Iowa’s Drought Preparations



3487433937_0b800a7d17As we have been clearing snow from the recent snow storms there is a silver lining, much needed moisture! Clean water is a precious commodity throughout the world and Iowa is fortunate to have an ample supply in most years. Iowans recognize the vital role that water plays in growing the economy and feeding the world. That is why the 2012 drought was particularly hard to stomach, as it affected everything from business and agriculture to municipal water supplies. Droughts have adverse effects on our state, and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and the Department of Natural Resources work diligently each year to provide accurate precipitation predictions.

Last year statewide precipitation was about nine inches below normal and the state experienced one of the worst droughts in half a century. The DNR is predicting that in 2013 Iowa will have another situation during which demand for water exceeds supply, hopefully the recent storm and rains will continue; however it is important for Iowa to be appropriately prepared for a natural disaster of this sort.

Although never previously used, the Iowa DNR has in place a water permit system to assure water rights in times of drought. The permits are tied to land ownership and are needed if an excess of 25,000 gallons of water a day is extracted from streams and aquifers. The DNR takes into consideration the effect on the natural flow and the river’s established average minimum flow. During drought, priority permits may be obtained for rural and municipal water systems, livestock producers, traditional crop producers, producers of power generation and commercial and industrial facilities.

Decisions about water allocation and control take place at the local level. DNR scientists have worked to make resources available for municipalities and are at the ready to consult and provide input. Iowa Code states that all waters are considered public waters and a public wealth of Iowa citizens. Waste and unreasonable methods of water use are prevented by the DNR. Protecting Iowa water and ensuring its availability is of vital importance and widely embraced.

Photo Credit: Bert Kaufman via Flickr (CC-by-3.0)