Weekly Water Watch is really about this:  taking a minute to 1) see Iowa’s lakes as resource, 2) understand threats to lake water quality, and 3) really ask ourselves -- how much is clean water worth?

Quick recap:  When fertilizer is sprayed onto Iowa farm fields, those chemicals/nutrients go somewhere. Onto the crops to help them grow, yes. But all too often, those nutrients are carried away from farm fields via runoff or underground tile drainage lines into Iowa’s waters. To our rivers. To our lakes. When those nutrients enter warm water and combine with sunlight, they cause things to grow. Things like harmful algae blooms (HABs). 

It’s not just a bummer when gross blue-green algae is floating in our lakes.

Sometimes, it's a serious public health concern.

Why?  Because harmful algae blooms (HABs) can release toxins in the water (like microcystin) that can poison people + pets + livestock.

When HAB-related toxins occur in recreational lakes, we can’t swim. 

Check out the beach monitoring reports we're tracking for a list of current swim advisories. 

HAB-related toxins don't just keep us out of the water and put a damper on our beach plans, they threaten our local economies -- note that in some years, visits to Iowa’s 139 lakes have contributed nearly $1 billion in estimated spending to Iowa’s economy.

When HAB-related toxins occur in a source water lake (a lake used for drinking water) – it can be a community crisis. 

This week we saw the community of Greenfield struggle when a HAB appeared in Lake Greenfield (their community’s drinking water source). While testing was conducted to determine whether a HAB-related toxin was/was not present, residents were told not to drink the water (even after boiling it because boiling doesn’t eliminate the toxins), not to use the water for food prep, not to use the water to brush their teeth, or to water pets/animals, etc.

Iowans need clean water to drink, to fill a bottle of formula, to bathe our children, to water livestock, to run our businesses, to operate our hospitals.

How much is it worth to us?

Iowa Lakes & Reservoirs that are Public Drinking Water Sources

Numerous Iowa communities get their drinking water from Iowa lakes and reservoirs. Click here to learn more.

A Growing Problem:  Harmful Algal Blooms, U.S. Lakes & Drinking Water

Environmental Working Group's recent report on the impact of HABs across the U.S. is eye-opening.  Don't miss their video showing how a HAB-related toxin in Lake Erie made drinking water unsafe for residents in Toledo, Ohio. Click here.

Spoiling the fun: Harmful Algal Blooms, Bacteria & Beaches

Nutrient pollution contributes to an overgrowth of blue-green algae in Iowa's waters. These harmful algal blooms (HABs, also known as cyanobacteria) threaten our public health and diminish the use and enjoyment of Iowa's recreational lakes/waters. Read more.  E.coli bacteria is also a problem at a number of Iowa beaches -- click here to learn more about the causes and impacts of E.coli contamination.

Safe to Swim?

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) conducts weekly monitoring of 39 state park beaches in Iowa for microcystin (a dangerous toxin produced by harmful algal blooms) and E.coli. We're tracking the most recent IDNR weekly monitoring reports - click here to find out which 11 Iowa state park beaches are currently under swim advisories.

Iowans value and heavily use our state's lakes for recreation. Visits to Iowa lakes result in significant economic benefits for our state and also help support local jobs. Learn why protecting the water quality of Iowa lakes is essential to retaining these economic benefits. Read More 

Harmful algal blooms (HABs) produce dangerous toxins that can threaten the health of you, your family, and even your pets. Learn how to identify HABs, prevent exposure, and identify symptoms of exposure. Read More.  A number of Iowa beaches are currently contaminated with E.coli -- click here to learn more about potential health impacts. 

We've reviewed more than ten years of state beach monitoring data to see how the number of microcystin and E.coli-related swim advisories issued by Iowa's Department of Natural Resources adds up. Read More.

What's New in Iowa Water News?

Check out recent reports, upcoming events, and general news related to Iowa's water quality.  

Recent News

 Recent Research & Reports:

Upcoming Events:

  • Farm Field Day 

    • ​Where – near Sutherland (NWest Iowa)
    • When - July 11, 2018
    • What - A farm field day for farmers and the public on July 11th.  At least 3 of the 5 presentations focus on water quality
  • Project AWARE

  • University of Okoboji Point to Point Swim

  • Prairie Lakes Conference

    • Where – Arrowwood Conference Center, Okoboji, Iowa
    • When – Thursday, August 9  through Friday, August 10, 2018
    • How Much? $100 for a Full Conference Attendee or $70 per day
    • http://plciowa.com/
  • Blue Waters Festival

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


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