DES MOINES — The heat is on in Iowa with nearly 90 percent of the state experiencing some degree of drought, according to the latest update issued by a coalition of state and federal agencies.
Tim Hall, coordinator of hydrology resources for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, reported Thursday that precipitation for May in the state averaged more than an inch below normal for the month. Likewise, stream flows are dropping, soil moisture is low and shallow groundwater conditions are a concern in several areas, with Thursday temperatures topping 90 for much of Iowa, he noted.
"Below average rainfall in May and for the start of June has pushed all of the drought indicators lower,” Hall noted. “Some water utilities are beginning to implement voluntary and mandatory water conservation measures, and with demand for water increasing with warmer weather, restrictions could become more widespread. Regular June and July rainfall of an inch or more per week is needed to reverse this trend."
Along with nearly 90 percent of Iowa experiencing some degree of dryness or drought, Hall said the most recent U.S. Drought Monitor map shows 32 percent of the state was rated as abnormally dry, 47 percent was rated as in moderate drought and 10 percent was rated as severe drought. Only southeastern Iowa currently was free of abnormally dry and drought conditions, he said.
According to Iowa’s latest water summary, rainfall in the second week of May brought some much-needed relief — especially to the southern third of Iowa, where about 15 percent of abnormally dry conditions were resolved.
But with warmer and drier conditions building during the first part of June and below-average rainfall over the last seven to 10 days, Hall said drought conditions significantly expanded across the northern two-thirds of Iowa with additional expansion into southern Iowa.
Iowa’s statewide average precipitation totaled 3.71 inches in May, or 1.13 inches below normal. Monthly precipitation totals ranged from 1.95 inches in Akron to 8.53 inches near West Point in Lee County. The statewide average temperature was 59 degrees, which was nearly one degree cooler than normal.
Stream-flow conditions across about half of Iowa are classified as “below normal.” The Skunk, Des Moines, Raccoon, Floyd, Little Sioux, Nishnabotna and the Cedar River basins have below normal flow, while portions of the Raccoon and Des Moines river basins have much below normal flow. Based on monthly studies, drought conservation measures of reduced water flow for navigation on the Missouri River will be enacted July 1, according to Army Corps of Engineers forecasts.
The monthly water summary report — available at iowadnr.gov/WaterSummaryUpdate — is prepared by technical staff from Iowa’s DNR, Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the University of Iowa’s IIHR — Hydroscience and Engineering and the U.S. Geological Survey, in collaboration with Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Department.