October 01, 2022

New report shows 1.2 mil. Iowans in drought

Climate Check reports 2%, or seven days, of a typical year categorized as extremely hot. Through the first 11 days of August, Creston has seen six days reaching 93 degrees - the categorical mark for extremely hot in Iowa. Next week has three forecasted days over 93 degrees, the hottest being a predicted 97 degrees on Saturday.

The hot weather combined with a continued lack of precipitation has exacerbated the already dry conditions in Southwest Iowa. Portions of Union, Adams, Adair, Madison and Clarke counties have moved from moderate drought to severe drought over the last week.

Drought monitor states the following implications of severe drought:

Dryland corn has extremely low yields.

Commodity shortages are noted.

Livestock are stressed.

Fire danger is high.

Surface water levels are low.

Algae blooms increase.

Voluntary water conservation is requested.

The Iowa State Extension Office reports no rainfall in Creston so far in August, and only 0.02 inches of rain hitting Osceola this month. Rain is predicted for Tuesday Aug. 16 and Friday Aug. 19, but with weather nearing 100 degrees this weekend, residents should take steps to reduce fire hazard and conserve water.

Reducing Fire Hazard

The Creston Fire Department says while city residents can take steps to reduce the chance of fire, it’s rural homeowners and farmers that stand the greatest risk for fire.

When burning grass or brush piles, it’s important to be cognizant of the grass around the brush piles. If it is dead and dry, that’s going to provide extra fuel for fire.

Depending on the length of the drought, farmers are urged to use caution when baling hay since everything is going to be hot and dry. Blowing out combines for corn and bean dust will become a necessity to prevent fire.

Within city limits, backyard fires should be fine as long as the conditions aren’t overly windy and all wood stays in the fire ring or burn area.

Water Conservation

During a Creston Waterworks Board meeting Tuesday, General Manager Steve Guthrie said the water level at Three Mile and 12 Mile lakes has dropped. He said they are monitoring the conditions although the water level is not at risk. Noting historical records, he said the dry summer of 2012 was worse.

While water conservation may not be a necessity yet, steps can be taken to prevent the situation from worsening. The Southern Iowa Rural Water Association (SIRWA) provides the following tips for water conservation.

In the kitchen:

When washing dishes by hand, don’t let the water run while rinsing. Fill one sink with wash water and the other with rinse water.

Never run the dishwasher without a full load. This practice will save water, energy, detergent, and money.

Use a small pan of cold water when cleaning vegetables, rather than letting the water run over them. Then, collect the water you use for rinsing fruits and vegetables, and reuse it to water house plants.

Designate one glass for your drinking water each day or refill a water bottle. This will cut down on the number of glasses to wash.

In the bathroom:

Shorten your shower by a minute or two and you’ll save up to 150 gallons per month.

Turn off the water while brushing your teeth and save 25 gallons a month.

Take a shower instead of taking a bath. Showers with low-flow shower heads use less water than taking a bath.

Do not let the water run when washing hands. Water should be turned off while washing and scrubbing and be turned on again to rinse. A cutoff valve may be installed on the faucet.

Plumbing and Appliances:

Check all waterline connections and faucets for leaks. A slow drip can waste as much as 170 gallons of water each day, or 5,000 gallons per month, and will add to the water bill.

Insulate all hot water pipes to reduce the delays (and wasted water) experienced while waiting for the water to “run hot.”

Be sure the water heater thermostat is not set too high. Extremely hot settings waste water and energy because the water often has to be cooled with cold water before it can be used.

Use a moisture meter to determine when house plants need water. More plants die from over-watering than from being on the dry side.

Outdoors:

Water lawns early in the morning during the hotter summer months. Otherwise, much of the water used on the lawn can simply evaporate between the sprinkler and the grass.

To avoid excessive evaporation, use a sprinkler that produces large drops of water, rather than a fine mist. Sprinklers that send droplets out on a low angle also help control evaporation. Adjust sprinkler heads as necessary, to avoid waste, runoff and ensure proper coverage.

Set automatic sprinkler systems to provide thorough, but infrequent watering. Pressure-regulating devices should be set to design specifications. Rain shut-off devices can prevent watering in the rain.

Do not scalp lawns when mowing during hot weather. Taller grass holds moisture better. Grass should be cut fairly often, so that only 1/2 to 3/4 inch is trimmed off. A better looking lawn will result.

Use a watering can or hand water with the hose in small areas of the lawn that need more frequent watering (those near walks or driveways or in especially hot, sunny spots.)

Cheyenne Roche

CHEYENNE ROCHE

Originally from Wisconsin, Cheyenne has a journalism and political science degree from UW-Eau Claire and a passion for reading and learning. She lives in Creston with her husband and their two little dogs.