DES MOINES - The efforts of Iowans in 2010 to improve Iowa's lakes, rivers and streams have resulted in success stories across the state, and more efforts are underway for 2011. Working with groups statewide, including the Iowa DNR's Watershed Improvement Program, Iowans are making changes on the land to improve our waters.
"People are banding together locally and regionally to lead efforts based on solid watershed and community research, and working with the DNR to develop comprehensive, long-term plans," said Patricia Boddy, DNR deputy director. "Communities are seeing the results when drinking water sources are protected or a creek is a safer place for kids to play. Fishing, boating and hunting can improve too, which boosts tourism and quality of life."
The DNR works with other state and federal agencies to help Iowans organize local watershed improvement efforts by providing technical and financial assistance to create long-term, comprehensive plans. With watershed management plans, local groups work with landowners and residents to make changes on the land in areas that can make the largest impact on water quality.
For example, the northeast Iowa community of West Union is undertaking a major renovation of its downtown to be more sustainable. A number of improvements, from rain gardens to prairie plantings, help soak up and filter rainfall rather than letting it runoff into storm sewers. This helps protect the fragile water quality in Otter and Glover creeks, both trout streams, and reduces water moving downstream. It also provides a number of other benefits to the community, from pedestrian safety to improved aesthetics.
"The floods of 2008 in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids were going on at the same time (as our project planning), and we asked, 'where did this water come from?' We saw we are a part of the contribution to urban stormwater issues downstream," said Robin Bostrom, the executive director of the West Union Chamber of Commerce. "We still have work to do, but we know people want to be in a place where there are sustainable practices in place."
Work is already underway to create the next round of success stories. The DNR is now accepting applications for Watershed Planning Grants, which help locally-led Iowa groups develop water quality improvement efforts.
The West Union story, as well as other success stories from 2010, are highlighted in "Working for Clean Water: 2010 Watershed Improvement Successes in Iowa," a booklet available at watershed.iowadnr.gov/success.html.