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DES MOINES -- A 2016 report of Iowa’s water monitoring efforts for nutrients highlights both the complexity and long-term value of evaluating nutrient levels in Iowa’s lakes, streams and rivers.
Developed jointly by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and Iowa Department of Natural Resources, with the support of Iowa State University and the University of Iowa IIHR—Hydroscience and Engineering Center, the report is the first of its kind in Iowa and includes a comprehensive list of surface water monitoring efforts specific to nutrients.
The report was developed in support of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy and is available at www.nutrientstrategy.iastate.edu/documents underneath the heading "Supplemental Documents."
“Iowa has a comprehensive water quality monitoring effort in place that is supported by a variety of partners. Monitoring results were central to identifying the practices highlighted in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy and have provided valuable information as we have established priority watersheds. It continues to be an important part of our efforts as we work to increase the pace and scale of practice adoption needed to improve water quality,” Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey said.
Water monitoring can be used for a variety of purposes and look at a broad range of parameters. This report focused specifically on the numerous water monitoring projects for nutrients in place across Iowa to better understand the water quality status of streams and rivers. The report discusses the complexity of nutrient monitoring and practices; for example, when changes are made within a target watershed, water quality improvements will likely be visible sooner in smaller watersheds compared to a larger watershed. Therefore, current monitoring efforts target a variety of scales, including:
Even with the extensive network of water monitoring efforts in place, measuring changes in natural ecosystems presents several technical, scientific and policy challenges. The report outlines several of those complicating factors, including legacy nutrients, lag time, limitations of conservation practice data, extreme weather events, locations of monitoring sites, importance of long-term data collection and variable precipitation, and stream flow.
“While challenges exist, we believe continued nutrient monitoring is critical to understanding what Iowa can do to be successful,” said Chuck Gipp, DNR Director. “All partners involved in developing this report know the value of long-term evaluation and are committed to continuing with a science-based approach to nutrient reduction in Iowa waters.”
The Nutrient Reduction Strategy is a research- and technology-based approach to assess and reduce nutrients, specifically nitrogen and phosphorus, delivered to Iowa waterways and the Gulf of Mexico. Monitoring Iowa streams provides insight into measuring water quality progress and the reduction of surface water nutrient loss. The Nutrient Reduction Strategy aims to reduce the load, or amount of nutrients, lost annually from the landscape. According to Gipp, this report serves as a means to improve understanding of the extent of current nutrient monitoring networks in Iowa.
Get the full nutrient monitoring report