It’s that time of year again – summer has unofficially arrived with warmer weather, pools opening, and the start of beach monitoring at some of Iowa’s most popular beaches. With that comes the start of IEC’s Weekly Water Watch series. You can rely on us to provide weekly beach advisories and timely water news throughout the summer. Our hope this year, and every year since we started Weekly Water Watch is that more Iowans will appreciate our water resources during the summer months, learn more about water quality, and feel inspired to call for policy change to protect our rivers and lakes.
Beginning this weekend, Iowa state parks are fully open and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Rock Island District are conducting weekly beach monitoring. Monitoring will continue through Labor Day weekend. This week, there are *** beach advisories at monitored public beaches.
You can always find the week’s beach advisories on our Weekly Water Watch webpage. We update the map each week to reflect the latest data and advisories. This is an easy way to check the status of a state park beach you are headed to!
Why do we care about Iowa’s beaches?
Iowa’s lakes offer Iowans the opportunity to escape, relax, spend time with friends and family, and have fun. They're critical economic drivers for many Iowa communities, and in some cases, a source of drinking water for thousands of Iowans. IEC provides beach advisory information as part of Weekly Water Watch in an easy-to-understand format that makes it possible for the average beach-goer to plan their trip and learn about the greater scope of Iowa's beach and water quality issues. Check out the data we’ve tracked on Iowa’s beach advisories.
Watch our latest video to learn more about the benefits lake recreation provides for local communities.
What is E. coli and why is it monitored?
E. coli are bacteria that indicate when fecal matter is present in the water. Some strains of E. coli can cause adverse human health impacts, but the presence of this bacteria typically indicates there may be other harmful pathogens present. Contact with these pathogens can cause diarrhea and skin, ear, and respiratory infections. Children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems are especially at risk. Fecal matter at beaches could come from a number of sources, including improperly operated septic systems or sewage treatment plants, manure spills, stormwater runoff, or direct contamination from waterfowl, livestock, pets, or humans.
What are microcystin and harmful algae blooms (HABs)?
Harmful algae blooms (HABs) occur when blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) proliferate in calm, warm, nutrient-rich waters. The cyanobacteria can release microcystin, a toxin that is dangerous to humans and animals. Coming into contact with microcystin by touching or swimming in the water, or swallowing or breathing in droplets, can cause serious illness. Pets can also get sick by coming into contact with an HAB, with dogs being especially at risk of ingesting microcystin, which could lead to seizures and even death. The Iowa DNR issues swim advisories when microcystin is detected at or above 8 micrograms per liter. Iowa DNR issued 23 swim advisories for microcystin last summer.
Learn more about HABs and microcystin from Iowa experts.
Thank you for reading and following along with us this summer! Have a fun and safe Memorial Day weekend.
- Alicia Vasto, Water Program Associate Director