For the first time in five years, Kansas is embarking on the summer growing and recreational season without a single county under a drought watch.

The good news is hard-earned. Snowfalls exceeding 5 feet paralyzed western Kansas for weeks last winter, closed roads and stranded hungry cattle. Springtime brought floods that displaced hundreds of people.

Still, a break in the drought is most welcome. Farmers can plant their spring crops in moist soil and forestall the soaring energy costs required for irrigation. Boaters can enjoy reservoirs at full capacity for the first time in years.

"It lifts the spirits for a couple of months," said Wayne Bossert, manager of the groundwater management district for northwest Kansas.

Bossert monitors water levels in the Ogallala Aquifer, the vast underground reservoir that lies beneath parts of eight states. The winter snows and heavy rains have provided hope that the amount of water returned to the aquifer this year will exceed the amount pumped out. That last happened in 1993. Water levels have seen a net decline every year since.

One rainy season doesn't solve Kansas' long-term water problems. The governor and lawmakers must develop sound policies for conserving the aquifer's endangered water supply without crippling the state's agricultural economy.

That task is made more urgent by the increased demand for corn, a water-intensive crop already grown in abundance to sustain the feedlot industry. It now is being sought for ethanol production.

Climatologists think dry conditions will return quickly to the High Plains. That's all the more reason to think about conservation - even while enjoying replenished lakes and green fields.