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Summer Ends but the Watch Continues 

Last weekend was the unofficial end of the summer recreational season. The weather may still be warm, but the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) weekly beach monitoring ended last week, and the final data from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Rock Island District was released today. Thank you for following along with Weekly Water Watch this summer for water news and beach advisories. Before we turn our focus toward fall events and policy work, let’s recap what the summer delivered. 

This summer started with serious drought, bringing early toxic algae blooms and consistent levels of E.coli contamination.  Over the course of the summer, the Iowa DNR issued 23 beach advisories for microcystin and 88 for E. coli. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Rock Island District issued seven advisories for E. coli. For the sixth year in a row, Backbone Beach had the most advisories for E. coli; it was under advisory for 11 of the 15 weeks of monitoring.  Lake Darling had the most microcystin advisories this summer with seven. Combined with nine advisories for E. coli, Lake Darling was under a swim advisory for all but the first and last two weeks of the recreation season. 

The drought brought an increased number of microcystin advisories this summer – almost double the number in 2020. Stagnant water and high temperatures allowed blue-green algae to proliferate. This continued the increasing trend we’ve documented over the years. Harmful algae blooms are  not going away and continue to threaten public health and  Iowans’ quality of life. That’s why we continue to fight for clean, safe water. 

Algae bloom, Spirit Lake, August 2021

Algae bloom, Clear Lake, July 2021


Notable statistics from summer 2021:

       •  Crandall’s Beach (Spirit Lake), Rock Creek Lake, and Springbrook Beach in Guthrie County experienced their first advisories for microcystin since 2015.
       •  Backbone Beach was under advisory for E. coli for 11 of 15 weeks – the lowest number it has seen since 2014, but still more than any other state park beach. Since 2014, Backbone has experienced the most E. coli advisories at 105. 
       •  Four beaches recorded advisories for both E. coli and microcystin. 
       •  24 beaches recorded swim advisories this summer. 20 beaches did not record an advisory. 

Heading into fall, we’re excited to announce that our Water Watch newsletter will continue. We’re pivoting to a monthly edition called Iowa Water Watch. In addition to bringing you the latest water news and events, Iowa Water Watch will feature new voices and engaging content. We’ll keep you updated as we head into the 2022 legislative session and turn toward policy work that will protect our water and land. 

You can help support our work by joining us next week (safely in-person or virtually) at Pro H2O, our biggest water fundraiser of the year. We’ll be live in five locations around the state, and also streaming online, so learn more and make plans to join us! Funds raised through Pro H2O help us continue our role as water watchdog and connector. And that role is more necessary than ever. Find details and tickets at iaenvironment.org/proh2o.  

Thank you to everyone that attended last night’s End of Summer Beach Bash at Alluvial Brewing! If you’re interested in taking action for Iowa’s lakes and beaches, consider writing a letter-to-the-editor or op-ed for your local paper. IEC can help you get your piece published.

If you’re interested and would like assistance with writing, ideas, or other needs, contact Angelisa Belden, IEC’s Communications Director, at belden@iaenvironment.org. You can also check out our tips and tricks online.

Thank you for following along with us all summer long. We hope you'll continue to join us in advocating for clean water all year!


Lake Darling Algae Bloom Summer 2021

End of Summer Beach Bash, Ames


Join us next Thursday for Pro H2O!

Pro H2O is IEC's biggest fundraiser of the year and there are many places and ways you can attend this year. On Thursday, September 16, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., join us in person or online to celebrate clean water and the Iowans making a difference for clean water efforts in our state. 

Join us safely* for live events in Des Moines, Cedar Falls, Oxford, Toddville, or Spirit Lake to enjoy live music by Emily Haavik and the 35's, a special-release craft ale created just for this event from Firetrucker Brewery, awards presentations and engaging networking opportunities, all hosted by Arctic explorer and Iowa native David Thorseson. 

You can also stream online to enjoy our presentation from anywhere in Iowa. Tickets range from $10 - $65 dollars. Make your plans to join us now!


Emcee David Thorseon

*COVID-19 Update: The Board of Directors of the Iowa Environmental Council, in keeping with CDC recommendations and following the science to keep us all as safe as possible as we gather together, will be requiring proof of a negative test or proof of vaccination to attend Pro H2O in person at any live location. Masks will also be required regardless of vaccination status when not eating or drinking. See our live event policy

INHF protects shoreline on East Okoboji Lake

Congratulations to IEC Member Organization Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation (INHF) for their monumental success in securing the funds to purchase 50 acres on the shoreline of East Okoboji Lake! This land purchase will protect 2,020 feet of natural shoreline.

The purchase agreement has been signed, and INHF will close on the property and take possession before the end of 2021. 

Read the full press release and learn about the exciting future plans for the area.

Episode 2: Iowa's Water with Your Green Portal

This month, Your Green Portal is focused on the economy, water quality, and water quantity.

In episode two, IEC Water Program Associate Director Alicia Vasto co-hosts the discussion on the intersection of water and the economy.

Listen now to this episode with Lynnae Marty Hentzen and Silvia Secchi, a professor in the Department of Geographical and Sustainability Sciences and a senior research fellow with the Public Policy Center at the University of Iowa.


Share Your Summer with IEC on Instagram

Follow us at @iowawaterwatch

Photo by @ginjax2

Photo by @megan_mcdowell_photography


What's New in Iowa's Water News

Dry summer causes rise in harmful algae, swim warnings in Iowa lakes (The Gazette)
• Nahant Marsh Summer Interns Present Findings to Public (QuadCities.com)
Iowa DNR Has Found Manganese Above EPA Health Advisory In A Small Number Of Public Water Systems (Iowa Public Radio) 
Mea Culpa--Nitrate event that wasn't (Dr. Chris Jones, IIHR Research Engineer)
State parks struggle to sustain adequate funding despite landmark legislation and increased usage (IowaWatch.org)
Whitewater Kayaking Parks Replace Old Dams in Iowa (Iowa Starting Line)

Upcoming Water Events


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

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