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Join Nitrate Watch, a hands-on approach to nitrate monitoring

by Heather Wilson, Midwest Save Our Streams Coordinator with Izaak Walton League of America

When I lead a Save Our Streams water quality monitoring training, I usually ask the attendees "Why is clean water important?" Different people respond in different ways – maybe they value clean water for paddling or fishing, ecosystem services, aesthetic beauty, or simply safety and human health. Of course, all of these factors (and more) are important. Unfortunately, all of them are threatened by nitrate pollution. 

Iowans have become all too familiar with nitrate and its impact on water quality. This pollutant, common in agricultural runoff, sets in motion a cascade of ecosystem effects when it's delivered to waterways, causing algae blooms, fish kills, and hypoxic dead zones.

The human health impact of nitrate is perhaps less widely understood but no less important. When we consume drinking water that contains excess nitrate, it can lead to conditions like blue baby syndrome, thyroid disease, birth defects, and cancers. Public water systems are required to remove nitrate in excess of the 10 mg/L drinking water standard, but this protection is not in place for private groundwater wells. Moreover, scientists have observed adverse health impacts even when nitrate concentrations are below the 10 mg/L standard. 

Nitrate pollution is a sprawling, complex issue with its roots in major industries. It can be difficult to feel that we as individuals have the ability to affect change when an issue looms so large. This is one of the reasons the Izaak Walton League is so excited to invite volunteers to participate in the Nitrate Watch program, which takes a hands-on approach to combatting nitrate pollution. 

Nitrate Watch engages volunteers from across the country in monitoring nitrate pollution. Volunteers request test kits, including nitrate test strips and instructions, at nitratewatch.org. These kits are free (while supplies last!), making participation accessible for all. Volunteers can monitor nitrate levels in surface water (such as streams, rivers, lakes, and others), as well as drinking water (including public drinking water systems and private wells). 

Heather leads a Save Our Streams training

Testing the water at Walnut Creek in April 


Let's Celebrate 10 Years of Pro H2O!

Join IEC on Thursday, June 15, to celebrate ten years of pro-water advocacy in Iowa. We'll have all the usual favorites - delicious food, great drinks, and good friends - plus an impressive virtual auction (open for bidding to anyone in Iowa and beyond!) and a slate of award winners deserving of accolades for their work to on clean water in Iowa. Get your tickets to join us in Des Moines or Okoboji, and mark your calendar to check out the virtual auction! Tickets are available now. We can't wait to celebrate with you!


Legislators defund water monitoring

The Iowa Legislature passed an Ag and Natural Resources budget that defunds the water sensor network used by state researchers to analyze the state’s progress on nitrogen and phosphorus pollution reduction.

"The legislature’s move... is clearly in response to the data they provide," said Alicia Vasto, IEC Water Program Director. "If the data was showing improvement on nutrient pollution, they certainly wouldn’t want the sensors pulled out of the water."

The budget is now on Governor Reynolds’ desk for signing, but public pressure is mounting for her to line-item veto and maintain the funding for the sensors. Read the full story in IEC's Newsroom.

Photo courtesy of Aquatic Sensor Workgroup

Judge overturns Supreme Beef NMP

Environmental groups and Iowans across the state celebrated the news that a Polk County District Court judge sided with the Sierra Club and the Iowa Council of Trout Unlimited in a lawsuit claiming a nutrient management plan for Supreme Beef, a large cattle feedlot in northeast Iowa, was flawed.

Supreme Beef was approved for more than 11,000 cattle, is located adjacent to Bloody Run Creek, an Outstanding Water of Iowa, and on karst terrain that is more susceptible to groundwater contamination. 

The judge ruled the DNR used "illogical interpretations and applications" to approve the NMP.

The case now returns to the DNR for reconsideration.  

Join Service Squad at Riverfest 2023

On Friday, May 19 Iowa Rivers Revival and partners will host Riverfest, a river cleanup event at Birdland Marina in Des Moines.

The family-friendly event will feature live music, refreshments, educational programming, and land and water cleanup activities. More than fifteen organizations, including IEC and other member organizations, will also host educational booths featuring educational clean water activities.

Rivers are a key source of drinking water and represent an essential natural resource. With collaboration and community engagement, we can protect them for decades to come. You're invited to join in this effort on May 19 — and beyond.


What's new in Iowa's water news:

Upcoming water events:

Healthy Farms = Healthy Rivers: How the Farm Bill can create a healthier Mississippi River - Webinar - May 10
Wildflowers and Streambeds - Eden Valley Refuge, Clinton Co. - May 10
• Easter Lake Watershed Rainscaping Festival - Ewing Park, Des Moines - May 13
• Life in the Raccoon River Annual Conference - In person or virtual, Des Moines - May 13
• Walk for River Rights - Rock Island, IL - May 13
Leveraging Local Connections: The Batch and Build Method - Webinar - May 16
Hike a Park: Chatfield Lake - Starr's Cave Park and Preserve, Des Moines Co.
Riverfest: Birdland Marina Cleanup - Des Moines - May 19
Water testing and survey - Big Rock Park, Pella - May 20
Volunteer Water Quality Training with CLAMP - Okoboji - May 20
• Wapsi through the Seasons Spring Kayak - Buchanan Co. - May 20
• DNR Free Fishing Weekend - June 3-5


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

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