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DROUGHT DILEMMA: Preparing For Long Term

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The crops are coming out of the fields, but the effects of this summer's drought are still being felt and seen across the state.

People fishing at Saylorville Lake, said they normally are dealing with too much water at this point. But this year, it’s the complete opposite. Many have never seen the levels as low as they are now. And it’s not just Iowa lakes with these problems. Some of the rivers across the state are completely dried up in some places. The Skunk River near Ames, for example, is hardly recognizable. Where there should be water, there is just sand, dirt and debris. Iowa water experts say it’s unusual, but not unheard of to be as low as this year. It’s the later consequences that have them worried.

“If this weather pattern continues we might have to go into water conservation plan stage earlier than last year,” said Gary Benjamin, the Assistant General Manager and Director of Engineering Services, at Des Moines Water Works.

Since they can’t control the weather, Des Moines Water Works is working with what they can control: preparing and filling the storage areas they have available.

“One problem we could have is once the ice starts forming how thick does that ice get? That creates a problem for us, so we are looking at our river intake,” said Benjamin.

Because of the efforts being done by the Army Corps of Engineers, much of that river intake is steady right now, but the question is, how long can they keep that up? Already they are letting go more than twice the amount of water they are letting in.

“The lake has been dropping roughly a foot to a foot and a half a month, so if that continues we'll have a few months before we get to a significantly low level,” said Marvin Morris, said the Assistant Manager with the U.S. Corp. of Army Engineers at Saylorville Lake, “we kind of take water for granted, it's sometimes looked at like a bad thing, especially in the flood years, but water is essential.”