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How a pageant dream powered my water quality passion

by Brittney Costello, Miss Scott County and passionate clean water advocate

When I was 8-years-old, I asked for my parents’ permission to compete in the ‘Little Miss’ category of the Miss Iowa Scholarship Organization. They agreed despite their confusion at my interest as I was an incredibly bashful child. I remember being scared to death and practically running off the stage for almost every phase of competition. As you can imagine, I did not walk away with the title. However, what I walked away with was a newfound love for personal development and community service.

When it came to developing my community service initiative, I knew I wanted it to be something along the lines of protecting the planet because: 1) I have always felt a deep connection to Earth; 2) I know the planet needs our help; and 3) I was already doing my part to protect it in my daily life. I began to brainstorm different avenues under this large umbrella of possibilities. I thought about focusing on plastic pollution or climate change, until I realized where my passion truly laid: Water. I thought, "duh! I have been overthinking this entirely. My initiative HAS to focus on water quality." 

I created Watersheds: Think Global, Act Local with a dream to provide all living things with adequate water quality. My initial focus is to improve Iowa's water quality through education and advocacy efforts along with empowering others by emphasizing the power individuals hold. Because we all live in a watershed, anyone can improve public health and water quality around the globe by doing their part locally. We are ALL connected so remember to think GLOBAL and act LOCAL.

Since my Miss Scott County crowning moment in late August, I have completed well over 300 hours of service to improve the well-being of all Iowans and the environment as a whole. Being Miss Scott County has granted me some amazing opportunities that I truly could not be more grateful for. I have been able to reach a wide range of audiences through community outreach activities like speaking on television shows, podcasts, newspapers, and blogs just like this one!

Read more about Brittney's water quality work, including a youth education curriculum she's created, her water quality monitoring project focused on the Mississippi River, what she saw while snorkeling in Ecuador, or volunteer events she's promoting during Earth month in her full story on IEC's Blog. 

Brittany presenting on watersheds as Miss Scott County

Brittany is joined by volunteers for a trash clean up

Brittany conducts water quality monitoring on the Mississippi River


Wanted: Your input on Harmful Algae Blooms

You're invited to participate in an anonymous survey to help University of Iowa researchers better understand behaviors, knowledge, and opinions on water quality and harmful algae blooms (HABs) in Iowa.  

The survey should take only about 10 minutes to complete. All answers and any identifiers are confidential and will only be used for research purposes.  

Please complete the survey right away to provide valuable information on HABs and share the survey with friends and family.

IRR's Service Squad kickoff at Big Grove April 14

Join Iowa Rivers Revival and IEC on Friday, April 14 to celebrate the kickoff of river cleanups this year in Polk County!

Enjoy free pizza and wings from 5-7 p.m. while learning about future volunteer events and how you can get involved in Iowa’s clean water future.  

Reconnect with your local waterways by joining the Service Squad kickoff event to learn more and sign up for future volunteer opportunities.  

Farm Bill and CAFOs webinar on April 18

IEC is pleased to co-host Jefferson County Farmers & Neighbors' (JFAN) upcoming webinar discussing how CAFOs benefit from current Farm Bill programs.

Experts Joe Maxwell with Farm Action and Aaron Lehman with Iowa Farmers Union will share information on the 2023 Farm Bill and how it could better support independent, small-scale livestock farms. 

Register now for what promises to be an engaging discussion.


MidAmerican Energy is in the process of developing a new plan to dispose of its coal ash wastewater from its George Neal coal plant near Sioux City. Their proposal is to pipe the contaminated wastewater, called leachate, directly into the Missouri River. MidAmerican's own testing of this water shows that it has mercury, arsenic, lead, cyanide, aluminum, lithium, antimony, barium, and more than a dozen other dangerous pollutants. Take action now to tell MidAmerican their plan is irresponsible, and that Iowans - and our wildlife and waterways - deserve better from our utility. 


What's new in Iowa's water news:

Upcoming water events:

The Devil's Element: Phosphorus and a World Out of Balance - Webinar - April 12
• Polk Co. Service Squad Kick Off - Big Grove Brewery, Des Moines - April 14
• Save our Streams Field Training - Hurtsville Interpretive Center, Jackson Co. - April 15
• The Farm Bill and Factory Farms - Webinar - April 18
Earth Day Events in Iowa - Various - April 22
Ioway Creek Trash Clean-Up - Ioway Creek, Ames - April 29
Can Iowa's Waters Be Saved? - Plymouth Congregational UCC, Des Moines - April 30
Iowa Great Lakes Walleye Weekend - Okoboji - May 6-7
• Riverfest: River Cleanup - Birdland Marina, Des Moines - May 19


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

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