Water Quality Improvement Plans

Nine Eagles Lake in Decatur County.Iowa's streams, lakes and rivers need improvement. But where do we start?

Water quality improvement plans investigate streams and lakes on Iowa's impaired waters list. The ultimate goal is to improve water quality and remove streams and lakes from the impaired list. The plans, developed by the DNR, use research results and the public's input to help reduce the amount of pollutants reaching our water. 

Water quality improvement plans identify and locate water quality problems in a stream or lake, and suggest ways that communities can improve their stream or lake to meet Iowa's water quality standards.

Schedule of future improvement plans

Final plans

About Water Quality Improvement Plans

No meetings currently scheduled.

Eldred Sherwood Lake

Comments due by Oct. 31 to Jeff Berckes at:



Jeff Berckes
Iowa DNR
502 E. Ninth St.
Des Moines, Iowa 50319

Simply put, a water quality improvement plan looks at improving a stream or lake on Iowa’s impaired waters list. The plan identifies water quality problems, possible causes of those problems and proposes solutions. But it's also a process that requires the input and action of Iowans to be successful.
You may have heard a water quality improvement plan called by its more technical name - a TMDL. This term stands for "Total Maximum Daily Load."

A TMDL is a calculation that determines how much of a pollutant can enter a specific stream or lake in one day and still allow the lake or stream to meet the state's water quality standards. This calculation is just one part of the larger water quality improvement plan.

The Federal Clean Water Act created the TMDL process, which requires developing a TMDL for pollutants that cause a stream or lake to be placed on Iowa's impaired waters list. In Iowa, the process goes far beyond a calculation and becomes a plan for improving water quality that relies on the support and participation of Iowans in the watershed.

1. Stream or lake placed on impaired waters list.

2. The DNR meets with Iowans to learn about problems and possible causes of those problems in a watershed of an impaired stream or lake.

3. DNR drafts a water quality improvement plan, which includes:

  • Inventory of sources of pollution in the watershed.
  • Actual TMDL calculation as described above.
  • Water quality restoration plan (also called an "implementation plan") to be put into action by local groups in the watershed.

4. The DNR asks Iowans to review the draft water quality improvement plan.

5. The DNR meets again with Iowans to gather their comments on the plan and discuss how locals can use the plan to create a local watershed improvement group and project.

6. Locals use information in the water quality improvement plan to form a local watershed group and apply for grant funding to get the project started. Learn more about creating a watershed group.

When the plan is written and approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection, it's not the end, but a beginning. For any real improvement to be made on a stream or lake that has a water quality improvement plan, it is up to local communities and landowners to put the plan into action. By organizing a watershed improvement group, locals can apply for funding from the DNR and other agencies to help landowners and others install conservation practices. Conservation practices make changes on the land to help reduce the amount of pollutants reaching a stream or lake. The eventual goal is to reduce the amount of pollutants reaching the stream or lake so that it again meets water quality standards. At that point, the stream or lake may be able to come off the impaired waters list. Learn more about creating a watershed group.
DNR Contact

Jeff Berckes
Water Quality Improvement Plan (TMDL) Program Coordinator