[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
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
"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
"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
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.