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Drought strains Midwest residents

CHICAGO -- Lawns are turning brown. Flowers are wilting. Water levels are so low that ducks can stand in some rivers, and streams.

A drought that is stunting corn, rice, and soybean crops across the nation's Farm Belt is also leading many communities in more urban parts of the Midwest to ban lawn-watering and urge homeowners to conserve.

''I'm not watering out of respect for what is happening ecologically," said Tod Lending, gesturing toward his parched front lawn on Chicago's North Side. ''I have a 10-year-old daughter and I'm trying to teach her what the right thing is to do ecologically."

In Indianapolis, officials have pleaded with residents to cut back on water use. St. Peters, Mo., made a similar request.

And so did Chicago, where WGN-TV meteorologist Dennis Haller said this is the driest summer so far in 135 years. The city has stopped watering the grass at parks.

In North Aurora, homeowners can hand-water flowers and gardens, but using a sprinkler can bring a fine of as much as $750. Algonquin, in suburban Chicago, and Waterford, Wis., are limiting residents to watering every other day. Brownsburg, Ind., banned it.

''If there would be a fire, would you rather have us put the water on the house or water the damn lawn?" Town Manager Mark White said.

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