Thursday, June 1

Drought broken, task force deactivated

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[JUNE 1, 2006]  SPRINGFIELD -- After average to above-average rainfall this year, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich deactivated the statewide Drought Response Task Force on May 24. He assembled the task force [related article] in June of 2005 to address severe dry conditions across the state.

Even though a very small area in west-central Illinois remains in a low category of drought, the rest of Illinois is drought-free. Soil moisture is normal or close to normal, as are the levels of most streams, lakes and reservoirs. Groundwater levels, always the slowest to respond, are still averaging 2 feet below normal, with the possible lingering effect that stream flows in northern and western Illinois may be expected to be below normal this summer.

Members of the task force met by conference call on May 24 to sum up work over the last 12 months and officially deactivate.

"Had last year's drought extended across central and southern Illinois, where there is greater reliance on surface water supplies from lakes and reservoirs, the impacts could have been much more severe," said Dr. Derek Winstanley, chief of the Illinois State Water Survey. "Recurring severe droughts are part of the climate in the Midwest, and it is wise to be prepared for them before they occur. The task force stands ready to act at a moment's notice if needed."

"I appreciate very much the efforts and professionalism exhibited by the DRTF members," said Gary Clark, director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Office of Water Resources and co-chair of the Drought Response Task Force. "Each drought is different and carries many different facets, depending on timing, duration and location. The DRTF is an excellent forum for state coordination in response to the often paralleling effects and impacts on the state's resources and state agency authorities."

The Drought Response Task Force is composed of experts from the Illinois State Water Survey, Illinois Department of Natural Resources Water Resource Management, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, the Illinois Department of Agriculture, the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.

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"While Illinois has received the rain it needed to end this drought, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and our survey departments have some of the best water and soil experts in the nation if the need arises to call on them again," said Sam Flood, acting director of the Department of Natural Resources.

"While the rains this year have regenerated Illinois water supplies, we should not forget the lessons learned last year," said Doug Scott, director of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. "Water is a valuable resource that should be used wisely."

"With the increase in precipitation this spring, the Illinois Department of Public Health has not heard of water well problems associated with the recent drought, such as having to haul water, lowering the well pumps, and deepening or replacing the water well. IDPH will continue to monitor water wells throughout the summer," said Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, Illinois Department of Public Health director.

The Drought Response Task Force placed special emphasis on monitoring issues affecting public safety and the Illinois economy. That included agricultural considerations, as well as community water supplies and private wells. Task force members were also alert to the effects of dry weather on Illinois wildlife and natural areas and monitored the regional implications of the dry conditions.

2006 monthly rainfall breakdown


Statewide rainfall total (inches)

Above or
below normal (inches)



+ 0.76



- 1.09



+ 1.38



+ 0.28

(through May 23)


- 0.26

[Illinois Department of Natural Resources news release]


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