Illinois Drought: Illinois Drought Task Force Meeting Minutes, August 18, 2005, Illinois State Water Survey

Illinois Drought


Summary of the Drought Response Task Force Meeting Number 3 - August 3, 2005


The Drought Response Task Force (DRTF) held its third meeting in the Board Room, IDNR Headquarters on Wednesday, August 3, 2005. The following were present at the meeting or participated by teleconference:


Governor’s Office

Kristin Richards


Lt. Governor’s Office

Marc Miller


CMS - Public Information

Gayle Simpson



Tom Jennings



Bill Johnson

Ray Pilapil




Jim Watts


IEPA Public Water Supplies

Dave McMillan

Roger Selburg


Kane County Health Dept.

Mary Lou England



Bob Cowles

Jerry Dalsin

Gary Flentge


IDNR Director’s Office

Joel Brunsvold

IDNR Fisheries

Steve Pallo


IDNR State Water Survey

Vern Knapp

Amy Russell

Bob Scott

Derek Winstanley


IDNR Water Resources

Gary R. Clark

Frank Pisani



Bob Holmes


Several representatives from the PRESS were also present during the meeting.


Co-Chairs, Gary Clark and Roger Selburg convened this third DRTF meeting at 1:30 p.m with attendees introducing themselves and the agency/division they represent.


Derek Winstanley provided a 3-page drought summary report referencing 8 figures (maps and tables) of water and climate data which had been sent to DRTF representatives prior to the meeting. Since the July 22 DRTF meeting precipitation amounts of 1-2 inches fell over northern Illinois and less than 1 inch in southern Illinois. Statewide precipitation in July was 93% of normal, but there were large regional differences. The U.S. Drought Monitor (July 26) classified an “extreme” drought status for northern and northwestern Illinois extending into northeastern Missouri, with most of the rest of Illinois classified to be in a “moderate” or “severe” drought. An area straddling the Illinois River has a deficit of more than 9 inches of precipitation. The March through July period ranks as the 6th driest period for Illinois since 1895.


Derek reiterated that the past half century has been relatively drought free and 8 out of the 10 driest March-July periods occurred in the first 42 years of record, from 1895 to 1936. Derek stated that this change in frequency of drought is part of a long-term change in natural climatic conditions, but that we do not know what the future trend will be.


Moisture in the top 72 inches of soil was less than 75% of normal at most sites, with less than 50% of normal in most areas from northeast Illinois across to St. Louis. Groundwater levels in shallow wells fell approximately 1 foot since June and remain about 1.7 feet below the 15-year mean. Some private wells have gone dry in northern and northwestern Illinois. Streamflows in the north-central portion of the State are at record lows while streamflows in east-central Illinois are at normal to above normal levels. The Kishwaukee River is experiencing its lowest flows on record, the Green River is experiencing its lowest flows (regardless of season) since 1976, and the Little Wabash River had its lowest July flows on record. Of the 35 public water supply (PWS) reservoirs monitored by the State Water Survey (representing roughly one-third of all PWS reservoirs), 28 were below normal (full) pool, with an average of 1.3 feet below normal pool. Lakes Bloomington, Canton, Altamount and Paradise (located in various parts of central Illinois) were more than 2 feet below normal. Rend Lake is experiencing its third lowest July level on record. The Mississippi has not changed much since the last meeting (about 100,000 cfs at St. Louis). Navigation problems have typically occurred at around 70,000 cfs. The Illinois River experienced its lowest July flow on record, due to a combination of the drought and a reduction in Lake Michigan water diversion in recent years. Lake Michigan is 1.4 feet below normal and is 1.4 feet above the record level set for August, set in 1964.


Derek stated that Illinois normally receives about 1 inch of rainfall per week in August. The climate outlook shows that on August 4 a cold front will bring a chance of precipitation, but is not expected to be a huge rainmaker. The Climate Prediction Center (CPC) forecast for August calls for normal probabilities for temperature and precipitation.


Roger Selburg stated that they are in the process of changing the format of their reports which will identify both the “full pool” level and the “current level.” Roger said that there was nothing really new to report. Almost all PWS systems in the northeastern region (except for those using Lake Michigan source water) are operating under some sort of water restriction plan. Aurora is augmenting their surface water withdrawals with their groundwater supplies. The primary concern for community water supply systems remains their ability to meet the demands consumers are placing on distribution system, with the principle problem continuing to be the result of irrigation demands (e.g., lawn watering).


Gary Flentge provided comparison data reports for 2004 and 2005 comparing the number of wells permitted and installed for the period of April through July. Lake County issued nine permits to replace or deepen existing wells that were adversely affected by the drought. Significant increases in the number of wells installed were seen in Grundy, Kankakee, LaSalle and Tazewell Counties, but these increases were primarily driven by new home construction. There were reports of lowering pumps in some areas of northern Illinois due to the drop in groundwater levels and pumps breaking suction. There were reports of water hauling in Clay, Fayette, Logan and Sangamon Counties.


