide drown because they were not wearing a life jacket;
  • do not drink and boat. Balance, coordination, judgment, and visual acuity are impaired by alcohol; and
  • slow down to allow time for a course correction if a hazard appears.

For more information on water conditions at Kansas lakes, phone the nearest state park office.