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25 Years of Water Quality Monitoring in Northeast Iowa

This month's lead story comes from Ross Evelsizer at the Northeast Iowa RC&D, focusing on the quality and sustainability of the Northeastern Iowa's watersheds.

Northeast Iowa Resource Conservation & Development, or RC&D as it’s commonly called, has been coordinating water quality monitoring in northeast Iowa watersheds since 1999, marking this as the 25th anniversary. This annual effort started in the Upper Iowa River watershed, but has expanded to include the Upper Wapsipinicon and Turkey River watersheds.

The Upper Iowa River Watershed is located in a very distinct geologic region known as the “Driftless Area”, a region that lies within the larger Upper Mississippi River Watershed. The Upper Iowa River Watershed, which is located in the farthest northeast corner of the Iowa and southeast corner of Minnesota, is known for its towering limestone bluffs, hardwood forests, public natural areas, exceptional fishery, trout streams, waterfalls and abundant wildlife.

Samples have been monthly, from April through October, at three locations along the main channel of the Upper Iowa River and 27 locations near the mouth of major tributaries. This data provides a snapshot of the entire watershed on a given day each month (e.g., 2nd Tuesday) and allows the comparison of one stream/watershed to the next. Water quality data for the Upper Iowa River Watershed can be found at https://data.upperiowariver.org.

The Upper Wapsipinicon River Watershed Management Authority started water sampling with the help from RC&D in 2015. Monthly samples are gathered from 22 locations across the UWRW. The samples are analyzed for concentrations of E. coli Bacteria, Nitrate, Total Phosphate as P, Chloride, Sulfate, and Total Suspended Solids.

Driftless Terrain from Northeast Iowa RC&D

Turkey River, Fayette Co.


IEC in DC: Advocating for the Mississippi

Last week, IEC's Water Program Director Alicia Vasto went to Washington, D.C. to participate in the Mississippi River Network’s (MRN) annual fly-in. MRN organizes the fly-in for members from the 10 mainstem Mississippi River states to visit with their states' congressional delegation and their staff about federal policy priorities.

This year, conversations with congressional staff focused on Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) spending in MRN’s 10-state region. With colleagues Chad Wallace from the Illinois Environmental Council and Perry Whitaker from the Mississippi River Water Trail Association, Alicia shared information with Iowa lawmakers on the impacts of additional funding from the IRA for Farm Bill conservation programs and funding for drinking water treatment and protection through the State Revolving Fund.

Read more about Alicia's visit to D.C. here.

Microbial source tracking in Scott Co.

In 2023, Partners of Scott County Watershed (PSCW) was asked to be a partner in Prairie River of Iowa's Movement Infrastructure for Clean Water in Iowa grant funded by the Water Foundation. The grant seeks to build relationships among environmental groups that have taken on responsibility for water monitoring, develop shared tools for interpreting the data, and communicate to the public how monitoring can lead to action.

PSCW's conducted water monitoring at 14 locations within the Duck Creek and Hickory Creek Watersheds. The stream sample sites were selected to represent urban and rural data.

Sampling was conducted by grabbing stream water samples while also recording the weather, salinity, pH, total suspended solids, turbidity, and water temperature for each site. 

The samples are currently being analyzed by the USGS - Laboratory for Infectious Disease and the Environment (LIDE).

Learn more in the full blog post here.

SRF Funding Spotlight

Iowa’s State Revolving Fund (SRF) is administered by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and the Iowa Finance Authority (IFA) to distribute funding for water infrastructure projects. These projects are split into two categories: the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) and the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF).

The funding is provided as low-interest loans which make the projects feasible and affordable for communities and create a sustainable source of funding year after year. 

Last month, the Biden-Harris Administration announced $80 million for Iowa drinking water and clean water infrastructure from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, as part of the $5.8 billion investment to American State Revolving Funds. 

Almost half of this funding will be available as grants or principal forgiveness loans, ensuring that funds reach underserved communities most in need of investments in water infrastructure.


Action Alerts

Two bills are moving quickly through the legislature that would harm water quality and public lands in Iowa. Click on the options below to take action TODAY!

What's new in Iowa's water news:
Iowa primed for potentially 'epic' increase in stream pollution  (Iowa Capital Dispatch)
'Sad and debilitating': Rural midwesterners contend with well water tainted by livestock waste  (The Guardian)
EPA launches contamination clean-up to save Des Moines drinking water  (KCCI)
Clear Lake sets record for earliest ice-free date  (Radio Iowa)
Proposal would tax Minnesota farmers to help pay for cleanup of nitrate pollution  (The Gazette)
Protecting Iowa's lone urban trout stream is tricky  (Iowa Capital Dispatch)
Cancer-Related Disease and Deaths Spur Actions to Fight Farm Chemical Contamination in Corn Belt  (Circle of Blue)
Iowa House deliberates on bill that would loosen topsoil, stormwater regulations  (The Gazette)
Northeast Iowa dairy farm fined for contaminating creek  (Iowa Capital Dispatch)
Clark Community Schools lead the charge in water conservation amid crisis in Osceloa  (KCCI)

Upcoming water events:
Iowa Division 2024 March Watershed Talk - Virtual, 3/12
Histories of Injustice in the Environmental Movement - Virtual, 3/14
Local Government Sustainability Efforts Panel at ICPL - Iowa City, 3/16
Conservation and Water Quality Monitoring - Atkins, 3/18
Private Well Learning Session - Eldridge, 3/26
IEC Benefit Event: Low Cut Connie at xBk - Des Moines, 3/26
Prairie Preview - Iowa City, 3/28
What's in your Watershed - School's Out Day Camps - Dubuque, 3/29
Rain Barrel Workshop - Ames, 3/30
Sustainability Initiatives - Granger, 4/3
Midwest Climate Summit - Indianapolis, 4/3 - 4/5
Wetlands Preservation after Sackett v. EPA - Iowa City, 4/5
Save our Streams Training - Des Moines, 4/6
Earth Expo - Iowa City, 4/6


Iowa Environmental Council
505 Fifth Ave., Suite 850 
 Des Moines, Iowa 50309-2317
515-244-1194 | iecmail@iaenvironment.org

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