Posts Tagged ‘Watershed’

August 18, 2014

Water Quality Mystery

It is no mystery as to why water quality in Iowa must be improved. The mystery is why major efforts to improve water quality are not moving forward with the urgency Iowans should demand.

The toxic cyanobacteria bloom in Lake Erie that shut down the water supply for nearly half a million residents in Toledo, Ohio for several days earlier this month has highlighted the importance of watershed protection.

Much like Toledo, cyanobacteria is prevalent in Iowa. Bill Stowe, CEO and General Manager of Des Moines Water Works, said “it’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when,” Des Moines could face a similar problem.

state beach closed by DNR

Frequently, we hear on local news stations that the Iowa Department of Natural Resources has issued a beach advisory, which can be due to bacteria or microcystin (toxin from cyanobacteria) levels. Both cyanobacteria and algae growth are in response to warm weather and nutrients (i.e. nitrogen and phosphorus) from agricultural practices, and can proliferate in the source water to a degree that affects water treatment operations.

On August 7, 2014, “Swimming not Recommended” advisories due to high levels of bacteria were posted by Iowa DNR at the following state beaches:

  • Blue Lake Beach at Lewis & Clark State Park
  • Denison Beach at Black Hawk State Park
  • Prairie Rose Beach at Prairie Rose State Park
  • Lake of Three Fires at Lake of Three Fires State Park
  • Beed’s Lake Beach at Beed’s Lake State Park
  • Union Grove Beach at Union Grove State Park
  • Backbone Beach at Backbone State Park
  • Lake Keomah Beach at Lake Keomah State Park
  • Geode Lake Beach at Geode State Park

The number of microcystin advisories at state beaches has increased each year.

Year      Number of Microcystin Advisories

2014       11 (through week 11 of a 15-week season)

2013       24

2012       14

2011       7

Swimming advisories are issued between Memorial Day and Labor Day each year. The advisories are posted when bacteria or microcystin levels are determined to be a risk for swimming and/or potential ingestion of contaminated water. For up to date information, call the DNR Beach Monitoring Hotline at (319) 353-2613. Information is also posted at http://www.iowadnr.gov/Recreation/BeachMonitoring.

The “do not drink” incident in Toledo is a reminder that the protection of our source waters is critical to the protection of public health. This should be a call to action for citizens to advocate for cleaner source water and to question the current rhetoric on voluntary agriculture conservation practices.

The benefits of hearing about water quality issues and concerns first hand from the public are invaluable to local and state government leaders. The Governor, agency directors, legislators and local city council members need to hear from you about your experiences and perceptions of the quality of water in Iowa’s rivers, streams and lakes. When citizen outcry is sufficient, and actions are transparent and measured, we will be able to take the next step to improving Iowa’s quality of life.

Posted by: Linda Kinman No Comments
Labels: , , , , , , Posted in Source Water, Water Quality April 21, 2014

Safely Dispose of Unwanted Prescription Drugs on April 26

Rx drugsOn April 26, communities across the United States are teaming up with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to give the public the opportunity to safely dispose of expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs.

Traditional methods for disposing of unused medications – flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash – both pose threats to our groundwater supplies. Additionally, leftover medications are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse, and abuse. Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet.

Do your part to help keep our groundwater clean and your family safe! Dispose of all your expired, unused and unwanted prescription drugs on April 26, at a drop off location near you. For drop off site locations, visit the DEA website or call 1-800-882-9539. The DEA cannot accept liquids or needles or sharps, only pills or patches. The service is free and anonymous, no questions asked.

To learn more about what you can do to protect your family and the environment from leftover medications, please visit The Groundwater Foundation website.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , , Posted in Source Water, Water Quality April 25, 2013

Master River Steward Program

DSC_2146Here’s an exciting opportunity for river enthusiasts! Plan to participate in Iowa Rivers Revival’s “Master River Steward Program” in the Des Moines/Raccoon River Watershed.  This will be Iowa Rivers Revival’s second year offering this program. The eight week course, beginning  May 14, will focus on riverine systems, including skills to paddle and navigate rivers, restore aquatic habitat, improve water quality, and understand policies related to floodplains, river protection and restoration.

The “Master River Steward Program” will build on a network of river experts in various partner agencies and organizations. It will help adult learners collaborate to protect and improve Iowa’s rivers, so that current and future generations can enjoy these resources. Visit Iowa Rivers Revival’s website to view an outline of last year’s program: http://iowarivers.org/education/river-stewards/.

Registration Cost: Participants will pay a fee of $50 which will include program materials. Participants will be expected to attend each session and there will be “homework” assignments following each class – materials will be provided.  Please register by April 30, 2013.

