Iowa may curtail water use if drought worsens, DNR director warns

Iowa Code includes 'weak' language on water priorities, Gipp says

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Iowa’s top natural resources officer is warning that water usage could be curtailed if drought conditions – severe in some places -- worsen later this year.

A Hydrology Working Group formed by his agency and others is monitoring groundwater, surface water and stream flows, Department of Natural Resources Director Chuck Gipp said Jan. 23.

“We’ll have to watch that and caution people about water usage when the time comes,” said Gipp, a former lawmaker who met with the House and Senate Natural Resources committees.

Gipp’s goal was not to scare lawmakers or the public, he said, “but we want to caution people that we are still in the middle of a drought, and we have stream segments way below normal flow.”

There is no “river” in the Skunk River at Ames, he said, and there is no water coming over the weir at Milford Creek, the outflow from the Iowa Great Lakes in northwest Iowa.

The DNR also found language in the Iowa Code – fairly weak language, Gipp said – that makes a recommendation about which water users get cut off first if you have a “water situation.”

“Obviously, the first in that protocol is out-of-state water users,” Gipp said. “Then it’s lesser priority things like crops and then organic crops and then its livestock and, obviously, the last entity to get cut off is people.”

The DNR, he added, has the ability to reduce the amount water taken by various “lower-echelon users.”

“We are required to allow enough water to go past that particular user to make sure there is sufficient water for the downstream user – if we can,” Gipp said.

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