Thousands of private wells have unsafe levels of bacteria, nitrates, new study says

Thousands of private wells that Iowans use for drinking water are contaminated with unsafe levels of bacteria and nitrates, a study looking at 16 years of data shows.

The Environmental Working Group and the Iowa Environmental Council blame farmers’ use of fertilizer for the pollution.


Naig announces funding for 19 new water quality projects

The Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig announced funding for water quality projects across Iowa including a new project in the Turkey River Watershed. More details can be found here.

Using Native Species in Urban Landscaping

Iowa Conservationists Call For More Flooding Protection Funding

Tagged with:

Touring the Otter Creek Watershed

Despite a rainy start to the day, nearly 60 people gathered for a bus tour of the Otter Creek Watershed in Northeast Iowa on June 8. Participants saw rural and urban conservation practices designed and installed to reduce flooding in the watershed.

The tour began and ended in West Union, Iowa, where downtown infrastructure has been upgraded to enhance stormwater management. This project includes more than four acres of permeable pavers for downtown streets and sidewalks placed over a bed of crushed stone. This system has the capacity to manage a hundred-year storm, with no discharge for rainfall events between 0.5–0.75 inches … read more

Watershed Scale, Not Field Scale

Watershed Scale, Not Field Scale

Watershed Management Authorities: Opening the Communication Line Between Cities and Farmers

Watershed Management Authorities: Opening the Communication Line Between Cities and Farmers

New app uses artificial intelligence to give people real live flood data

The Daily Erosion Project

The Daily Erosion Project (DEP) estimates precipitation, runoff, sheet and rill erosion, and hillslope delivery in near real time, on over 2000 watersheds in the Midwest (Figure 1). It does this by running the Water Erosion Prediction Project (WEPP) model with a combination of remotely-sensed precipitation weather stations, remotely-sensed crop and residue cover, remotely-sensed topography, and soils databases.

It is an update and expansion to the Iowa Daily Erosion Project (Cruse et al., 2006) that is designed to further investigate large scale erosion dynamics while maintaining hillslope level input resolution. The DEP has a climate database extending from 2007  to the present day, enabling investigation of single event and single year runoff and soil erosion dynamics over a large time range and spatial extent.

Iowa Watersheds Project

In September 2016, the Iowa Watersheds Project ended with the completion of over 150 built structures including ponds, terraces, wetlands, water and sediment control basins, and on-road structures. The Iowa Flood Center received $4.5M from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for the five-year project aimed at mitigating flood risk in select Iowa watersheds.

The specific goals of the project aimed to:

  •     Maximize soil water holding capacity from precipitation;
  •     Minimize severe soil erosion and sand deposition during floods;
  •     Manage water runoff in uplands under saturated soil moisture conditions;
  •     Reduce and mitigate structural and nonstructural flood damage

Phase I – Hydrologic Assessment

Hydrologic assessments were completed to further understand the hydrology, assess risk, and prepare a plan to minimize future losses in watershed participating in this study. The watersheds ranged in area from 500 to 1,500 square miles, representing Iowa’s varied topography, soils, and land use. The Iowa Flood Center developed HEC-HMS hydrologic models for each basin and ran simulations to understand the potential effectiveness of various hypothetical mitigation strategies.

The hydrologic assessments include a comparison of the water cycle across the watersheds and an analysis of hypothetical watershed scenarios that seek to reduce flood damages including changes to infiltration in the watershed and increased storage on the landscape.

Finalized Phase I Reports [pdf]

South Chequest Creek Hydrologic Assessment
Middle Raccoon River Hydrologic Assessment
Soap Creek Hydrologic Assessment
Turkey River Watershed Hydrologic Assessment
Upper Cedar River Watershed Hydrologic Assessment

Phase II – Construction of Projects

Watershed Management Authorities in each watershed selected pilot subwatersheds to construct and implement demonstration projects. Three HUC 12s were identified to receive funds for project construction.

