Iowans Create Water Quality Successes in 2011
Posted: 02/02/2012
DES MOINES — The efforts of Iowans in 2011 to improve Iowa’s lakes, rivers and streams have resulted in success stories across the state, and more efforts are underway for 2012. Working with groups statewide, including the Iowa DNR’s Watershed Improvement Program, Iowans are making changes on the land to improve our waters.

“Iowans are learning that their neighborhoods extend far beyond the block or the fence line as they come together as common citizens of our state’s watersheds,” said Roger Lande, DNR director. “With long-term, comprehensive plans for improvement, communities are protecting drinking water sources and improving water quality for recreation. Their work can also boost fishing, boating and hunting, which helps 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 north Iowa community of Charles City – one hit hard by the 2008 floods – is embracing the Cedar River, making it a Midwest hot spot for whitewater enthusiasts. A major redevelopment of the riverfront, including a whitewater park, amphitheater, stormwater fountain, labyrinth and more is drawing in visitors from the community and across the region. To protect the investment, the city has used permeable pavers and bioretention plantings in a historic neighborhood upstream that clean and reduce rainwater runoff into the river.

“The community was looking for a way to capitalize on the Cedar,” said Tom Brownlow, city administrator for Charles City, noting that kayakers from Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin and beyond have already used the whitewater course, as well as anglers from across Iowa. “You come out here any day and you’ll see fishermen.”

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 Charles City story, as well as other success stories from 2011, are highlighted in “Working for Clean Water: 2011 Watershed Improvement Successes in Iowa,” a booklet available at http://watershed.iowadnr.gov/WatershedSuccesses.aspx.

For more information on the DNR’s watershed improvement efforts or on grant applications, contact Steve Hopkins at 515-281-6402 or at Stephen.Hopkins@dnr.iowa.gov or visit http://watershed.iowadnr.gov.