Despite an abnormally wet start to the year, The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has finalized a drought plan for use by local, county, state agencies and governments in the event of droughts in the state.
The U.S Drought Monitor shows conditions in the start of 2023 have moved Union County out of drought concern. February received nearly an inch more of precipitation than average for the month, making it the 10th wettest February on record in the last 129 years. Similarly, the first two months of the year were 1.68 in. above average precipitation amounts and is listed as the ninth wettest.
The National Weather Service reports 2023 rainfall in Creston to be 3.55 in. compared to last year’s 0.66 in. over the same time period.
However, Iowa’s Woodbury and Monona counties have areas of exceptional and extreme drought extending into Nebraska. Plymouth County has areas reported to have received less than 0.1 in. of rain this year.
The Iowa Drought Plan was developed in partnership with the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. The plan aims to provide the state with an approach to prepare for, identify, respond to and recover from a drought.
“Just as we must be prepared for floods, tornadoes and winter storms, we also must be prepared for the impacts of drought in Iowa,” said John Benson, director of the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. “The Iowa Drought Plan, the result of a collaboration between state agencies and a broad range of stakeholders throughout Iowa, is the blueprint we will use to ensure the state is able to address the challenges of drought preparedness, response and recovery.”
Droughts pose serious challenges to Iowa and many of its industries including agriculture and manufacturing, threatening the health of its residents and the state’s environment and economy. The plan will provide statewide drought condition evaluations and will give stakeholders and the public information on risk assessment and mitigation measures.
“This plan should provide a way to better communicate drought conditions to Iowans and allow for a consistent response across our state by multiple agencies,” said DNR Hydrology Resources Coordinator Tim Hall.
The plan designates five drought regions for the state, since different areas of the state vary in drought vulnerability due to groundwater resources and rainfall totals. Each region’s condition will be evaluated using four drought categories: Normal, drought watch, drought warning or drought emergency.
Drought levels will be determined based on precipitation, the Standardized Precipitation Index, which is based on accumulated rainfall over time, the U.S. Drought Monitor and a standardized streamflow index, which compares current streamflow to the historical record.
“After three years of widespread drought conditions across the state, we have fortunately started to see improvements due to a more active weather pattern,” said Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig. “Because Iowa did not have a plan before the start of our current drought, the Iowa Drought Plan was developed to be forward-looking and aimed at improving and standardizing our response across agencies in state government. Iowa farmers and agricultural stakeholders were asked to provide feedback at several in-person and virtual meetings last year and we believe the Iowa Drought Plan encompasses their valuable input.”
More information and the full plan can be found online at IowaDNR.gov.
Iowa DNR contributed to this story