Recent Rain Won’t Reverse Drought Effects in Illinois

Illinois has officially been in a drought since June 21. The state is dry and its crops are in danger of dying. Although we received rain during the week of July 16, it is nowhere near enough to reverse the effects of the drought.

Due to Illinois’ mild winter this year, it is no surprise the summer is hot and dry. The Illinois State and Water Survey’s (ISWS) update on April 10 acknowledged the heat and low rain levels, though it stated the probability of a drought was below 50 percent. As the summer progressed, the probability inched closer to 50 percent. On May 25, the ISWS issued a Drought Advisory which stated that the impact of the dry spell was not serious, but could be in the future. Precipitation levels were only 1 to 3 inches from March to May in the state of Illinois. In Southern Illinois, where conditions are the worst, these levels were 3 to 7 inches below normal. 

On June 21, Central and Southern Illinois were officially in a drought. Conditions had been getting worse all summer. The statewide average precipitation levels for June were 1.8 inches, 2.3 inches below normal. The statewide average precipitation levels from January to June were 12.6 inches, the sixth driest on record. 

The state of Illinois received some rain during the week of July 16. It was greatly welcomed, but not very significant. The statewide average precipitation from July 1 to 23 was 0.96 inches. This was only 40 percent of the normal amount for the time period. Since crop conditions are so poor, no amount of rain will be able to make production levels what they should be. 

The lack of rain mixed with 90 and 100 degree temperatures has had negative effects on Illinois crops. According to the July 2 Illinois Weather and Crop Report (IWCR), only 26 percent of corn and soybeans were labeled good to excellent. With circumstances worsening over the course of the month, the July 23 IWCR stated that now 36 percent of corn conditions were very poor, 30 percent poor, 27 percent fair, and 7 percent good. Soybean conditions were 24 percent very poor, 25 percent poor, 38 percent fair, 12 percent good, and 1 percent excellent. 

A bad crop year affects everyone. Farmers lose money and food prices rise. 

Illinois’ drought reminds us of the importance of water conservation. Water is extremely important to our well-being, so it should not be wasted. Water comprises 75 percent of the earth’s surface, though only 1 percent is fresh as opposed to salt. Whether you are in a drought or not, conserving water should always be a priority. 

Everyone can make a difference by conserving water. Some simple ways include taking shorter showers; using a water-saving showerhead, which uses the same amount of pressure with less water; turning off the water while brushing your teeth; flushing no more than necessary; watering plants in the morning, while the sun is at its lowest position; and don’t water the grass. It will recover after a drought. 

Being in a drought is tough. There is nothing we can do to make it rain. The only thing in our power is to conserve the water that we do have. 

Photo Credit: il.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/whip/ilwhip07_05.html.  

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