Poweshiek Water Assoc. asks members to conserve as drought continues

T-R PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER — Poweshiek Water Association’s Dysart water tower pictured on July 4.

TAMA COUNTY – As the drought in Iowa continues into the summer months – degrading soil moisture and reducing stream flows – the Poweshiek Water Association (PWA) recently issued an alert asking its customers including those in Tama County to conserve water.

“We are asking you to partake in conserving water in order to protect our water system,” PWA’s alert states. “This will help to ensure water is, and remains, available during the summer months and into the fall if the drought conditions persist.”

According to the Iowa Dept. of Natural Resources, the state faced a dry May that saw just over half of its normal rainfall for the entire month resulting in all of Iowa being placed in a ‘drought watch.’

At the same time, the United States Drought Monitor showed nearly all of the state in some form of drought or dryness. As of June 27, the National Drought Mitigation Center tagged most of Tama County as D1-Moderate Drought with the far northern tier of townships tagged slightly worse, D2-Severe Drought.

Poweshiek Water Association currently supplies water to 7,300 individual meters, serving 11 counties. In addition to rural Tama County residents, PWA supplies water to the cities of Dysart, Clutier, Chelsea, Elberon, and Vining, and the communities of Buckingham, Dinsdale, and Hickory Hollow.

The recent conserve water announcement was limited to those members that receive water from PWA’s Tama and Iowa County water treatment facilities. Those people affected received individual letters about the announcement.

“Not receiving rain throughout this late spring has allowed a constant heavy use of water through the agricultural spraying season without a break,” PWA’s alert further states. “Couple that with the higher temps and dryness and we have been going through a record number of gallons unlike we have ever seen which is greatly stressing our systems.”

The T-R reached out to PWA Executive Director Chad A. Coburn in the days following the conserve water alert being issued.

“This is the first time we have had to issue a conserve water announcement,” Coburn said in an email. “With the record amount of water being used this June, we know it is necessary based on what we learned in the drought of 2012.”

Using the U.S. Drought Monitor’s comparison tool, at this time back in 2012, the drought in Iowa was less severe than it is today but fast forward to early October 2012 and most of the state found itself in extreme drought including Tama County with parts of western Iowa showing exceptional drought.

“Rains typically give the system a periodic break for recovery through this time of year but unfortunately that is not happening,” PWA’s alert states.

Weekly precipitation totals in Iowa for the week of June 19 ranged from nothing at several monitoring stations to 3.60 inches in Cerro Gordo County, according to the Iowa Weather Summary by State Climatologist Justin Glisan, while Tama-Grundy Publishing’s own weather reporter Randy Cooper recorded 0.27 inches of rain in Toledo that same week, and another measly 0.30 inches the following week.

Hardly enough to extinguish the current drought conditions.

When asked how much rain would be necessary for PWA’s water system to return to ‘normal’ and the conserve water alert to be removed, Coburn said that was a difficult question to answer.

“I would expect that this measure will be in place for the next few months minimum depending on usage numbers. If we get people following through with conserving water as we have asked, then it is our hope nothing more stringent will need to be put in place.”

As part of the alert, PWA customers are asked to “refrain from watering your lawn, do not use water to fill your private swimming pool, do not use water to wash driveways, sidewalks or buildings or for non-essential cleaning of industrial equipment.”

In addition, area farmers are also being asked to fill their storage tanks at night for use the next day, and if spraying crops, to fill from private wells if at all possible – to ease the burden on the local water system.

When asked if the condition of the water distributed by PWA changes much as the wells are tapped down further, Coburn responded: “No it does not change with the output of the wells changing.”

Some local residents may wonder if a recent heavy downpour in their own backyards – however hyperlocal that may be – could have any effect on PWA’s water system, to which Coburn added: “The [recent] rain doesn’t change anything at this point. It is great to have though and it helps!”

For more ways to conserve water within your own home, PWA has a link on their website with specifics on how to do so: http://www.poweshiekwater.com.

The rural water association is also asking its members to police flush outs near their homes.

“The only people to operate those [flush outs] are PWA employees. Please report any suspicious activity to our office.”


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