Drought could lead to forced water limits in Iowa

Photo by steelersfan8765, Flickr.
Photo by steelersfan8765, Flickr.

Drought conditions could lead to water conservation measures in some parts of Iowa.

Especially in Iowa’s northwest counties, there’s a chance that some areas will have to limit water usage. To avoid getting to this point, Iowans are encouraged to conserve water during their day-to-day activities.

Read more from The Gazette here.

UI uses dying Johnson County trees as biofuel

Garlic mustard is one of the invasive plants affecting the Johnson County trees. Photo by eLeSeA, Flickr.
Garlic mustard is one of the invasive plants affecting the Johnson County trees. Photo by eLeSeA, Flickr.

The University of Iowa will use 24 acres of dead and dying trees in Johnson County as biofuel.

The trees are dying because of invasive species like garlic mustard, exotic honeysuckles and Canada thistles.

Once the trees are removed and the invasive plants are cleared, the land will be converted into a prairie.

Read more from The Gazette here.

Possible changes on the way to water allocation law

Photo by amypalko, Flickr.
Photo by amypalko, Flickr.

Changes may be coming to a state law that allows the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to decide what water users get their water shut-off or restricted when water conservation is necessary.

The state law was originally put into place in 1985 when water usage was much different than it is today in Iowa.

The potential revision of the law is largely influenced by the drought. With the drought entering its third year, it has never looked more likely that the current law could be put into action.

Read more from The Gazette here.

Invasive beetle spreads in Iowa

The purple bag is a trap for the Emerald Ash Borer. Photo by USDAgov, Flickr.
The purple bag is a trap for the Emerald Ash Borer. Photo by USDAgov, Flickr.

An invasive beetle that kills ash trees is spreading in Iowa.

The Emerald Ash Borer is native to East Asia. It lives on the outside of ash trees, and its larvae kill the trees through tunneling. This beetle is 100 percent fatal to ash trees, which are widespread in Iowa.

The Emerald Ash Borer was first identified in Allamakee County in 2010. Now, the beetle has been spotted in two other sports within the northeast county.

Read more about the findings here.

Find out more information about the beetle from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources here.

Some Iowa farmers report better than expected harvest

Photo by wattpublishing, Flickr.

While the results are mixed, many Iowa farmers are reporting surprisingly high corn and soybean yields. In fact, some farmers had their highest yields ever this year despite the drought.

The reason for the large differences between farmers’ yields has to do with the high variability in this year’s rainfall. This led to some farmers receiving enough rain during pollination, while other farmers’ crops suffered.

Better than expected results have been reflected in Iowa’s estimated soybean yields, which have risen 10 percent since September.

Read more from The Gazette here.

Radon testing not mandated in Iowa schools

Radon mitigating system. Photo by Alan Light, Flickr.

An article from The Gazette examines why there are no guidelines or mandates for radon testing in Iowa’s schools.

Radon is a major problem in Iowa where levels of the gas far exceed the national average. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer, leading to the death of 21,000 each year, including 400 Iowans. The gas rises from the soil and enters buildings through openings in floors and walls.

Despite its danger, many Iowa schools haven’t tested for radon in decades. This is mainly because it’s costly to test for radon, and even more costly to mitigate the gas.

Read more from The Gazette here.

New report reveals worsening drought conditions

Winter wheat. Photo by Beardy Git, Flickr.

A new weekly drought report shows that drought conditions have worsened in Iowa and other Midwest states.

This will not have a substantial impact on Iowa’s corn crop, which is half harvested, but these conditions could hurt crops like winter wheat.

Read more from The Gazette here.

Iowa hopes for increased participation in National Walk to School Day

Photo by OSDE, Flickr.

National Walk to School Day is next Wednesday, and schools across Iowa are encouraged to participate.

Last year, 72 schools participated in Iowa. People involved in the program hope that number increases to over 100 this year.

Back in 1969, 41 percent of students walked or biked to school. In 2001, that percentage was down to 13.

This is bad news for both children’s health, and the health of our environment.

Read more from The Gazette here.

High temperatures force early dismissals at Iowa schools

Photo by woodleywonderworks, Flickr.

This year’s unusually warm summer continues to affect Iowans.

Schools around the state have been forced to dismiss students early during some of the hotter days. On Thursday, 50 Iowa schools ended early.

As long as the school day last for 5.5 hours, schools do not have to make up for the lost class time. However, with the frequency that some schools have had early dismissal this month, students will lose substantial schooling if no school days are added.

Read more from The Gazette here.

Environmentalists link crop insurance to habitat loss

Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Midwest Region, Flickr.

Environmental groups blame crop insurance for the loss wildlife habitat in Iowa and around the nation.

A report from the Environmental Working Group and Defenders of Wildlife attributes crop insurance to the increase in farming on marginally productive land. This causes the loss of wildlife habitats such as wetlands and grasslands.

A study by one of the authors of the report found that only Texas and South Dakota lost more habitat than Iowa over a three-year period.

Read more from The Gazette here.