In the early fall of 2022, after more than 18 months of persistent drought conditions across the state of Iowa, the Osceola Water Works Board of Trustees put into effect Section 1 of the Osceola Water Conservation Ordinance. Since that time, the water works staff and engineers have been watching levels in Osceola’s West Lake, monitoring the raw water supply for the community and working hard to maintain the water supply’s health and safety.

As drought conditions continued, in August of 2023 the water board decided to make a move to Section 2 of the Water Conservation Ordinance and then again increased the requirements for conservation to Section 3 – Water Emergency in November of 2023.

In September of 2023 the Water Works team posted eye-opening drone video of the low levels at West Lake, showing the inlet creek bed dry from summer heat and West Lake’s waterline receding from normal pool levels. In October they sent a drone up again to view the spillway-side of the lake.

In their latest video, the Water Works team shows a comparison of those September and October videos against video shot shortly after the ice cap on West Lake had melted in early February. With a drop of approximately two feet from the September/October videos, you can see the dramatic impact the drought has had on the lake.

“After almost four years of drought conditions, we’re watching, in real time, the loss of our community’s most valuable resource,” said Brandon Patterson, Water Superintendent. “Community and business conservation efforts have slowed the drop, but more needs to be done to stretch our supply of water until officials land on a viable solution for an alternative water source.”

While the community has been taking great efforts to conserve (click to view KCCI feature video), even slowing level drops over the last couple months, Osceola Water Works and City officials continue to look at more than a half dozen avenues to mitigate the impact the drought is having on their water supply.

Through months of strategic research and planning, budget reviews, and conversations with State and Federal officials including face-to-face meetings with Iowa representatives Joel Fry and Amy Sinclair, the Iowa DNR, EPA, Water Works operators and managers from Creston to Chariton and up to Des Moines, each meeting and each scenario seems to create more questions. Even research into effluent recirculation and accessing water from surrounding sources on private properties has been in the conversation mix. Still, as these efforts continue, the water in West Lake slowly drops.

“Until we have a viable and economical solution for an alternative water source, we’re pleading with our community to do all they can to conserve water,” said Alisha Kale, Osceola Water Works Board President.

On Tuesday, February 20th, 2024, Osceola’s City Council went as far as to take a vote on whether to open or close the Fern Underwood Aquatic Center. Citing construction needs and restrictive timelines as well as adhering to the Water Conservation Ordinance, the City Council voted 3 to 1 in favor of keeping the aquatic center shuttered for the season. By the afternoon of the 21st, Mayor Thomas Kedley vetoed the vote committing to, “… take more time to exhaust all possible options before the March 1st deadline to proceed with the aquatic center rehabilitation.”

“Our citizens, even in times of crisis, need to be able to depend on a rewarding quality of life,” said Kedley. “We’re reviewing every option possible to make sure our children and families have a safe, fun place to cool off this Summer.”

As actions are taken on solutions for alternative water sources, the Osceola Water Board and staff will work to keep the public informed. They will do that through their communications channels at and the official Osceola Water Works Facebook Page. Until that time, they ask everyone to recommit themselves to water conservation and be vigilant about every gallon of water used.

If you have questions about ways you can help conserve or need more information about this article, please reach out to Brandon Patterson, Osceola Water Works Superintendent at Osceola Water Works, 208 W Jefferson St, Osceola, IA 50213, phone: 641-342-1435, email: [email protected].

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