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Forming a Watershed Management Authority in Iowa

Learn how to form a Watershed Management Authority in Iowa to reduce flood risk and improve water quality.The actual steps to forming a WMA in your watershed will vary based on local needs and available resources. Here are some preliminary steps you may want to consider as you get started.

Understand the issues

What are the resource concerns within the watershed that will motivate communities to participate in a WMA? These could include, but are not limited to:

  • water quality concerns (impaired waterways, drinking water quality, etc)
  • chronic flooding
  • recreation
  • resource enhancement or protection (wildlife habitat, drinking water, parkland or conservation area, etc)

To start the WMA formation process, you may want to create a list of informational resources or consult with technical experts in order to gain an accurate understanding of environmental conditions. Also, at this stage you may want to develop a map of the watershed, which is a required component of the 28E agreement submitted to the Iowa Secretary of State. The map should include all political subdivisions that will be invited to participate in the WMA. The Iowa DNR can assist with creating watershed maps.

Consider the potential short- and long-term outcomes
The overarching goals of the proposed WMA may be to address flood impacts or improve water quality, but it is important to underscore the tangible short-term benefits of participating in a WMA. These might include:

  • Better communication about priorities, projects, and resource concerns
  • Multi-jurisdictional planning and management
  • Identifying opportunities to partner on larger projects or to share equipment or resources

While the ultimate goals and objectives of the WMA will need to be developed in collaboration with other WMA partners, it will be helpful to the decision-making process of potential members to have a better understanding of the process and types of activities the WMA may undertake.

Invite all cities, counties, and Soil and Water Conservation Districts to participate in the WMA
It is important to note that, per Iowa code, all eligible political subdivisions (SWCDs, cities and counties) must be invited to participate in the WMA. There are many different ways to approach this step, and your method will depend on local needs. Your contact with the potential members could include any one  or combination of the following outreach methods:

  • A general, informational / scoping meeting to which all potential parties are invited (be sure to include public notice)
  • Formal letters of invitation mailed to all parties. Include a map of the area and basic information about WMAs in Iowa
  • Personal phone calls and/or emails
  • Visits to the meetings of city councils, boards of supervisors, and soil and water conservation commissioner meetings. It is a good idea to have someone who is knowledgeable about the proposed WMA on hand at these meetings when the decision to join is on the agenda, in case there are any questions or concerns that need to be addressed.

In your outreach to potential WMA members, be sure to highlight the benefits of participation. No political subdivision is required to participate in a WMA, and with limited staff resources, they will want to understand what they are likely to get out of their involvement. Be sure to document all communications with eligible entities to demonstrate that this requirement has been met.

For more information on the 28E formation process:

Funding Resources

A list of funding resources has been compiled on the Iowa Stormwater Education Program website. 

Technical Assistance