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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.
What about TMDLs?
You may have heard a water quality improvement plan called by its more technical name - a TMDL. This term stands for "Total Daily Maximum 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.
Steps in developing an Iowa water quality improvement plan:
What happens after a plan is prepared?
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.
Water Quality Improvement Plan (TMDL) Program Coordinator