Illinois Drought: Illinois Drought Task Force Meeting Minutes, July 22, 2005, Illinois State Water Survey

Illinois Drought


Summary of the Drought Response Task Force Meeting Number 2 - July 22, 2005


The Drought Response Task Force (DRTF) held its second meeting in the Board Room, IDNR Headquarters on Thursday, July 22, 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



Steve Chard

Chuck Hartke

Kim Janssen



Gene Beyer

Ray Pilapil



Jim Watts


IDO Employment Security

Dwayne Anderson

IEPA Public Water Supplies

Dave McMillan

Roger Selburg


Illinois Farm Bureau

Nancy Erickson

Dennis Vercler


Kane County Board

Mike Kenyon



Bob Cowles

Jerry Dalsin


IDNR Director’s Office

Leslie A. Sgro


IDNR Fisheries

Steve Pallo

IDNR State Water Survey

Vern Knapp

Ken Kunkel

Mike Palecki

Amy Russell

Bob Scott

Derek Winstanley


IDNR Water Resources

Gary R. Clark

Frank Pisani


Office of State Fire Marshall

J T Somer



Joe Alexander



Bob Holmes


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


Co-Chairs, Gary Clark and Roger Selburg convened this second 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 6 figures (maps and tables) of water and climate data which had been sent to DRTF representatives prior to the meeting. The recent rains since July 7 benefitted the southern and eastern portions of the state with above normal rainfall (2-4 inches) but the drought intensified across most of western and southern Illinois with rainfall amounts below normal. The U.S. Drought Monitor (July 19) classified an “extreme” drought status for Northern Illinois extending down to the Illinois River Valley, with most of the rest of Illinois classified to be in a “moderate” or “severe” drought. Derek stated that the State Water Survey defines two categories of drought, being “moderate” and “severe.” For the current 5-month drought period, precipitation below 52% of normal is classified as “severe” (status for Northern Illinois) and areas with precipitation between 52 and 67 percent of normal, as “moderate.” The March 1 - July 21 period ranks as the fifth driest period for Illinois since 1900 (105 years).

Derek stated that the past half century has been relatively drought free in this March-July period, in consideration of this drought and the 1988-89 drought, in comparison with the first half of the last century. Derek went over a table which showed the expected average precipitation over Illinois, expressed as percent of normal precipitation (using data from 1971-2000), for selected drought durations and return periods. For example, if this drought were to continue for a 12-month period, and the average precipitation over that period was measured at 59 percent of normal, then that drought would have a statistical return period of 25 years. If precipitation was measured at 48 percent of normal for the same 12-month period, then that drought could be considered to have a 100-year return period. For a drought lasting 60 months, the percent of average precipitation would be increase to 85 percent for a 25-year return period and 73 percent for a 100-year return period. Derek provided this information only as a means to better understand the significance and potential to experience longer-term droughts, and to properly plan for and evaluate the risks based on a higher probability of occurrence than what has happened in the last 50 (generally wet) years. The amount of average rainfall needed in Illinois during this time of year for the drought not to worsen is about one inch of rain per week


Soil moisture within the top 72 inches (potential row crop root zone) was less than 75% of normal at most sites with 50% of normal at some locations in central and northern Illinois. Shallow groundwater levels remain below average and there have been many instances of water hauling to supplement shallow (usually less than 100 feet) wells. Impacts to deeper aquifers are also occurring due primarily to increased pumpage. Groundwater levels in northwestern Illinois are at the lowest level than has ever been observed. Groundwater problems were also reported that morning in Kankakee and Iroquois counties. Derek mentioned that groundwater levels may begin to recover some as irrigation season begins to wind down in the next several weeks. Streamflows levels for roughly half of Illinois are in the “much below normal” category (lowest 10th percentile). The Kishwaukee and Green Rivers are near 10-year low flows.


Public water supply (PWS) reservoir levels are only slightly below normal for this time of year. Derek mentioned that PWS levels typically do not respond quickly to short droughts, and that acute concerns to water supply may not potentially begin to occur until the end of the calendar year in a continuing drought condition. Carlyle Lake and Lake Shelbyville are only about one-half foot below normal, but Rend Lake is near its lowest July level on record. Flow levels in the Mississippi have dropped substantially in the past 14 days, with the level at St. Louis dropped by half to 96,000 cfs. Navigation problems have typically occurred at around 70,000 cfs. The Illinois River is experiencing its lowest July flows on record, and water levels below the dams at 1-3 feet below normal. Lake Michigan is experiencing an unusual lack of recharge this time of year. Little significant drought relief is evident in the National Weather Service prediction out to 14 days.


Roger Selburg provided a 6-page Community Water Supply Drought Report detailing supply conditions and issues of the surface and groundwater public water systems they regulate, as reported by their six regional offices. Generally, ground and surface sources of water are reported to be adequate. However, Roger stated that a number of community water supplies are still encouraging water conservation in an attempt to decrease potable water production. 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). Roger went over the regional reports of the community water supply systems. Some groundwater system issues were reported in the Rockford region, with some systems experiencing decreasing well yields, distribution system restrictions, and well interference problems. Roger stated that they will continue to closely monitor those water supply systems which appear to be getting into trouble.