Feedback from 2012 Pilot Participants:

  • “Great class, thoroughly enjoyed each and every session.”
  • “Great leadership. Great resources/readings. Great speakers. Great group.”
  • “Really enjoyed class. Had zero expectations coming in. Was surprised by the amount of river experience/Project AWARE tie in. Really enjoyed meeting such passionate people. Each week gave me something to think about and discuss with co-workers.”
  • “This was a fantastic program. I came in with no expectations, but left every night excited to share what I learned with others… Thanks so much for putting this together. I will become active in the stewardship of rivers at a far greater level due to this program.”

Funding for this program has been provided by Metro Waste Authority, Des Moines Water Works, DNR IOWATER, Polk County Conservation Board and Iowa DNR River Programs.

For more information and to register, contact:

Rosalyn Lehman, Executive Director
Iowa Rivers Revival
PO Box 72, Des Moines, IA 50301
515-724-4093
rlehman@iowarivers.org

Iowa Rivers Revival (IRR) is Iowa’s only statewide river education and advocacy organization committed to protecting one of our most precious natural resources – our rivers and streams. Since 2007, IRR has been working to engage individuals, organizations, communities and our government leaders in river awareness, responsibility and enjoyment in an effort to improve and enhance the condition of Iowa’s waterways – ensuring a quality, safe and lasting resource for future generations.

Posted by: Linda Kinman No Comments
Labels: , , , , , , , Posted in Environment, Source Water, Value of Water, Water Quality December 10, 2012

Healthy Watersheds Support Healthy Economies

Maintaining the integrity of our watersheds provides economic benefits through ecosystem services. Degradation of stream banks, aquatic species and the natural course of water can cause negative economic impacts locally and far from the altered site.

Protecting Healthy Watersheds:

  • Lowers drinking water treatment costs
  • Avoids expensive restoration activities
  • Sustains revenue generating recreational and tourism opportunities
  • Minimizes vulnerability and damage from natural disasters
  • Provides critical natural system services at a fraction of the cost for engineered services
  • Increases property value
  • Supports millions of jobs nationwide
  • Ensures we leave a foundation for a vibrant economy for generations to come

We cannot afford not to protect our watersheds. For more information on healthy watersheds visit Healthy Watersheds at US Environmental Protection Agency – www.epa.gov/healthywatersheds

Posted by: Linda Kinman No Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in Customer Service, Customers, Environment October 17, 2012

40th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act

Forty years ago, in the midst of a national concern about untreated sewage, industrial and toxic discharges, destruction of wetlands, and contaminated runoff, the principal law to protect the nation’s waters was passed. The Clean Water Act (CWA) set a national goal “to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters,” with interim goals that all waters be fishable and swimmable.

The Act embodied a new federal-state partnership, where federal guidelines, objectives and limits were to be set under the authority of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, while states, territories and authorized tribes would largely administer and enforce the CWA programs, with federal technical and financial assistance. In Iowa, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources is delegated to administer the CWA.

The Act also gave citizens a strong role to play in protecting and restoring waters. Ways you can support and become involved in improving and protecting water quality in your watershed:

  • Start or join a watershed improvement and protection group
  • Organize a river, stream or lake clean-up event
  • Get trained as an IOWATER volunteer
  • Get school kids, churches, civic organizations involved in education, projects and programs
  • Talk with policymakers about your support for watershed funding and programs – City Councils, County Supervisors, Legislators and others
  • Write letters to the editor of  your local newspaper about what good water quality means to you
  • Talk with family and friends about the importance of clean water

We must work together to protect clean water in Iowa for our families and future generations. Everyone has an impact on the water and we are all responsible for making a difference. Water is worth it.

To learn more about the Clean Water Act, visit: http://water.epa.gov/action/cleanwater40/

Posted by: Linda Kinman No Comments
Labels: , , , , , Posted in Environment, Source Water, Water Quality October 16, 2012

Manure Application to Soybeans

Des Moines Water Work’s primary water sources are the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers. Land use in the Raccoon and Des Moines River Watersheds is overwhelmingly agricultural. About 1.7 million of the 2.3 million acres in the Raccoon watershed is cultivated for corn and soybeans. Land covered by perennial vegetation is nearly non-existent outside urban areas. Much of the corn-soybean system requires constructed drainage (agricultural tile drainage) to maximize yields. Manure and commercial fertilizers applied to crop land are transported during rainfall events as either run-off or discharged to a river through a tile drainage system. All of these factors have resulted in various consequences for water quality and challenges for drinking water utilities.