Tom Jennings stated that on July 27, USDA Secretary Mike Johanns responded to the Governor’s disaster request. The USDA-FSA State Office notified 8 counties which were declared “contiguous to” to update their Damage Assessment Reports (DAR’s) if so interested. There is a possibility the continuing drought has caused additional crop damage and may move those counties from “contiguous to” to “primary” counties. The state average topsoil moisture report improved from the last report with 52% very short, 37% percent short and 11% adequate. The corn crop condition is unchanged with 55% rated very poor to poor, 32% rated fair and 13% good. The soybean crop was rated 34% very poor to poor, 43% fair, and 23% good to excellent. Tom mentioned that soybean producers have found it necessary to spray for insects as they are finding infestations of aphids and spider mites. No soybean rust has been spotted in Illinois. Tom mentioned that it is very difficult to quantify the amount of crop damage, and that harvest will have to tell the story. Pasture conditions are rated 43% very poor, 31% poor, 19% fair and 7% good. The FSA has freed up Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acreage in some of the worst counties to allow for haying and grazing. A plan must be submitted to the FSA prior to exercising this option.


Steve Pallo is expecting fish kills due to the continued heat and drought, especially with gizzard shad which are very heat sensitive. Steve stated that paddlefish kills in the 4 to 8 pound range have occurred on the Ohio River near its confluence with the Wabash. Paddlefish are sensitive to high temperature (high 80's to low 90's) and low dissolved oxygen levels. Several samples have been sent off for detection of viral problems or bacterial infection, since the effects appear to be indicative of some type of disease. No paddlefish kills have been noted on the Mississippi or Illinois Rivers. Steve also mentioned that in his routine contact with Exelon that they report water temperatures in the mid-90's at their water intakes.


Gary Clark reported a number of issues resulting from low river flows. Pool 18 on the Mississippi had some problems but has recovered. The COE has had to perform some emergency dredging in some areas to prevent navigation problems. Gary stated that OWR continues to work on water level controls and hydropower issues. Fox River flows are monitored hourly to provide for a proper balance of recreational, water quantity and water quality release considerations in operation of the gates at Algonquin and McHenry. Inflow into the Chain-of-Lakes was estimated at 150 cfs and releases of 160 cfs were being made into the Fox River, with the minimum release being 94 cfs. Gary mentioned the sensitivity of conditions (such as wind shift effects on the gated structures) which can cause sharp changes in releases and river flows. The OWR has received several calls about the State’s authority and enforcement powers regarding water withdrawals. Gary briefly discussed the common rights/public rights/reasonable use issues under common law and the lack of authority for enforcement. In most cases the only action may be to go to court to resolve the issue.


Ray Pilapil stated there were no new drought related incidents for Illinois-American and Aqua Illinois this reporting period; however, the ones from previous reporting periods were still in place. There were no new drought-related incidents for Utilities, Inc to report. Both the ICC and the investor-owned water utilities continue to closely monitor the drought situation for any effects on utility customers.


Ray reported the following information from Gene Beyer: Electric Coop Association reported no significant drought related problems at generating stations; IL Municipal Electric Association reported no impacts; Ameren is in good shape, and their Grand Tower facility has filed for a dredge permit with the DNR; Com-Ed has nothing to report; and, Mid-American reported no drought-related problems.


Jim Watts stated that IEMA has received no requests for assistance and there were no drought-related issues brought up at their monthly homeland security meeting. Jim brought up a discussion regarding the ability to impose water use restrictions sooner rather than later. Roger Selburg stated that the IEPA has no authority to impose water use restrictions. Roger added that PWS’s have water use restrictions and have been very responsive to inform their customers and stated that over 95% of the PWS’s serving over 3300 customers have an emergency response plan.


Mary Lou England, Kane County Public Health Administrator, provided a discussion on the need for better informational exchange. She mentioned that authority is a problem and that development is the real issue in the future. This spawned a discussion which led to a decision to incorporate a section for “frequently asked questions” and a listing of “technical contacts” for placement on the State Water Survey Drought webpage.


Marc Miller brought up a discussion on the need for identifying water conservation measures. It was mentioned that Gayle Simpson and Jeri Knaus would work on addressing this issue.


Bob Holmes had previously sent to DRTF representatives drought tables and information. Bob mentioned that the Illinois River at Henry and at Marseilles was experiencing new record low flows.


Detailed agency reports concerning the drought are available on the State Water Survey website at


In summary, the drought issues remain and the State is clearly experiencing stressed conditions. Kristin Richards thanked everyone for their assistance in addressing these issues. The DRTF continues to encourage voluntary water conservation measures. The agencies should continue to closely monitor the drought and provide weekly updates to Gary Clark and Roger Selburg. The next DRTF meeting is scheduled for Friday, August 26th @ 1:30 p.m., IDNR Headquarters - 3rd Floor - Board Room.

Illinois Drought

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