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Iowa Drought: Crops, Wildlife And Water Utilities Adjust To Early Drought Season

Michael Leland
A crew from Synergy Contracting in Altoona raises metal flashboards across the Raccoon River on June 17, 2021 near downtown Des Moines. The work will raise the river’s level near the Des Moines Waterworks’ intake pipes, increasing the available water.

Northwest and central Iowa adjust to an early drought this summer.

Iowa is experiencing a drought. And an early one. Meteorologist Alan Czarnetzki of the University of Northern Iowa said these kinds of conditions aren't uncommon in Iowa, but this year they're happening earlier.

On this episode of River to River, host Ben Kieffer speaks with Czarnetski, as well as Iowa State biologist Jim Pease and Iowa State economist Chard Hart to better understand just what this dry season's impact might be.

"You know, this drought is an additional stressor on populations that are already being impacted by all sorts of things. Research in the last few years has shown massive worldwide declines in both birds and insects," Pease said. "And a drought — particularly here in the Midwest — ... that is an additional stressor that they certainly don't need right now."

However, not all the news was necessarily bad. Hart explained that while droughts contribute to low yield years, industry-wide, that actually makes the price of commodity crops like corn and soybeans go up as supply is smaller.

At the end of the show, Kieffer speaks with Ted Corrigan, the CEO and general manager of the Des Moines Water Works. He explains how the most populous area in the state is facing a two-prong problem: the Raccoon River — a major source of water for the Des Moines metro — is getting too low, and DMWW's backup source, the Saylorville Reservoir, is showing signs of algal blooms.


  • Alan Czarnetzki, professor of meteorology, University of Northern Iowa
  • James “Jim” Pease, emeritus associate professor of natural resource ecology and management, Iowa State University
  • Chad Hart, professor of economics specializing in agriculture economics, Iowa State University
  • Ted Corrigan, CEO and general manager of the Des Moines Water Works
Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River
Zachary Oren Smith is a producer for IPR's Talk of Iowa and River to River