• 55°

Weather brings farming help; still concerns

Soggy soils spelled at least some relief in recent weeks for farmers who expected to endure another crop-busting dry spring.

Wednesday, June 13, 2001

Soggy soils spelled at least some relief in recent weeks for farmers who expected to endure another crop-busting dry spring.

The rains helped from a couple of different points of view, said Dave Cashell, a hydrologist with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’s Division of Water.

"The soils were very dry, so it fulfilled the moisture requirement for crops, and any excess rain boosted groundwater supplies," Cashell said.

Since 1999, the state has been concerned about the groundwater supply, which has ranged at below normal levels, he said.

This year’s late winter and early spring saw little change in the situation.

For the south central Ohio region, it has been the fifth driest January through April period as far back as 1895, Cashell said.

Put that on top of the rainfall deficit seen in 1999’s unusually dry year and the rainstorms in the last three to four weeks have been more than welcome, he said.

Regina Fields of Hecla Water agreed that the wet weather has been welcome but there’s still room for concern.

"We are currently at a 509 elevation of water in the wells, but in a normal year that would be close to 515," Mrs. Fields said.

So although the water situation has improved, levels are still about six feet below normal. And, after a two-year drought, the county remains behind, she said, adding that it’s still important to conserve water.

"Even with the abundance of rain, we’re still playing catch up."

The county annually receives about 40 to 41 inches of rain but only one fourth enters the ground where it can impact wells, Mrs. Fields said.

"We hope it continues to rain, but just at a light and steady pace," she said.

Because geology varies across the state, it’s hard to say if the water deficit – particularly that affecting drinking water – is disappearing, Cashell said.

Rain does benefit the growing season, and it helps reduce the demand for water, such as less lawn watering, but ODNR would like to see more uniform rains, he said.

For example, although some well levels in Ohio increased in May, most remained below normal.

"It will still take a little while to get the groundwater levels back to normal," Cashell said. "But we’re moving in the right direction."