Increased water consumption in Iowa strains Jordan Aquifer


Locations of Water Use Permits for Wells tapping the Jordan Aquifer (Iowa DNR)

Nick Fetty | November 18, 2014

Water demands in Iowa are exceeding the predominate aquifer’s ability to replenish itself and this could have detrimental long term effects on the state’s economy, according to the Des Moines Register.

The Jordan Aquifer – which also supplies water for Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, and Wisconsin – is the water source for approximately half a million Iowans. Cities such as Cedar Rapids, Fort Dodge, and Iowa City in particular are drawing water from the aquifer faster than it can replenish itself which means these communities could see restrictions on water usage if proactive efforts to curb water usage are not implemented.

The recent increase in water usage can partially be attributed to Iowa’s biofuel industry which requires large amounts of purified water during the production process. Some older facilities in Iowa use as much as 200 million gallons of water each year. Approximately 15 percent of Iowa’s aquifer demand is for biofuel production.

Last year families and businesses in Iowa used nearly 26 billion gallons of water from the aquifer. This is a 72 percent increase compared to water usage in the 1970s. Again much of the water usage can be attributed to the biofuels industry in Iowa which went into operation in the 1990s.

The Iowa Environmental Protection Commission is scheduled to meet Wednesday to hear recommendations about whether immediate action is needed to preserve the aquifer. Concerns for aquifer retention are not unique the Midwest and have also affected the western United States and even the Middle East.

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