116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES - New rules are in the works to more closely monitor how cities and industries extract water from the Jordan aquifer, a major well water source for most of Iowa.
The Iowa Environmental Protection Commission this week approved a formal Notice of Intended Action to amend state rules related to withdrawing water from the aquifer, which has a more formal title of the Cambrian-Ordovician aquifer.
The commission will hold three public hearings in April: April 8 in Coralville, April 9 in Des Moines and April 10 in Fort Dodge. The public comment period ends April 14.
The proposed new rules are the result of overuse of the aquifer, which extends under much of Iowa.
However, Todd Steigerwaldt, general manager of the Marion Water Department, said this week that nowhere in the state is the Jordan aquifer in a 'crisis.”
Steigerwaldt, who headed up a state-appointed, rules-writing Stakeholder Group, said the Iowa Department of Natural Resources has identified some 'concern.” He said the proposed new rules have identified metro areas in Linn and Johnson counties and around Fort Dodge in Webster County as spots to pay particular attention to.
'We're not running out of water, but there is a concern that there is a trend in certain areas and it could start to spread across the state,” Steigerwaldt said. 'Right now they want to watch it and get yearly reports on the status of it.”
Steigerwaldt said the city of Marion - which has five Jordan wells, and in 2013 got 92 percent of its water from them - has begun to take conservation steps by drilling new wells into the shallower, less-productive Silurian aquifer. Within two to three years, Marion hopes to be getting 20 to 25 percent of its water from the shallower wells, he said.
In the longer term, he said a growing Marion may have to look to the city of Cedar Rapids to provide some water. Cedar Rapids currently gets its water from shallow wells along and the Cedar River.
In Johnson County, the city of Coralville has two Jordan wells, four Silurian wells and three shallow wells, said Ellen Habel, assistant city manager. The city's two newest wells are Silurian wells, which are less costly to drill, she said.
'We also think it makes sense to diversify water sources,” Habel said.
Ed Moreno, Iowa City's water superintendent, said Iowa City has two Jordan aquifer wells, but the city doesn't use them very much because, like Cedar Rapids, it relies on alluvial wells along the river. The Jordan wells are in the state's new 'protected” area, but they are not subject to conservation requirements, Moreno said.
The proposed new rules for users of the Jordan aquifer will require those seeking new well permits in parts of Linn, Johnson and Webster counties to obtain them only from the Department of Natural Resources.
Bigger users of water from the aquifer can be required to adopt site-specific plans to reduce water taken from the aquifer and implement measures so that the aquifer can recover to sustainable levels.
For new wells drilled into the Jordan aquifer, the applicant must secure a water allocation permit before obtaining a well construction permit to ensure adequate water is available before the expense of a well is incurred.
The limit of 200-gallons-a-minute restriction for those who use water for irrigation, recreation and aesthetics remains as does the 2,000-gallon-a-minute restriction for industrial and generation users.
However, users of 25,000 gallons a day must obtain a water allocation permit.
Water can't be used for 'once-through” cooling or geothermal use except for geothermal if the withdrawn water is injected back into the aquifer.