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Water Summary Update: Late March showers lead to some improvement in drought conditions

DES MOINES – After the second driest February on record, above-normal rainfall in March helped improve some drought conditions across Iowa, according to the latest Water Summary Update. 

March’s preliminary precipitation was 2.50 inches, or 0.51 inches above normal. At the end of March, Iowa’s Drought Plan showed overall conditions have improved in the state, with areas of northeast and southern Iowa maintaining a drought watch designation. Recent rainfall amounts indicate conditions may continue to improve throughout the spring.

March showed an average statewide temperature nearly five degrees above normal. Four of the last six months have been wetter than normal, which has led to improved streamflow and soil moisture. 

“March begins a stretch of normally wet months in Iowa, so a wetter than normal March is a good thing. Four years of drought will not be eliminated in just a month or two,” said Tim Hall, the DNR’s Hydrology Resources Coordinator. “March through June are critical months for water resources in Iowa, and a wetter than normal start to this time period is encouraging.”

Over the past year, precipitation in Iowa stands at 7.5 inches below normal, and the state has now seen 204 consecutive weeks of dry or drought conditions. While recent rains have improved conditions, it will take a much longer period of above-normal rainfall in the state to eliminate drought conditions. 

Average statewide precipitation levels usually increase from two inches in March to over five inches in June. The next few months are key to reducing drought conditions across Iowa. A dry spring would likely result in quickly deteriorating conditions and increased drought.

For a thorough review of Iowa’s water resource trends, visit

 www.iowadnr.gov/watersummaryupdate

The report is prepared by technical staff from Iowa DNR, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, IIHR—Hydroscience and Engineering, and the U.S. Geological Survey, in collaboration with Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Department.