SPRINGFIELD – In an effort to weather current drought conditions, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today directed state agencies to conserve water and asked for a similar effort from all Illinoisans. After the tenth driest month of June on record in Illinois, public water supplies are stressed and some private shallow wells are experiencing a decline in water levels.
In response to continuing drought conditions, one week ago the Governor activated the Drought Response Task Force. Made up of experts from the Illinois Water Survey, Illinois Department of Natural Resources Water Resource Management, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, the Illinois Department of Agriculture, the Illinois Department of Public Health, and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, the team will monitor drought conditions and plan necessary responses, should emergency situations develop.
“During this time of drought, we will all have to make sacrifices,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “I convened the Drought Response Task Force to evaluate the state’s water resources so that the appropriate water conservation efforts can be implemented.”
Gov. Blagojevich directed state agencies to be conservative when watering lawns and washing state vehicles. In addition, he has asked Drought Response Task Force to look at potential conservation measures in state buildings. For instance, the Illinois EPA is evaluating some creative approaches to conserving water, including water free urinals and automatic shutoffs on sinks.
Continued large water demands are taxing available water production and distribution systems. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has been working with public water supply operators across the state and they report excellent cooperation from their customers. However, during these times, it will be difficult for public water supplies to provide quantities of water that people are accustomed to using. Public water operators have been reaching out to their customers making recommendations on conservation. Others have instituted mandatory water restrictions.
“If consumers do not conserve, there may be shortages due to drops of pressure, said Illinois EPA Director Doug Scott. “We have required public water supplies in some communities to institute boil orders due to low water pressure.”
If water pressure falls below 20 PSI, or pounds per square inch, there is a risk for backflow of water that brings contaminants with it. Water available for fire protection uses could also be compromised due to the low pressure.
Crops are also facing problems and rain will be needed within the next several weeks to ensure a satisfactory harvest.
As a member of the Drought Task Force, the Illinois Department of Public Health has reached out to the local health departments throughout the state to assess how non-community water supplies and private well owners are being impacted by the drought.
“We are asking local health departments to notify the Department about private wells going dry, the increases in permits for deepening or constructing new water wells, the water hauling situation, and possible water quality problems that may be attributed to the drought in an effort to stay ahead of the moderate drought situation,” said Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director.
The information collected will serve as a guide toward implementing water conservation measures in a timely manner. Local health departments are also being advised to remind private well owners of water use conservation practices.
Precipitation across the state has ranged from 4 to 10 inches below normal since March 1.
“Historically, dry March through June periods did not increase the likelihood for below normal precipitation in July and August, but temperatures for the rest of the summer were more likely to be above normal,” says State Climatologist Jim Angel of the Illinois State Water Survey a division of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
“Even if precipitation in July and August this year is near normal, recovering from current conditions will be difficult because those months are when crop demand for soil moisture peaks. For example, the most significant deterioration in corn and soybeans occurred in July 1988 as soil moisture reserves were depleted, and temperatures routinely climbed into the 90s. We could have similar difficulties this year if dry weather continues,” says Angel.
The Task Force will meet on July 7 to assess such things as soil moisture, groundwater levels, lake levels and crop conditions.
· Don’t water vegetation during the heat of the day
· Use a broom, not a hose for outdoor cleaning
· Don’t play with the hose or sprinkler
· Check faucets and pipes for leaks
· Turn water off while shaving, brushing teeth, etc.
· Take shorter showers or take a bath in a partially filled tub
· Use dishwashers and washing machines only when full and don’t pre-rinse unless necessary
· When washing dishes by hand, don’t let the rinse water run
· Car washing should be kept to a minimum and water used only sparinglyCut lawns higher in hot months to conserve soil moisture