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Water Quality Efforts Soak Up the Benefits in Monona

  • 3/5/2015 5:00:00 AM
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A new permeable parking lot in Monona, Iowa soaks up rainwater as it falls, preventing runoff of soil and pollutants into a nearby stream.Watch a video of Monona's fire truck demonstration from the DNR on YouTube.

Imagine the flooding and runoff—and the destruction it could cause—from dumping 2,000 gallons of water on a parking lot in only one minute.

But in Monona, it’s just a drop in the bucket­­—­­the city showed off its new permeable parking lot by bringing out a fire engine to pour out that massive amount of water (in the photo at right, you'll notice they used a protective mat to protect the pavers from the force of the water). The water just soaked into the lot. No ponding, no flooding, no puddles. ­

Before building the parking lot, Monona residents visiting the new aquatic center parked in a gravel lot. When it rained, water would wash dirt, gravel and more into the creek at the bottom of the hill. That stream flows into the impaired Silver Creek, the focus of a watershed project, and then the Turkey River.

Now, water falling on the parking lot and sidewalks is infiltrated, treated, and slowed down to avoid pollution washing into the creek. The city used the new Water Resource Restoration (Sponsored Projects) program to obtain $245,000 of the total $260,000 cost of the permeable paver system.

“Residents are pleased to have a functional parking lot now,” says Monona city administrator Dan Canton. “The city would not have been able to afford the project without the SRF Clean Water Resource Restoration Program.”

Managed through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF), the Sponsored Projects program allows cities and wastewater utilities to defer a portion of the interest on a sewer project loan and put it instead toward a watershed protection project. 

“Monona’s $2.6 million SRF loan for wastewater upgrades was the vehicle for financing the permeable paving as well,” says Patti Cale-Finnegan with the SRF program. “Participants like Monona are able to do two water quality efforts for the cost of one.” 

Another 30 cities, utilities and a state park are currently working on sponsored projects that include rain gardens, bioswales, floodplain restoration, stream corridor stabilization, wetlands and more.

The program is a joint effort between the DNR, Iowa Finance Authority and IDALS.  Project partners around the state include soil and water conservation districts, watershed management authorities, watershed groups, county conservation boards and others.

The total amount invested in the first two years is projected to be $25 million. Sponsored project applications are taken in March and September.  

Read more about Monona's permeable parking lot and other water quality successes in Working For Clean Water, the DNR's annual watershed success story publication.