Too Little or Too Much?
The answer depends on where you are, when you need it and what quality you need. Rainfall is highly variable. It can rain heavily in one part of the state or town and be dry a few blocks away. Rainfall also differs annually and seasonally. These variances in rainfall can sometimes result in shortages or surpluses of water.
Shortage of Water = Drought
When there is a shortage of water we experience a drought - typically caused by below average rainfall. However, water shortages can also be triggered by excess demand for available water, even under average rainfall conditions. Farmers need water to grow crops and raise livestock, but ethanol plants and other industries also rely on water to produce energy, food, and many of the items we use every day, not to mention the water needed to sustain life in a healthy ecosystem. Iowa’s drought in 2012 and 2013 was the closest we have come in recent years to needing to implement priority water allocation. Iowa’s water supply was able to meet demand, but the trend of increasing demand and climate change may lead to future water shortages and rationing if we don’t take steps now to prevent them.
Surplus of Water = Flood
When too much rain falls or it falls too quickly, the result is a powerful force that can cause significant damage and forever change how a river flows. For example, the 2008 flood resulted in an estimation of over $3 billion in total damages to private property and infrastructure. With heavy rainfalls and flooding, large amounts of soil and other pollutants are swept away and negatively impact our water quality. By protecting the soil with residue (living or dead), implementation of wetlands, and proper utilization of flood plains, we can lessen the impact of large rain events.
As we have seen in Iowa, droughts and floods can be economically devastating for crop and livestock production. The decreased supply of grain causes prices to rise to meet a new supply-demand balance, triggering an increase in prices at both the grocery store and fuel pump.
A Culture of Conservation Series
- Building a Culture of Conservation: Iowan to Iowan
- Water Is Life
- The Work of Our Hands
- Troubled Waters
- Out to the Lakes
- Incredible Wetlands
Adventures of the Conservation Pack
- Episode 17 - Urban conservation issues
Enhanced Learning Activities
- A Culture of Conservation Activity Booklet (Grades 6-12)
- Dive In To the Water Cycle (Grades 3-8)
- Exploring the Water Cycle Through Cross-Age Teaching (Grades 3-5)
- Precious Resource (Grades 3-8)
- The Water Cycle (Grades K-2)