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Iowa's Ambient Watershed Monitoring and Assessment Program

Sunset Lake Lillies


The Watershed Monitoring and Assessment Section of the Iowa DNR is responsible for the design, implementation and management of Iowa's Ambient Water Monitoring Program. The purpose of the program is to develop and deliver consistent, unbiased information about the condition of Iowa's surface and groundwater resources so that decisions regarding the development, management, and protection of these resources may be improved. 

Did You Know?

Summer Monitoring at our Lakes, Streams, and Beaches

Lake Monitoring

The Ambient Lake Monitoring program samples over 130 lakes in Iowa each summer. Each lake is sampled three times throughout between May and September: once in early summer, once in mid-summer, and once in late summer/early fall. Data from this project is used to assess the health of our lakes and target individual lakes for restoration and watershed improvement activities. Monitoring is currently completed through a partnership with the Iowa State University Limnology Laboratory. Monitoring results and mini-reports explaining water quality for individual lakes can be found at:

Shallow Lakes and Wetlands Monitoring

Annual monitoring at many of Iowa’s shallow lakes and wetlands captures snapshots of water quality and ecosystem health of these important resources. Wetlands are essential wildlife habitats and act as natural filters, trapping excess nutrients and sediment traveling downstream. DNR wetland monitoring is sponsored by a partnership between 3 bureaus within the DNR and several non-profit organizations, such as Ducks Unlimited and Pheasants Forever. Monitoring is targeted to show improvements in water quality after restoration activities. Monitoring from 2012 showed dramatically increased water clarity after wetlands were restored. 2013 monitoring activities will continue to document water quality improvements and target wetlands for future work.

Beach Monitoring

The Iowa DNR beach monitoring program samples numerous state and city/county beaches each week throughout the summer for indicator bacteria and algal toxins.  Beach monitoring is targeting at providing up to date information on potential human health risks for recreating at our many beaches. Annual data is summarized and used to assess the overall health of the beach for recreation. Weekly monitoring results are posted at:

Stream Monitoring

Monthly ambient stream monitoring in a network of over 80 sites across the state have been sampled since 1999 for a variety of parameters. Monitoring our streams and rivers allows us to better understand how pollutants are moving downstream. Sites in this network also monitor the impact of cities on our waterways by monitoring rivers upstream and downstream of many of Iowa’s metropolitan areas. Monitoring results are coupled with continuous flow monitoring to better understand movement of pollutants with changing water levels. More information and monitoring results can be found at:

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