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Glimpse of Catfish Creek in Dubuque, Iowa in the fall
Volunteer Water Monitoring

Note: The DNR has discontinued the IOWATER Program as of January 2016. Any use of the term by other parties or organizations does not indicate affiliation with or sponsorship by the DNR or the State of Iowa.

Volunteer Monitoring Fact Sheet

Volunteer water monitoring has been a primary outlet for the DNR promotion of “citizen science” since 1998. Through the program, communities and individuals alike work with the DNR to better understand their local water quality. In light of ongoing fiscal constraints, a move toward a more sustainable model is necessary to best serve our partner communities, organizations, and citizens. 

Evaluation of the previous IOWATER program revealed several themes:

  • The team building and community aspects of IOWATER were some of the most useful takeaways and positives reported by participants.
  • Regular, sustained participation and activity relied on team efforts and the teams valuing the data they generated.
  • Water monitoring volunteers were much more likely to follow up and engage in other watershed-scale project activity such as planning or advocacy.

As a result of a review of the previous efforts, DNR is launching a new program to further express and sustain these important themes through a locally-led volunteer water monitoring program.

Volunteer water monitoring is best able to inform local water quality goals if the decision-making and coordination is locally-led. With the help of the DNR to get started, interested communities, watersheds, counties, and regions have an opportunity to take ownership and derive more value from their locally-led volunteer water monitoring programs.

The DNR continues to value volunteer water monitoring for its role in increasing citizen awareness, knowledge, and stewardship of Iowa’s water resources, and appreciates all volunteers that help us achieve our natural resource conservation and enhancement goals.


For more information contact Steve Konrady: Steven.Konrady@dnr.iowa.gov or 515-725-8388

 

To get started, check for local watershed projects or with conservation groups in your region:

Iowa has a dedicated network of state and county agencies that fund and promote watershed-scale projects across the state:

  • The DNR works with U.S. EPA Section 319 funding to support watershed projects and coordinators across the state. See if there is a project near you, and contact regional staff if you're interested in getting connected with your local watershed coordinators.
  • The DNR also works with Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship on many collaborative projects. Project information and interactive maps are available at the IDALS Clean Water Iowa page.

 

County Conservation Boards (CCBs) are long-standing DNR partners for local conservation initiatives as well as land, fish, and wildlife management. They also readily participate in watershed and water quality projects and your county conservation board may already have a water monitoring program. More information and contacts can be found with the Iowa Association of County Conservation Boards.

 

Iowa also has a network of Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) with 500 citizen commissioners and helpful teams of technical staff. They also employ watershed coordinators at many of the watershed projects across the state. Their offices are often found in USDA Service Centers.

 

The Iowa Division of the Izaak Walton League of America is working to bring back the Save Our Streams Program to the state. In collaboration with the national office of the League and Iowa DNR, the Iowa Ikes are hoping to provide additional outlets for training, supplies, volunteer coordination, and data handling statewide. 

Contact your local chapter or the statewide coordinator Zach Moss for more information.

If you are unable to find a locally-led volunteer monitoring community in your area, consider other volunteer options in Iowa:

County Conservation Boards also commonly need volunteers for programs and seasonal conservation work. Get in touch with your local CCB to learn more.

 

Teachers interested in water-based programming for their students may benefit from additional resources in the absence of a locally-led water quality monitoring program in their area. They are welcome to continue or develop a new monitoring program for their region with their school; however, these options provide other outlets for conservation and water quality education:

 

For new and existing locally-led volunteer monitoring projects:

Training for individual volunteers will be offered by the locally-led volunteer monitoring point person or other trained staff. Volunteer monitoring training presentations and manuals are available as a resource for locally-led programs and their training needs. The local program may edit these documents as needed to suit their specific monitoring strategy and volunteer group.

The DNR also offers an advanced training for watershed professionals called Stream and Watershed Integrated Management (SWIM).

 

The DNR can provide training for organized groups as needed, however, development of new traning materials such as videos is being examined as an alternative for increased flexibility and efficiency.

For more information contact Steve Konrady: Steven.Konrady@dnr.iowa.gov or 515-725-8388

 

Volunteer monitoring training presentations and manuals are available as a resource for locally-led programs and their training needs. The local program may edit these documents as needed to suit their specific monitoring strategy and volunteer group.

Quality assurance and quality control can be an important concern for groups striving for high quality data to advise watershed project goals or stormwater policy. The EPA offers guidance that will help you develop a plan to assure data credibility:

For more information, contact Steve Konrady: Steven.Konrady@dnr.iowa.gov or 515-725-8388

 

Locally-led programs have the freedom to store and use their volunteer-generated water monitoring data as they see fit. 

The DNR recommends that locally-led programs and their volunteers submit data collected through these projects to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Water Quality eXchange (WQX), which already houses much of Iowa's previous volunteer monitoring data along with U.S. Geological Survey data and other sources. This unified database is the best way to present water quality data with multiple sources to Iowa's citizens and will supplement the state collected data.

US EPA has a series of tutorial videos for WQX that are hosted on YouTube. Consolidated links are available; however, it may be easier to use the playlists for the Webinars on YouTube.

For more information, contact Steve Konrady: Steven.Konrady@dnr.iowa.gov or 515-725-8388

 

Datasheet templates are available in the following categories:

Primary Volunteer Monitoring Parameters

Advanced Volunteer Monitoring Parameters

 

New projects may be eligible to receive starter kits through DNR Water Monitoring. Please complete this PDF request form or the MS Word version and submit for review, following the instructions on the form.

State-affiliated watershed projects and other groups may qualify for state-negotiated pricing of test kits, chemicals, and field supplies through the state's Awarded Contracts and Master Agreements

Current suppliers through Spring 2018:

  • Thomas Scientific - test strips and chemicals
  • Fisher Scientific - field and lab supplies

For more information contact Steve Konrady: Steven.Konrady@dnr.iowa.gov or 515-725-8388