Illinois Drought: Illinois Drought Task Force Meeting Minutes, March 22, 2006, Illinois State Water Survey

Illinois Drought


Summary of the Drought Response Task Force Meeting Number 7 - March 22, 2006


The Drought Response Task Force (DRTF) held its seventh meeting in the Board Room, IDNR Headquarters on Wednesday, March 22, 2006.  The following were present at the meeting or participated by teleconference:


Governor’s Office

Matt Schmidt



Warren Goetsch


CMS Communications

Chris Herbert (IDOA)

Chris McCloud (IDNR)


Bill Johnson


IEPA Public Water Supplies

Roger Selburg



IDNR Fisheries

Steve Pallo

IDNR State Water Survey

Jim Angel

Mike Palecki

Bob Scott

Derek Winstanley

IDNR Water Resources

Gary R. Clark

Frank Pisani


Jerry Dalsin


Gary Johnson



Co-Chairs, Gary Clark and Roger Selburg convened the DRTF meeting at 10:00 a.m. with attendees introducing themselves and the agency/division they represent.


Derek Winstanley provided a 5-page drought summary report referencing 15 figures (maps and tables) of water and climate data which had been sent to DRTF representatives prior to the meeting.  Derek stated the drought in Illinois is part of a large persistent regional band being caused by a weaker than normal flow of moisture air from the Gulf of Mexico.  Moderate to severe drought extends throughout the southern two-thirds of Iowa and much of Missouri with more serious drought concerns in Texas and the southern High Plains and the southwest into Arizona.  Precipitation departures for the period from March 1, 2005 to March 20, 2006 are more than 14 inches below normal in parts of northern and western Illinois.  Statewide, average Illinois precipitation for March 2005 through February 2005 ranks as the third driest period in the last 110 years and the driest period in the last 75 years.  Derek restated his message that the frequency of drought was much greater in the first half of the last century, which most of us did not experience.  With respect to the nine climate divisions in Illinois, five divisions are within the top four driest for this period, with southern Illinois having benefited last year from the remnants of four tropical storms.


The largest deficits in soil moisture are in an area extending from Peoria to De Kalb to the quad-cities, mostly occurring within the 20 to 72 inch soil layer.  These soil deficits are also contributing to low streamflows.  Groundwater level data in February showed lower levels than the previous year for 16 of the17 wells monitored statewide.  The well in Greenfield recorded the lowest level of record.  Average streamflows varied greatly in the State from extreme low conditions in northwestern Illinois to much above average flows in the southern and east-central parts of the State.  Average streamflow percentiles less than 5% (being <5% of the years on record having experienced lower flows) for the March 1st to March 21 occurred in the core area of the drought (Spoon River, Green River, Bureau Creek) and are expected to have their 2nd lowest flows on record (70-90 years of record).  The Ohio River, Illinois River and the Mississippi River upstream of the Missouri River confluence, are all experiencing fairly normal flow conditions.  The extremely low seasonal flows on the Missouri River are resulting in below normal flows on the Mississippi below the confluence.  Lake Michigan is 0.7 feet lower than one year ago and 1.3 feet lower than the long-term March average.


NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center calls for the continuation of a weak La Niña event.  The U.S. Drought Outlook through June 2006 calls for some improvement early (April, May) for northern Illinois but not enough for a full drought recovery.  Precipitation averages for five similar La Niña events have resulted in drier than normal conditions in the late spring and summer (May through August) in Illinois.


Roger Selburg provided a regional report summary of public water supplies.  No drought problems were noted in the Rockford region.  Streator reports that currently the Vermillion River is flowing over the dam.  No drought related problems reported in the Elgin Region.


Roger stated that the primary concern in the Champaign Region is the Altamont reservoir. However, a considerable volume of water still remains available.  As of March 9, 2006, the reservoir was down 81.5 inches but is now 48 inches below spillway, having had some significant rainfall.  The level of Lake Bloomington has been rising and is now 2.3 feet below overflow.  It is currently not being used as a source of water due to taste and odor problems.  Evergreen Lake is being used as the primary water source.  Evergreen Lake can be supplemented by pumping from the Mackinaw River under certain conditions.


For the Springfield Region, Roger stated that the New Berlin was the primary concern, but the reservoir is now only 2 feet below the spillway and is expected to be filled by the end of the week.  The New Berlin reservoir had dropped eight feet in the last six months.  The Ashland reservoirs continue to be watched; however, they currently have an adequate supply.  The new reservoir is down one foot and the old reservoir is down ten feet.  They are filling the new reservoir first.  Lake Springfield’s level is currently 2.4 feet below full pool.  No drought related problems were reported in the Collinsville Region or the Marion Region.  The water systems in the Marion Region have recovered to normal winter levels because of heavy rains, including Vienna and Vienna Correctional Center.


Jerry Dalsin stated that the Peoria and Rockford regions have seen an increase in the number of irrigation well permits, being a reflection of the severe drought area.  There has also been an increase in the number of wells being deepened in Whiteside County.  The fairly mild weather has enabled well drilling work this winter.  Jerry said that his office has not received any significant reports of water hauling.


Warren Goetsch provided a weather and crops report summary.  The biggest concern is the lack of subsoil moisture.  On March 6, topsoil moisture was 20 percent very short, 47 percent short, 32 percent adequate, and 1 percent surplus.  Warren stated that many farmers are hauling water for livestock and wells since farm ponds are very low and tiles are not running.



Steve Pallo reported that there have been very few recent fish kills with the mild winter.  Fish kills reported were mostly gizzard shad in the northern part of the state.


Gary Clark stated that there have been some concerns with management of the Fox Chain of Lakes.  The Office of Water Resources had some difficult issues last summer in managing releases for water supply/ low flow augmentation while minimizing impacts to recreational resources.  No major navigation problems have been reported.


Bill Johnson stated that not much has changes and that there were no new drought related reports.


Gary Johnson had sent a 5-page document of USGS figures and tables to all DRTF participants, highlighting streamflow information.


In summary, much of northern and western Illinois remains in a severe drought.  Streamflows increased temporarily, but have declined.  Water levels in reservoirs in western and central Illinois have increased, but some are still below full pool.  Soil moisture below 20 inches and shallow groundwater levels remain below normal, causing low baseflows in rivers and streams.  If drought conditions continue, and indicators do point to the possibility of a dry summer after a wet spring, then we can expect a more rapid deterioration in water resources than occurred in 2005.  As such, Derek Winstanley recommended that the DRTF take steps to encourage renewed drought preparedness planning in northern, western, and central Illinois.  Agencies are to continue to closely monitor the drought and provide updates every two weeks to Gary Clark and Roger Selburg.


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


The next DRTF meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, May 24 @ 10:00 a.m., IDNR Headquarters - 3rd Floor - Board Room.


Illinois Drought

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