Cathann Kress

Cathann Kress

The head of Iowa State University Extension says state officials should consider a “public awareness campaign” to prepare Iowans for water shortages this summer. 

“Unlike something like a hurricane or the floods that we’re used to in the state of Iowa…a drought is a really different kind of disaster in that I think of it as a super slow motion disaster,” says Cathann Kress, ISU’s vice president for Extension & Outreach.

“It happens over a really long period of time. Other news starts to take the headlines…and people start to forget about the drought really quickly.”

If conditions continue as weather forecasters predict, Kress says Iowa will not emerge from the drought for three more years.

“It’s easy for us to have one rain and then assume that the drought is over,” Kress says.

According to Kress, the general public needs to know what “response triggers” will be used by public officials who have the authority to order water rationing.

“I think there will need to be more of a public awareness campaign so more of our citizens understand the potential impacts of a second year of drought in our state,” Kress says.

ISU Extension has begun offering advice to dozens of Iowa businesses already preparing for water shortages this coming summer. Kress made her comments Wednesday during testimony before an Iowa House committee. She told lawmakers Iowa corn and soybean farmers will have to deal with some “significant issues” this summer.

“Besides the income loss for farmers that most of us can readily identify, we also anticipate that there will be a decrease in crop quality — what crop we do get — and insect and disease susceptibility,” Kress said. “And we anticipate that there will be an increase in wildlife damage to crops, obviously, as wildlife is looking for more food as well.”

It’s likely to be “another tough year” for livestock producers, too, she said. And Kress predicted private wells and rural water systems will deal with water quality issues this summer as water levels dip “dangerously low.”

“One of the things that we are hearing a lot in the southern part of the state, probably because of the soil type there, is the impact on homeowners not just with their wells, but the potential cracking of foundations and separation from the surrounding soil is starting to become an issue in some of the counties down there,” Kress said.

AUDIO of Kress’ appearance before House Appropriations Committee.