Topsoil Looks Muddy, But Drought Continues Under The Frost

drought 3-2013Northwest Iowa — Even though there’s certainly enough mud to go around in northwest Iowa, the fact remains, we are still in extreme to exceptional drought, according to the US Drought monitor.

In fact, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ latest Water Summary Update, many streams in northwest Iowa continue to be dry, and there are some reports of private wells failing or being unable to meet the water demand.

What’s called a “concrete frost” situation exists across northern Iowa, especially north of U.S. Highway 20. The concrete frost extends north into southern Minnesota. In these areas, rainfall in December and January has resulted in the top layer of ground being frozen nearly solid. Until the ground thaws in that region, more runoff than
normal will occur from snowmelt or rainfall. The result may be river flooding or even flash flooding.

Water supplies, private wells, and anyone using shallow aquifers should have a contingency plan in place for other sources. Iowa DNR water supply programs are working with communities to review and update water conservation plans in advance of the summer months.

Fisheries staff predicted that low water conditions and a lack of drainage tile flow would lead to an increased probability of significant winterkills on the natural lakes and farm ponds, but with winter coming to an end, conditions are better than expected.

Many of the largest drainage tiles entering some of the natural lakes have dried up. In many cases local residents indicate that this is the first time some of these tiles have had no flow.

Shallow groundwater levels across most of Iowa are at or near seasonal and historic lows. Northwest Iowa and parts of southwest Iowa are one to three feet lower than last summer’s static water levels. Sioux, Palo Alto, Osceola and Crawford counties are especially hard hit. Static water levels have improved slightly in northeast, southeast and north-central Iowa compared to last summer, but are still two to eight feet lower than March 2012. Static water levels in the sand and gravel aquifers along the Ocheyedan, west fork of the Des Moines, Floyd, Boyer and Rock
rivers are at seven-year lows.

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