SPRINGFIELD – Activated by Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich on June 26th, the Illinois Drought Response Task Force met today to report on the state’s condition after weeks of drought. Climatologists report that since March, the state has only received about half as much rain as it normally does. The Governor directed state agencies, top scientists, and policymakers in Illinois to use all available state resources to minimize the impact of dry conditions on the Illinois economy, and the health and safety of state citizens.
“What Illinois really needs is rain. But, until we get it, my administration continues to do everything it can to help Illinoisans through these times of drought,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “Our experts are monitoring the situation around the state from the water supply to the condition of our crops. In the meantime, I once again remind you to be conservative in the water that you use.”
Members of the task force include 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, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, the Illinois Commerce Commission, and the U.S. Geological Society. A web site with updated drought and water conservation information can be accessed at http://www.sws.uiuc.edu/hilites/drought.
Researchers from the Illinois State Water Survey reported today that it is probable that the drought in Central, North Central, and Northeastern Illinois will continue to worsen. Data analyzed by state climatologists indicates precipitation levels have been about 50% of normal statewide since March. Soil moisture, river flow and shallow groundwater levels continue to decline.
“The best chance of significant rainfall in the next two weeks will be from Hurricane Dennis, which is currently in the Caribbean,” said Dr. Derek Winstanley, Chief of the Illinois State Water Survey. “Our current precipitation deficit can be traced to a weaker than normal flow of southerly moist air from the Gulf of Mexico, combined with high pressure over the region.”
Rainfall in the coming weeks is critical to Illinois crops, including corn, soybeans, winter wheat, oats and alfalfa. The Illinois Department of Agriculture today reported restriction of crop growth and stress continues to be an issue with the lack of precipitation across the state. Although some areas received rain in recent days, the quantities were variable and not enough to replenish soil moisture. Most areas are still in desperate need of rain to unroll corn leaves and get soybeans blooming. The state average topsoil moisture was 57 percent very short, 34 percent short, 8 percent adequate and 1 percent surplus.
"Although not yet critical, farmers are facing a very serious situation with current conditions," Agriculture Director Chuck Hartke said. "We are monitoring the weather patterns in all areas of the state and if our farmers don't see some significant rain in the next few weeks, we are prepared to work with the federal government to obtain financial assistance to offset the severe economic losses the producers will inevitably face."
If conditions worsen, the Governor may be able to issue a disaster declaration. Such a declaration would make federal financial aid available to some of those affected by the ongoing drought.
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency co-chairs Governor Blagojevich’s Drought Response Task Force. IEPA responsibilities include providing data on public water supplies and identifying at-risk water systems. A number of cities across Illinois have already implemented water use restrictions, including communities in the Chicago, East St. Louis, Rockford, and Peoria metropolitan areas. Gov. Blagojevich also instructed all state agencies to conserve water.
“The IEPA’s primary concern is that the increased water usage caused by these dry conditions are taxing our public water supplies’ ability to treat water at adequate levels,” said Roger Selburg, P.E., Manager, Division of Public Water Supplies. “Already, since Gov. Blagojevich activated the task force, we have seen excellent effort at conservation by Illinoisans.”
The Illinois Department of Public Health is gathering information from the 95 local health departments statewide. Of special concern are Illinois residents who depend on well water.
“As of July sixth, the department has received reports concerning wells going dry, or shallow water wells, and several counties have resorted to water hauling for their private wells,” said Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director. “We are keeping close tabs on the situation, with the help of our partners at the local health departments, so that we can best address the needs of the communities.
Task Force member U.S. Geological Society has begun conducting special streamflow measurements at strategic locations around Illinois, to provide data that will assist local, state, and federal agencies as they plan for and mitigate the impacts of the current drought. Daily and 7-day average measurements indicate below normal flow, with six reporting stations documenting record low flow.
“How the streams of Illinois flow is a key to predicting how water supplies statewide are impacted,” said Dr. Robert R. Holmes, Jr., PhD., P.E., of the U.S. Geological Survey. “From the fish that live in the rivers and streams, to the water companies they supply, to ultimate destinations like the Illinois River and Lake Michigan, what happens to the streams is an indicator of what might happen to the overall water supply in Illinois.”
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources today reported how the drought is impacting aquatic life. Fish kills were recorded within the past week in small ponds and streams, as well as at cooling lakes serving nuclear power plants at LaSalle and Braidwood. Low water levels combined with heat have reduced oxygen saturation levels in water, leading to the deaths of the fish. IDNR
fisheries experts will continue to monitor changes in fish population. Additionally, they recommend owners of small ponds monitor the growth of duckweed, which can reduce oxygen levels in water even further.
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency suggests state residents make a conscious effort to conserve water while doing everyday tasks. IEPA recommends that everyone should always be mindful of their everyday usage and conserve water to the maximum extent possible.
Illinois State Water Survey, Department of Natural Resources
- The drought in Illinois is part of a band of drought extending south from Lake Michigan, across Illinois, and through Eastern Missouri, Arkansas, and Southeastern Texas.
- Lake Michigan is currently 1.4 feet below normal. Its level has remained unchanged since mid-May, whereas typically, it would rise 0.4 feet during that period in an average year.
- The Ohio River has below normal flow for this time of year, as impacted by dry conditions in the watershed from Illinois to Pennsylvania
- The Illinois River experienced one of its lowest total June flows on record.
- Above normal temperatures in June, especially in Northern Illinois, exacerbated the effects of below normal precipitation.
- The period of March, April, May, and June is the third driest since records began in 1895. Precipation is 7.5 inches below the state average of 15.5 inches. Precipitation is 56% below normal in the North Central region, and 36 % below normal in the South.
- The Illinois Water Survey records monthly level readings on 35 public water supply reservoirs in Illinois. 30 of those monitored had water levels below their normal pool.
Illinois Department of Agriculture
· The average corn height increased to 56 inches, compared to 67 inches at this time last year, and 54 inches five-year average.
· Corn silked is at 20 percent, compared to 43 percent last year, and 17 percent five-year average.
· The corn crop condition is rated 37 percent very poor to poor, 38 percent fair, and 25 percent good to excellent.
· Soybeans blooming reached 29 percent, 11 points ahead of the five-year average of 18 percent blooming.
· The soybean crop was rated 27 percent very poor to poor, 48 percent fair, and 25 percent good to excellent.
· Oats are 66 percent turning yellow, compared to 49 percent last year, and 39 percent five-year average.
· Oats are 25 percent ripe and 10 percent harvested.
Illinois Department of Public Health and Illinois Environmental Protection Agency recommended conservation measures:
· 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