Despite rain, some Iowa cities consider more wells

SHELDON – Despite an unusually wet spring, groundwater levels haven’t returned to normal in much of northwest Iowa, leaving some cities to consider deeper wells.

In the city of Sheldon, officials will spend $350,000 this summer to drill a second deep well that will increase pumping capacity for its water wells, the Sioux City Journal ( ) reported. Residents also are under a water watch aimed at conservation.

“It was kind of always in the back pocket, but it never really pressed us,” said City Manager Scott Wynja about the drought’s impact on moving up the drilling.

Sheldon has had to rely on its lone deep well that goes 600 feet into a separate aquifer because the aquifer that feeds into nine shallow wells has not risen back to its normal level. Since last fall, its pumping capacity has dropped by 300 gallons per minute.

Heavy rains in late May have helped, but officials said it’s unclear what’s going to happen with groundwater levels.

“If we get regular rains every year throughout the year, we’re sitting pretty,” Wynja said.

In the city of Hull, which is also under a water watch, customers may see a rate hike if the Rock Valley Rural Water District needs to drill new wells. The district also supplies water to about 700 rural customers.

“With the recent rainfall, we’re not sure what’s going to happen yet. Our aquifer is not where it was a year ago,” said District Manager Garvin Buyert.

Brian Fuchs, a climatologist at the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said warmer temperatures associated with droughts leads to increased water usage, subsoil moisture depletion and declining groundwater levels.

Fuchs said those conditions lead to water suppliers drilling more wells. He added that water conservation will be a bigger issue in the future.

“People don’t realize there’s a water shortage,” he said. “Water is definitely a resource that’s not unlimited.”