Bob Cowles reported that they have requested partnering agencies to advise them on new wells being installed. Normally, the IDPH issues about 7000 well permits a year. Last month, Bob mentioned that 7 counties had reported water hauling activities. Two new wells (1 domestic and 1 irrigation) have been put in since July 7. The regional public health offices will continue monitoring these activities.


Steve Chard provided a topsoil and crop conditions report for the period ending July 18th. The state average topsoil moisture report was 63 percent very short and 25 percent short. The corn crop condition is rated 55% very poor to poor and 32% rated as fair. The soybean crop was rated 36% very poor to poor and 45% fair. Steve mentioned that no livestock problems have been reported, but the Department is urging producers to address animal care. Pasture conditions vary around Illinois and some have continued to deteriorate. Correspondingly, there is an increase in the feeding of hay to livestock.


On July 11, Director Hartke submitted a request to the USDA-FSA State Office for the completion of Damage Assessment Reports (DAR’s) for all counties impacted by the drought. On July 20, the USDA-FSA submitted all requested DAR’s to the IDOA. These reports will be discussed in detail on Monday, July 25 at the USDA-FSA State Emergency Board Meeting. The IDOA continues to coordinate with the Governor’s Office and with state and federal agencies daily to make certain the disaster declaration process moves as quickly as possible. Joe Alexander of USDA-FSA added that USDA has released Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acreage in 48 counties for emergency grazing, effective immediately. Additional CRP acreage may be released for emergency haying after August 1. Emergency grazing or haying would result in a 25% reduction in CRP annual payment to the respective producer.


Steve Pallo reported some minor fish kills below the spillway at Lake Shelbyville. Steve also mentioned that they and are working with the IEPA on requiring a Quad-city nuclear power plant to monitor fish and mussel impacts on the Mississippi. There continues to be some reported fish kills in ponds as a result of oxygen depletion due to excessive algae and heat.


Gary Clark reported a number of issues resulting from low river flows. Pool 18 on the Mississippi had to be shut down to navigation due to the need to perform some emergency dredging. The Ameren Grand Tower power plant in southern Illinois is experiencing some water intake problems as the Mississippi has dropped about 5 feet in the last seven days. LS Power on the Low flows on the Illinois River are still being monitored for permit compliance by LS Power. Low flows on the Fox River are causing the need to balance recreational, water quantity and water quality releases from the Stratton Dam. There continues to be some significant drops in flow on the Rock River causing some hydro power issues.


Ray Pilapil stated there were four drought related incidents in the Chicago Metropolitan Area for investor-owned water utilities during this two week reporting period. Three of those incidents included water restrictions imposed on Illinois-American Water Company's customers by

outside communities from which the utility purchases Lake Michigan water. The fourth incident included water restrictions as a precautionary measure due to a large number of private wells in the

area. Both the ICC and the investor-owned utilities continue to closely monitor the drought situation for any effects on utility customers.


Gene Beyer said that they have been in contact with Com-Ed, Ameren and Mid-American Energy Company, and have received only minor reports of drought-related problems at generating stations whose operations are affected by low water levels or water temperature concerns. The ICC continues to work with organizations representing electric systems and rural electric cooperatives to gather information related to drought conditions. No problems were reported by those entities.


Jim Watts mentioned IEMA having conducted a table top exercise to address issues of Extreme Heat and Drought at theirJuly 6 Homeland Security/Emergency Management briefing with all the liaisons to the State Emergency Operations Center, which included those agencies on the DRTF. Jim stated that agencies should make sure agencies know their IEMA contacts.


JT Somer, from the Office of the State Fire Marshall, reported concerns with the availability of water (mostly related to water pressure) to meet fire flow needs. He also mentioned the serious threat and concern for brush land and crop fires due to the extreme dryness. He also mentioned the concern due to the additional stress this drought places on the 45,000 firefighters in Illinois. Roger Selburg mentioned that most communities have “mutual aid” agreements in-place to assist each other in times of need.


Bob Holmes provided several handouts depicting current streamflow conditions and statistics including a table comparing current flow, percentile flow, and 7Q10 flow conditions at USGS monitoring stations. Several stations showed new low flow records for that date. Bob mentioned that this information can be accessed from their website at any time to get real-time conditions.


Kane County Board member Mike Kenyon, read into the record a statement from Kane County Chairman Karen McConnaughay. On July 19, Chairman McConnaughay declared a state of emergency for the County of Kane due to the effects from an extreme drought in the northern Illinois area. The Kane County Farm Bureau predicts the corn yield potential has been reduced by 40%to as much as 60%, and soybean yield potential reduced by up to 20%-25%, resulting to a significant economic hardship to Kane County”s farming community.


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


In summary, the drought has worsened in the northern half of the state and agricultural issues have become an immediate concern. Gary Clark appreciated the attendance by the Office of the State Fire Marshall and the report given by Mike Kenyon of Kane County. The State is clearly experiencing stressed conditions. The DRTF encourages 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 Wednesday, August 3rd @ 1:30 p.m., IDNR Headquarters - 3rd Floor - Board Room.

Illinois Drought

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