Boone County has been added to the growing list of Indiana counties declared natural disaster relief areas as the result of drought.
Indiana Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman last week announced that 14 additional counties, including Boone, had been added to 36 counties named primary natural disaster areas earlier this month because of drought.
“As drought spreads havoc, particularly for those in our agriculture sector who provide the basics, we continue to work with our partners to minimize the impact, Skillman said.
Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the declaration to apply for loans to help cover part of their actual losses.
The drought shows no signs of letting up. Based on hydrological data from the National Weather Service in Indianapolis, rainfall at the nearest official observation site from May 1 to July 19 this year was about 10 inches less than average for that site. NWS Meteorologist Mark Dahmer said rainfall at that site — Eagle Creek — totaled just 1.8 inches in May, .21 inches in June, and .18 in July, including Thursday, July 19’s rainfall. The averages are 5.27 inches in May, 4.39 inches in June, and 2.91 inches in July.
The rain that did fall this spring and summer was spotty, so even within a county, rainfall totals have varied. Anytime storms popped up this summer, where rain fell was hit and miss.
“You either got it or you didn’t,” Dahmer said. “Most of us didn’t.” That amounts to 2.19 inches of rainfall in the area since May 1, compared to an average of 12.27. (Dahmer noted that data from one day in May appeared to be missing, so this year’s May total could be slightly low.)
Dahmer said the NWS also receives data from co-op reporters in Whitestown and from an area 6 miles west of Lebanon. Rainfall reported in Whitestown was 3.40 inches in May, .51 inches in June, and .00 through July 10. In the rural Lebanon location, the totals this year were 2.56 inches in May, 1.03 in June and .27 in July through Thursday.
Whitestown and Zionsville are taking measures to conserve water under an order by Citizen’s Water. So far, Lebanon’s water use has been reasonable, and water officials haven’t seen the need to call for conservation measures.
Mike Martin, general manager of Lebanon Utilities, said he is monitoring the city’s wells, said water use is up, but not dangerously so.
“We have naturally seen increases during the hot weather,” he said. “We are up from 1 million (gallons) a day to 2 million a day, but our capacity is 4 million. So we’re hanging in there pretty well.”
Lebanon’s wells are supplied by large aquifers, and not reservoirs like other area utilities.
“What we do is monitor wells and if the wells are recharging. You’ve really got to be careful, but we’re keeping up the levels well,” he said.
“The people in Lebanon do a good job and use common sense. You won’t see too many people irrigating; most people are pretty cognizant.”
He said in other communities nearly 50 percent of the usage before a ban has been for irrigation. In Lebanon, it’s closer to 20 percent. If the wells don’t refill as quickly or if water use jumps past 3 million gallons, the utility will have to reevaluate if it should limit water use.
“Obviously if it went on for long periods of time you could get in trouble, but right now not showing any issues now,” he said.