Channel Chat October 2020

South Skunk River that shows low flow.
Picture taken from South Skunk River Facebook Page

Hello River Lovers,

If you are a paddler or tried to get out on the water these past couple of months you probably noticed something – not enough water and very low flow in our rivers. This is because Iowa has been experiencing droughts, with nearly the entire state under a drought watch in August. Of the parts of the state in drought, over 50% was considered moderate to severe with 7% suffering from extreme drought. This not only impacts our rivers but can cause major crop losses. Fortunately, this drought season has not been as long or severe as the one experienced from August 2011-June 2014 which lasted a record 151 weeks.

U.S. Drought Portal showing the severity of drought conditions throughout Iowa in August. Click on picture for more information.

Thankfully, we have experienced rain throughout the month of September which has helped alleviate some drought concerns. The eastern part of Iowa is no longer experiencing extreme drought conditions but there are still over 1.3 million Iowans suffering from drought conditions.

Thankfully, we have received rain throughout the month of September which has helped alleviate some drought concerns. The eastern part of Iowa is no longer experiencing extreme drought conditions but there are still over 1.3 million Iowans facing drought conditions.

So what exactly is a drought and what can you do to help? 
        Considered a ‘creeping disaster’, a drought is characterized by a lack of precipitation – rain, snow, or sleet – over a period of time. While it is a naturally occurring event, droughts are the second-most costly form of natural disasters in the United States, averaging a $9.6 billion dollar loss annually. Back in 2012, during the longest stretch of drought, we lost $17 billion in crops throughout the country.
        Even though we will most likely have droughts every year throughout our lives, there are ways to decrease the severity and length. We can decrease water usage in the home, fix leaky faucets, limit lawn watering, increase tree planting, and maintain good soil health.

Unfortunately, we cannot just add more water to our rivers. We must wait until the rain comes. In the meantime, let us work together to conserve water so we can enjoy paddling our favorite river. 

Until next month, stay well!

Sara Carmichael, Executive Director

Featured River

Skunk River

Skunkrivermap.png

A tributary of the Mississippi River, the Skunk River is composed of two branches – South (185 miles) and North (129 miles). In June 2020, the South Skunk became the newest addition to the Iowa DNR’s Water Trails Programs. If you do decide to float this river, or any river, please make sure you know the flow levels and hazards that could be there by visiting the DNR website or USGS.