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City rebounds after recent storms refill lake after years of severe drought: 'We're headed in the right direction'

"It's very real. It could be an end."

"It's very real. It could be an end."

Photo Credit: iStock

A small town in Iowa is hoping recent rainfall is a sign of things to come after four years of drought.

Osceola residents were asked last year by Clarke County officials to conserve water, and some of the city's 5,415 inhabitants had switched from tap water to bulk and bottled water, Local 5 News reported. The situation became dire in mid-December, when city administrator Ty Wheeler said the water supply was down to about 200 days.

April and May showers turned things around. West Lake, Osceola's only source of water, was as low as 7.5 feet below pool until storms pushed it more than 4 feet higher, Local 5 reported. The lake has not been full since 2021, but reporter Dana Searles cautioned that the situation was not sustainable. 

"I just want to make sure everybody understands that this is a four-year problem that we've had, and it's going to take a little time to get our lake back to where it needs to be," Osceola Water Works superintendent Brandon Patterson said. "So, even though we've had rain, that trend needs to continue.

"... We're hopeful that we're headed in the right direction now."

The water restrictions took effect in October, when outdoor water use was prohibited, among other limitations. The water board stated that 1.4 million gallons of water were being pulled from West Lake every day; the "safe withdrawal rate" is 800,000-900,000 gallons per day.

On May 9, the water board voted to downgrade from a water emergency to a water warning, so citizens could use up to 1 inch of water once a week on gardens and certain landscaping from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. Car washing was still banned, as was filling pools, and restaurants can only serve water upon request.

These kinds of management tactics are becoming commonplace all over as areas combat rapidly rising temperatures that fuel more extreme and frequent weather events such as droughts.

While heavy rains certainly help refill various bodies of water, development, agriculture, and industry can easily undo those gains. If towns such as Osceola are to survive, life-sustaining water supplies must be conserved.

"It's very real. It could be an end," lifetime resident Ron Utley said. "I've had several people ask me, 'Well, what are you going to do if you have no water at all?' I don't know. I don't know what I'm going to do."

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