U.S. Water News Online
DES MOINES, Iowa -- Communities across Iowa are preparing
for a long, dry summer by restricting the use of water.
Restaurants in Winterset have been asked to only serve water when
customers ask for it. Residents also have been asked by city
officials to conserve water, to avoid drastic rationing later.
A handwritten notice on the door of the city clerk's office in
Menlo asks the town's 350 residents to ``conserve water as much as
Officials in small communities have called the Iowa Rural Water
Association office in Newton for sample water conservation plans.
``I know there are a lot of small communities out there
suffering,'' executive director Mark Dickey said.
The dry weather also is affecting business.
Officials at Lakeside Casino Resort suspended daily riverboat
cruises because of low levels at West Lake in Osceola. The casino
remains open for gambling.
Most of the state is experiencing severe or moderate drought.
The period of Sept. 1 through May 1 was the second-driest
eight-month stretch in 128 years of record keeping, state
climatologist Harry Hillaker said. Just 9.53 inches of precipitation
has fallen, compared to the normal 16.54 inches.
The chance of replenishing lakes, rivers, and groundwater supplies
will diminish greatly if the state does not receive significant
rainfall soon, he said.
The North Raccoon River at Jefferson, the Des Moines River at
Ottumwa, and the Skunk River at Ames were at their lowest levels ever
for May 5, Hillaker said.
``After June 1, even in a normal year, we're usually losing more
water through evaporation than we're getting from rainfall,'' he
The conditions have captured the attention of state emergency
The last time the state experienced a severe drought -- in the
late 1980s -- the National Guard hauled water to parched towns in
``Our office is certainly trying to get information and trying to
get a feel for conditions around the state,'' Ellen Gordon, the
state's emergency management director, said.
In Menlo, three shallow wells have struggled to keep up with
demand. John Freeman, who is in charge of public works, said a water
line from nearby Stuart that is being completed will mean that the
town will not have to rely on additional rainfall.
Cedar Lake, which supplies Winterset with water, is more than 5
feet below normal.
Winterset Water Superintendent Dale Barrie, who has worked at the
water plant for 18 years, said this is the lowest level he has seen.
The only other time the lake dropped to this level was last fall, he
Utilities officials asked residents three months ago to
voluntarily conserve. They suggested repairing leaky faucets and
adding plastic containers to toilet tanks to reduce the amount of
water used for each flush.
They recently met with the city's largest water consumers to
develop contingency plans if conditions worsen.
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