Today, the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) will meet to discuss whether or not to continue to ban manure application to soybean crops. Manure is a source of nutrients used in combination with or in place of commercial fertilizer.  Nutrients in water are necessary for healthy watersheds; however, in high concentrations they can adversely affect aquatic life and human health. For a drinking water utility, increasing nutrient loads can cause difficult and costly challenges at the source, in the treatment process, and at the tap. Monitoring trends in the Des Moines and Raccoon River since 1974 show the ever-increasing trend of nitrate-nitrogen (a nutrient) loading and concentrations. Without a comprehensive, measurable state nutrient standard and strategy these conditions will be perpetuated.

All waters in Iowa are “public waters and public wealth” of its citizens and is for the beneficial use of all citizens. It is also the policy of the State of Iowa – delegated to the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission – to protect existing water uses and to protect and maintain the physical, biological and chemical integrity of all waters of the state. Making a decision on whether manure should be applied to soybeans is again representative of the piecemeal approach to nutrient management that will not effectively decrease non-point source nutrient contributions to Iowa’s surface and ground water resources.

Des Moines Water Works provided comments to EPC commissioners strongly urging them to take this opportunity to support development of comprehensive nutrient management strategies and standards. Standards that protect Iowa’s water resources, promote economic development, and enhance the quality of life necessary to attract workers and jobs to the state. And most importantly, establish the target so many producers and the public have requested.

It is not Des Moines Water Works’ intent to tell people how to farm or what they can and cannot do on their land. But it is our intent, to rigorously advocate for establishing a comprehensive nutrient strategy, setting numeric nutrient standards, and the aggressive reduction of non-point source nutrient contributions to Iowa’s surface and ground water resources.

Des Moines Water Works and the drinking water industry ensures that the investment the public has made in them results in all Iowans having access to safe drinking water. We believe every Iowan who drinks a glass of water should recognize the importance of our water resources to sustaining life and the critical connection between our water resources and food production, an existence and connection that should occur without degradation of our water resources.

Producers are able to make all the decisions on his or her land, but those decisions are having dramatic consequences that impact others. Integrated solutions on a watershed scale and involvement of all stakeholders in the planning and implementation process is critical to generating change. Whether you live in an urban, rural or something in-between, we are all part of the watershed and whatever we do in our daily lives impacts water quality in the watershed.

Posted by: Linda Kinman No Comments
Labels: , , , , , , Posted in Environment, Source Water, Water Quality July 30, 2012

New Raccoon River Watershed Alliance

Des Moines Water Works through the Central Iowa Regional Drinking Water Commission Assisting Dallas County Board of Supervisors in Formation of a Middle-South Raccoon River Watershed Alliance

The State of Iowa has authorized local governments to address flooding and management of water and soil resources in watersheds across the state through the formation of local alliances. An alliance is formed through a 28E agreement (contractual agreement between governmental organizations) with representatives appointed by city, county and soil and watershed conservation districts (SWCD) within the watershed. An advisory body with landowners and other groups will also be part of the process.  The watershed alliance has no taxing authority and no impact on the authority of a city, county, or SWCD to conduct its business. Instead, the alliance will educate, coordinate and leverage resources for the betterment of the watershed.

The Middle-South Raccoon River Watershed Alliance is working within the following vision and mission statements:

Vision: A regional alliance with resources to lead, and support improvements in soil protection, flood management and water quality.

Mission: To facilitate regional collaboration that will identify strategies and goals to educate the public, reduce the risk of flood events, and leverage resources for improved soil and water quality protection.

As outlined by legislators in Iowa Code the alliance can:

  • Educate residents
  • Identify sources of funding to institutionalize the Watershed Management Alliance
  • Assess flood risks
  • Assess options for cutting flood risk
  • Monitor state & federal flood risk planning activities
  • Assess water quality
  • Leverage funding of multiple partners
  • Allocate state and federal moneys available for water quality and flood risk reduction programs and implement best management practices
  • Implement the Raccoon River Master Plan
  • Enter into contracts and agreements

Source: Iowa Code Chapter 466B, Subchapter III

The Middle-South Raccoon River Watershed Management Alliance has just recently been selected to partner with the Iowa Flood Center (IFC) on a multi-year project to monitor, plan, and implement watershed projects aimed at improving soil and water resources and the adverse impacts of flooding. Phase I will focus on the Middle Raccoon River watershed. The IFC formally announced the partnership June 22, 2012, in Redfield, IA.

