Official State of Iowa Website Here is how you know

Nine Eagles Lake

view of nine eagles lake in the summer

Water Quality Improvement Plans

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.

Iowa's TMDL Vision 2024

DNR Contact

Alex Martin

Upcoming public meetings

All public meetings involving TMDLs will be replaced by video presentations accompanied by public comment periods until further notice.

Draft Plans for Comment

When the DNR completes a draft version of a Water Quality Improvement Plan, the public will have an opportunity to review the draft document and make comments. The DNR will respond to all comments received during the public comment period and include the comments and responses in the Water Quality Improvement Plan. After the public comment period ends, the DNR will package up the document to submit to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for their approval. Only after the EPA approves the plan is it considered a Final Water Quality Improvement Plan.

Draft TMDLs awaiting EPA review and approval:

Starting July 20, 2023:

Upper Chariton River Watershed Water Quality Improvement Plan
The public comment period for the Draft Upper Chariton River Watershed Water Quality Improvement Plan (TMDL) is closed. The public presentation video for the plan is be available to view on the DNR YouTube Channel.

Submit public comments or any questions about these plans or presentations to:

James Hallmark, Iowa DNR TMDL Program (preferred)
James Hallmark c/o Iowa DNR
Wallace State Office Building
502 E. Ninth St.
Des Moines, IA 50319

What does a plan do?

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. It's also a process that requires the input and action of Iowans to be successful.

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 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.

Iowa Water Quality Improvement Plan development

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. The 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.

What happens after a plan is prepared?

When the plan is written and approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 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.

Final Water Quality Improvement Plans