The dry spring, including the record-setting dry month of May, has contributed to a downward trend in drought conditions in southwestern Iowa. The region had the driest month of May in the state of Iowa, at only 35% of normal precipitation. All regions of Iowa. All areas of Iowa had below normal rainfall, as the statewide average of rain, 2.54 inches, was only 52% of normal rainfall. The spring months of March, April, and May had a statewide average of 6.09 inches of rainfall, 63 percent of normal. As a result of these moisture deficits, streamflow is down, and soil moistures are lower as well. Despite recent rainfall scattered across all state and high temperatures experienced in May, soil moisture conditions have decreased considerably over the past month.
The outlook for the summer in western Iowa shows persistent drought in western Iowa. Western Iowa is the only region in the state with an area under extreme drought (D3), while also having the largest area under severe drought (D2). The drought conditions will stress agricultural irrigation and impact outdoor recreation, as many waterways will be too low for paddlers.
With persistent drought, what can you do?
There are plenty of short- and long-term steps you can take to decrease your own water needs. First, we encourage you to plant native flowers and grasses, which require less water and are tolerant of extreme weather conditions. When purchasing plants, look for natives instead of varietals. Some great native perennials are bee balm, goldenrod, milkweed, and yarrow, among others. Excellent drought-resistant native grasses include blue grama, little bluestem, big bluestem, side-oats grama, and others.
Practicing water-conscious gardening is one small action you can take to address drought in western Iowa. Limit watering lawns and gardens to three days per week. Water gardens and lawns early in the morning to minimize evaporation. Deep watering once a week is better than shorter waterings multiple times per week. Using mulch around plants prevents evaporation, keeps soil at a more consistent temperature, and keeps weeds from competing with beneficial plants.