2016 ranks third wettest ‘water year’ since 1872

Each bi-weekly Water Summary Update provides the current status of water resources in Iowa in terms of precipitation, stream flow, shallow groundwater, and drought monitoring. (Iowa DNR)
Jenna Ladd | October 14, 2016

Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) released its most current Water Summary Update earlier this week.

DNR prepares the bi-weekly updates in collaboration with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the U.S. Geological Survey, and The Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division. Each report provides an overview of the status of Iowa’s water resources and significant events that affect water supplies using four categories: precipitation, stream flow, shallow groundwater, and drought monitoring.

The most recent update is a snapshot of the state’s water resources from August 31st through October 10th. The report notes that different parts of Iowa experienced a wide range of rainfall totals. Heavy rains pelted the Cedar River watershed during much of September, with the largest storm-total rainfall of 10.56 inches near Nora Springs in Floyd County. In contrast, some parts of southeastern Iowa experienced a particularly dry September. Most notably, rain totals were less than one-third of the average near Fairfield and Ottumwa. Average statewide rainfall was 6.29 inches or 2.91 inches above average, making it the rainiest September since 1986.

Streamflow was also reported to be above average for much of the state. The update notes that U.S. Geological Survey employees have been taking additional streamflow measurements following heavy rain events at the end of September in the Cedar and Wapsipinicon River basins. In several locations along the Shell Rock, Cedar, and Wapsipinicon Rivers, peak stream flow was found to be the second-highest in recorded history. These values are only topped by the historic 2008 flood.

October 1st through September 30th is considered the “water year” by experts in the field. The 2016 Water Year, which ended on September 30th, 2016, is the third wettest year on record in 144 years.

Study: Pharmaceuticals from treated wastewater can contaminate groundwater

Duck Creek runs through Devils Glen Park in Bettendorf. (Pete Zarria/Flickr)
Duck Creek runs through Devils Glen Park in Bettendorf. (Pete Zarria/Flickr)
Nick Fetty | October 7, 2014

A report released by the United States Geological Survey last month suggests that pharmaceuticals and other potentially hazardous substances from treated wastewater can contaminate shallow groundwater after being released into streams and other waterways.

The research was conducted on Fourmile Creek and Watershed near Des Moines in 2012. In October of 2012 wastewater accounted for 99 percent of the creek’s flow and this number dropped to 71 percent in December 2012. During these months, the creek experienced persistent dry conditions which is when contaminates are most likely to seep into groundwater.

The study tested for 110 different pharmaceutical compounds in addition to hormones and chemicals from personal care products. The researchers concluded that between 48 and 61 pharmaceuticals were present in the water tested downstream from the wastewater discharge point. Concentrations were as high as 7,810 parts-per-trillion for metformin, a chemical used in antidiabetic medication.

This contamination was also taking place in groundwater up to 65 feet away from the banks of Fourmile Creek. Between 7 and 18 pharmaceutical compounds were detected in these groundwaters with concentrations of fexofenadine – an antihestemine – as high as 87 parts-per-trillion.

This study was part of USGS Toxic Substances Hydrology Program.

The Fourmile Creek Watershed covers 120 miles mostly in northern Polk County but also areas of Boone and Story Counties. Approximately 64 percent of the land in the watershed is used for agriculture while the remaining 36 percent is urban. In 1877, a train carrying members of the P.T. Barnum circus and other passengers crashed while crossing over Fourmile Creek, killing 20 and injuring 35 more.

Previously condemned streamgages receive funding

USGS employees checking a streamgage. Photo by U.S. Geological survey; Flickr.
USGS employees checking a streamgage. Photo by U.S. Geological Survey; Flickr.

After the U.S. Geological Survey National Streamflow Information Program (NSIP) suffered budget cuts, three Iowa streamgages were to be shut down. However, after funding was provided by a new partner, two will continue to function. Continue reading