The following subwatersheds were selected to receive $1.5M to fund the construction of small-scale flood mitigation projects:

A dense instrumentation network monitoring stream stage, precipitation, soil moisture, soil temperature, and water quality was deployed in each of the pilot watersheds to track watershed conditions.

Finalized Phase II Reports [pdf]

Beaver Creek Project Evaluation
South Chequest Creek Project Evaluation
Soap Creek Project Evaluation
Otter Creek Project Evaluation

As the Iowa Watersheds Project ended in the fall of 2016, the state of Iowa was awarded $96.9M for a new watershed project, The Iowa Watershed Approach. The IWA will work in nine new watersheds across the state and is built off the framework developed through the IWP. For more information, visit the IWA website here.

Turkey River Farmers Encouraged to Attend Profitability Workshop

Farmers and landowners in the Turkey River Watershed are invited to a farm profitability workshop on Friday, Feb. 24 from 8:00 a.m.-10:00 am at the Fayette County Fairgrounds Dance Pavilion in West Union.

As profit margins get tighter, farm profitability is more important than ever. Attendees will learn about profitability analysis as a way to evaluate and improve farm performance.

At the workshop, Dan Bahe, AgSolver precision business planning specialist, will explain the profitability analysis process and the basic information needed to get started.

“Profitability analysis is a great way to identify which areas of a field are high performing and which are low performing,” Bahe said. “Once farmers have this information, they can consider more profitable alternatives for each area.”

Additionally, the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) and the Northeast Iowa Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) will discuss an opportunity for farmers to participate in a confidential profitability analysis at a discounted price of 25 cents/acre.

Check-in begins at 7:30 a.m., with a catered breakfast served from 7:30-7:50 a.m. RSVP to Ross Evelsizer, Northeast Iowa RC&D watershed planner, at 563-864-7112 by Tuesday, Feb. 21.

The event is hosted by the Northeast Iowa RC&D, AgSolver and ISA. The profitability project is sponsored by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture and the National Fish and the Wildlife Foundation.

The Iowa Soybean Association ( develops policies and programs that help Iowa’s more than 38,000 soybean farmers expand profit opportunities while promoting environmentally sensitive production using the soybean checkoff and other resources. The association was founded in 1964 and is governed by an elected volunteer board of 22 farmers. It strives to be honest and transparent, fact-based and data driven and committed to environmental stewardship, collaborations and partnerships.

$100,000 Grant Received for Trail Project in Fayette County

October 20th, 2016

Fayette County Conservation has been awarded a $100,000 grant from Iowa Resource Enhancement and Protection, commonly referred to as REAP.

REAP invests in projects that enhance and protect Iowa’s natural and cultural resources.  15% of REAP is set aside for grants to cities and counties for projects that help establish natural areas, and encourage outdoor recreation and resource management.

This grant was made possible through the Fayette County Conservation Board’s partnership with the Turkey River Recreational Corridor (TRRC) and Northeast Iowa Resource Conservation & Development (RC&D). The grant money will be used for expansion of the TRRC Trail from the City of Elgin to Gilbertson Conservation Education Area through the construction of a pedestrian bridge across the Turkey River and a paved walking trail through the park complex.

This money will not only benefit Elgin and Fayette County residents, but also visitors to the TRRC.  It will create pedestrian and bicycle connections so residents and visitors can safely and comfortably move between Elgin and Gilbertson Park. This project is part of a larger initiative to develop, improve, and add to the Northeast Iowa trails system that will eventually span from Guttenberg and the Cassville Ferry to Lanesboro, Minnesota.
In its 27 years, REAP has benefited every county in Iowa by supporting over 15,000 projects. REAP has funded these projects with $250 million in state investments, leveraging two to three times the amount in private, local and federal dollars.  Collectively, these projects have improved the quality of life for all Iowans with better soil and water quality; added outdoor recreation opportunities; sustained economic development; enhanced knowledge and understanding of our ecological and environmental assets, and preservation of our cultural and historic treasures.
Local Contact is:     Rod Marlatt, Fayette County Conservation Director