The landscape of the Middle-South Raccoon River Watershed is located in the best of rural Iowa, where community is tied to the tradition of farming and outdoor recreation. The benefits gained from the partnerships in the Middle-South Raccoon River watershed is a place where agriculture, communities, recreation, and Iowans thrive and prosper.

Posted by: Linda Kinman No Comments
Labels: , , , , , , , Posted in Environment, Flooding, Source Water, Water Quality August 23, 2011

Protecting Our Watersheds

We all live in a watershed.  Do you know what watershed you live?  Learn how nature and our indivdual actions can directly impact the quality of water in our watershed in this video.  Des Moines Water Works continues to protect watersheds and give you Water You Can Trust for Life.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in Water Quality August 8, 2011

Quality Watersheds = Quality Water

A watershed is an area of land that water flows over or through on its way to a stream, lake or river.  Within each different watershed, the land “sheds” or gets rid of water into a common body of water.   A watershed also includes the people, air, plants and animals that call that land “home.”  Residents of the Des Moines metro area live in both the Des Moines River and Raccoon River watersheds, which begin about 200 miles north and west of the city.   These rivers serve as the primary sources for our drinking water.

Precipitation, run off, agriculture tile drainage or any other water from farmland and urban areas between the Minnesota border area and Des Moines will eventually end up in one of these two rivers.  When it rains or snows, water carries pollutants such as dirt, oil and fertilizers to our rivers and lakes.  Controlling pollution is key to improving the quality of our water supply.

There are two types of watershed pollution: point-source and nonpoint-source.  Point-source pollution is an easily identifiable source, like wastewater treatment plant or industrial discharge.  Nonpoint sources of pollution are difficult to identify, isolate and control.  Examples of non-point source pollution include run off from parking lots, lawns and failing septic systems.

Everyone, from farmers to urban residents, can contribute to improving watershed health.  Even the smallest contribution can make a significant impact in preserving and protecting our water.

You can keep our watersheds clean and safe by following these healthy, environmental tips.  These can be practiced at home, work and community, to enjoy and maintain a healthy living environment!

  • Don’t dump!  Do not dump hazardous household chemicals, such as fertilizers, oil-based paint or antifreeze down a drain in your home or a storm sewer in your neighborhood.  Take these chemicals to the Metro Waste Authority’s Regional Collection Center in Bondurant for disposal.  Call (515) 967-5512 for more information.  Yearly neighborhood SCRUB days also offer limited hazardous chemical disposal.
  • Recycle!  Recycle your newspapers, magazines, milk jugs, water bottles, juice bottles, metal cans, clear glass, and anything else possible to reduce the quantity of garbage you send to the landfill.
  • Love nature!  Plant grass, trees and shrubs, especially native species to prevent soil from eroding.
  • Drive smart!  Keep your vehicles in good condition to prevent oil and antifreeze leaks from entering storm sewers.
  • Don’t litter! Pick up after yourself and your pets.  You can also volunteer to help clean up area parks.
Posted by: Linda Kinman No Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in Water Quality April 5, 2011

Raccoon River Watershed Master Plan

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has contracted with the Missouri & Mississippi (M&M) Divide RC&D and Agren, both located in Carroll, Iowa, to develop a comprehensive watershed plan for the Raccoon River.  Agren, Inc. was founded by brothers Tom and Stan Buman in 1996 as a private consulting firm dedicated to helping agriculture find profitable solutions to environmental challenges. The master plan will guide management efforts with a focus on improving water quality in the Raccoon River watershed. 

Agren facilitated “expert panels” to evaluate both agricultural and urban stormwater best management practices (BMP). Following the expert panel events, the potential water quality impacts of recommended practices were estimated by Iowa State University scientists. More than 80% of the land use in the watershed is dedicated to row crop agriculture, so initially the implementation plan will concentrate on agricultural BMPs. Consideration is also being given to various incentives and funding sources for implementation of the recommended practices.

This month, another panel focused on what a watershed management organization should look like to ensure the master plan is implemented when completed. Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) participated on the panel. Discussion consisted of what the barriers are to effective watershed management, what type of watershed authority could overcome the barriers, and evaluation of scenarios for watershed management. Throughout the discussion it was apparent that DMWW will continue to be a key partner in managing the Raccoon River Watershed.

Recommendations best suited to protect the source of drinking water for approximately 500,000 people in central Iowa and restore and maintain an environmentally and economically sustainable landscape. These recommendations will be compiled into a comprehensive Raccoon River Watershed Master Plan. Public comments on the plan will be solicited this spring, with the final plan development completed by June 2011.

Posted by: Linda Kinman No Comments
Labels: , , , , , Posted in Environment, Public Policy, Value of Water, Water Quality