As dry conditions persist, particularly in northwest Iowa, many city water systems have asked customers to voluntarily conserve water. Todd Uhl, the public works director in Sheldon, says there’s no emergency yet, but things are going slowly in the wrong direction and mandatory water restrictions may be on the horizon.

“As this drought continues, if we don’t get a good recharge this fall, winter, next spring — we will be on mandatory restrictions next spring for sure,” Uhl says. “I’m not saying we wouldn’t switch to them sometime this winter, but obviously restrictions going into this time of year don’t mean as much as they do in times when outside watering is more of a thing.”

There’s plenty of water in both of Sheldon’s deep wells, but Uhl says the quality of water in those deep wells have lower quality water. The community’s supply of high quality water comes from a series of shallow wells along the Floyd River and northwest of Sheldon and Uhl says the water levels in those wells are dropping.

“The static level, which is the level of the amount of water in the well when the pumps aren’t running, we’re seeing those levels decline. They’ve been declining slowly this whole summer — not to the level where we’ve slammed on the panic button yet, but it’s going to be a concern if we don’t get recharge this winter or next spring, Sheldon will be on mandatory restrictions next summer,” Uhl says. “We will not be able to sustain another year of this.”

If the water situation doesn’t improve, Uhl describes what “mandatory restrictions” would look like. “No use of water for non-essential purposes, so basically you can use water for human consumption and that’s it,” Uhl says, “There’ll be no lawn watering. They’ll be no garden watering. There’ll be no flower garden watering. There’ll be no washing of cars. We’ll try not to limit the use of car washes and stuff that are doing it for a living, but we’re going to have to have people cut back.”

But voluntary restrictions are what are in place in Sheldon today. The Lewis & Clark Regional Water System is due to connect in Sheldon by 2024 or, perhaps, at the end of 2023 and Uhl says that would also help the situation.

(By Scott Van Aartsen, KIWA, Sheldon)