DNR-Funded Conservation Practices Reduce Water Pollution in 2011
Posted: 02/23/2012
DES MOINES — More than 20,000 tons of soil are staying put on the land and out of Iowa streams, rivers and lakes, thanks to conservation practices installed in fiscal year 2011, according to numbers released by the DNR.

Put that amount of soil in dump trucks, and it would make a line more than 6 miles long. The numbers indicate that conservation practices on agricultural and urban land are effectively reducing pollutants reaching Iowa’s water. Local watershed projects work with landowners to use conservation practices in a watershed, which is an area of land that drains into a lake, river or stream. Common conservation practices include wetlands, ponds, terraces and buffers.

“We continue to make progress, improving our lakes, rivers and streams,” said Bill Ehm, head of DNR’s environmental services division. “Looking at the results over time, it shows that Iowans are taking ownership of their local waters. We enjoy working with Iowans to improve water quality and look forward to future successes.”

Each year, the DNR helps fund a number of locally-led projects that help Iowans improve their water. Of those projects, 21 reported constructing a total of 307 conservation practices during federal fiscal year (FFY) 2011. From Oct. 1, 2010 to Sept. 30, 2011, those conservation practices:
One successful local effort in Jackson County installed practices that keep sediment and nutrients from reaching Tete Des Morts Creek. The Tete Des Morts project coordinator worked with landowners to install practices in federal fiscal year 2011 that reduced sediment delivery to the creek by 1,777 tons per year, enough to fill 118 dump trucks. Phosphorus was reduced by 2,310 pounds per year and nitrogen loading was reduced by 3,972 pounds per year.

These conservation practices will continue to reduce pollutants at the same rate if properly maintained. The new numbers apply only to practices installed in 2011 through DNR-funded watershed projects and do not reflect the total effects of all conservation practices in the state. Practices installed through DNR watershed projects since 2004 now collectively reduce sediment reaching Iowa’s waters by 175,867 tons per year and phosphorus loading by 260,592 pounds per year.

The DNR is currently accepting applications for grant funding for new watershed efforts. More information is available at watershed.iowadnr.gov. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provides DNR funding for nonpoint pollution programs.

Sediment can make water cloudy, damage the habitat of fish and other aquatic life, and fill in lakes and streambeds. High levels of nutrients, like phosphorus or nitrates, can cause algae blooms, increase drinking water costs and lead to poor aquatic life diversity.