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Water Summary Update: drought in Iowa largely unchanged in a warmer November

  • 12/10/2020 12:00:00 PM
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DES MOINES — With slightly lower than normal precipitation in November, northwest and west central Iowa continue to show signs of significant dryness and drought, according to the latest Water Summary Update.

Precipitation totaled 1.88 inches or 0.17 inch below normal statewide in November. The next three months are the lowest moisture months of the year, averaging a total of only 4.3 inches of precipitation. This average dryness, combined with frozen ground, makes it more difficult to overcome dry conditions during winter.

"We are heading into the driest three months of the year in Iowa, so improvement of hydrologic conditions is less likely,” said Tim Hall, DNR’s coordinator of hydrology resources. “This means that we may see groundwater conditions in spring 2021 in about the same place we are now." 

Drought conditions continued to cover western Iowa through November. At the beginning of the month, severe drought conditions covered 28 percent of western Iowa with a small region of extreme drought in the northwest corner. Overall, 64 percent of Iowa was in some form of drought or dryness. Wetter conditions across southern and eastern Iowa removed most of the abnormally dry conditions in that part of the state, with only a small area in extreme southeast Iowa remaining in dry conditions. As of this report, some form of drought covers 62 percent of the state.

Temperatures were unseasonably warm across Iowa during November, with a statewide average temperature of 53.6 degrees, 7.4 degrees above normal. Shenandoah in Page County reported the month’s high temperature of 81 degrees on Nov. 3, 24 degrees above normal. Estherville Municipal Airport in Emmet County reported the month’s low temperature of 2 degrees on Nov. 13, 23 degrees below normal.

Streamflow conditions across most of the state remain normal. Flows in the Skunk, Des Moines and Raccoon River basins continue as partially below normal. The Maquoketa River flow remains above normal.

For a thorough review of Iowa’s water resource trends, go to

The report is prepared by technical staff from Iowa DNR, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, IIHR—Hydroscience and Engineering, and the U.S. Geological Survey, in collaboration with Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Department.