Nutrient loading is like… beer

Nutrient loading is like… beer

On June 14, Squaw Creek rose to flood stage.  On the same day, nitrate concentrations in Squaw Creek dropped from 11.8 mg/L to 2.7 mg/L.  Does that mean that June’s storm clouds had a silver lining for Iowa’s nutrient reduction efforts?  I'm afraid not. The nitrate concentration in a river is an important number if (like the Des Moines Water Works) you’re treating it for drinking water and need to stay below 10 mg/L. However, when it comes to hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico, the number that matters is the nitrate load that is sent downstream: the nitrate concentration in the water times the flow of water in the river. Not following me?  Ponder this analogy.  Nutrient loading is like beer.  I enjoy craft beer and have learned to pay close attention to the alcohol by volume number, which can range from 5% in a lager to 10% in an imperial IPA.  In order to avoid having my judgement impaired, I...
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Soil as Sponges

Soils that are rich in organic matter act like sponges, soaking up heavy rains rather than allowing water to pond or run off the surface. By reducing runoff, healthy soils prevent sediment, nutrients, and other pollutants from washing into lakes and rivers. A spongy soil can also hang on to more water after the excess has drained, helping sustain crops through dry periods. Healthy soils can help reduce the negative effects of both floods and droughts, benefiting crops and downstream communities. Healthy soils can also be sponges for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, with the potential to help prevent destructive climate change by storing more carbon in the form of organic matter. Find out how you can turn your soil into sponges: In Town On the Farm During construction, topsoil is often removed and remaining soils are compacted by heavy equipment.  Soils in a new development act more like concrete than sponges.  It can take decades for plant roots and freezing and thawing to reverse...
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Watershed Awareness Month

Watershed Awareness Month

Everyone lives in a watershed.  What's your watershed?  June is a good month to find out, and learn more about what can be done to reduce and clean the runoff leaving your farm or your neighborhood. Story County Board of Supervisors and Conservation Board proclaimed June 2018 to be Watershed Awareness Month.  Over the last two weeks, the cities of Ames, Nevada, and Gilbert have made similar proclamations. We applaud their commitment to water quality.  The full text of the Story County proclamation is included below, along with scans of the proclamations by the cities (click the thumbnail to download a PDF). WATERSHED AWARENESS MONTH PROCLAMATION June 2018 WHEREAS, the county’s rivers and lakes provide recreational opportunities and wildlife habitats that enhance the quality of life of Story County residents, and   WHEREAS, protecting and restoring the quality of groundwater and surface water is a goal of the Story County Comprehensive Plan, and   WHEREAS, water quality and flooding issues in rivers and lakes cannot be mitigated without good...
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Watershed Sign Unveiling

Watershed Sign Unveiling

On June 6, we unveiled the first of 52 watershed signs that will be installed this summer on Story County roads.  Another 105 signs will label creeks at bridges.  As you drive around Story County this summer, we hope you will have a renewed appreciation for its many creeks and rivers.  We hope the watershed signs will help make visible the subtle divides between watersheds and get people thinking about the connections between land stewardship and water quality. Pictured here are representatives from the organizations that made this project possible: the Story County Board of Supervisors, Story County Conservation, the Story County Community Foundation, and the Story County Soil & Water Conservation District.  Watch the video from the June 6 press conference to hear from these organizations and learn more about the project. Similar efforts around the state have helped to draw attention to our water resources and spur interest from landowners in conservation practices, but Story County’s effort is perhaps unprecedented in...
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Newest Staff Addition – Watershed Assistant

Newest Staff Addition – Watershed Assistant

Hi, everyone! My name is Abby Brayton and I am the Watershed Assistant for the Watersheds & Waterways Program at Prairie Rivers of Iowa. I am currently in my final year at Iowa State University studying Landscape Architecture with a minor in Urban Studies. I am originally from Iowa City and grew up playing lots of sports, especially outside. Recently, I studied at the University of Hawaii at Hilo and had a chance to experience a culture that values their land more than anything and makes sure to take care of it. In my free time I love to travel with my friends whether it’s a short road trip or flying across the country! I am most looking forward to learning about all of the great volunteering opportunities that are available to everyone, even college students like me! If you have any questions about what I am doing this summer or about watershed videos or social media, please feel free to email me at...
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Protecting a Watershed while Building a Source Water Protection Plan

Protecting a Watershed while Building a Source Water Protection Plan

Nestled up in the northern reaches of the Squaw Creek Watershed, in southwestern Hamilton County, sits a small community with large potential - all because of some great community leaders and members. Beginning in 2017, the City of Stanhope's elected officials made the decision to develop a source water protection plan after elevated levels of nutrients were being discovered in the samples taken from their wells. The group of council members and mayor, along with their city clerk and public works technicians, partnered with Iowa Rural Water Association to begin the process of developing a protection plan for their source water. To give you some background, source water is water that is naturally occurring in a stream, river, or underground (aquifer) and going to be captured, treated, and distributed for drinking water. Stanhope has 2 active well sites that are drawing water from underground aquifers, each reaching over 550 ft deep. These wells have capture zones, which are estimated areas surrounding the...
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Spring, Where Art Thou?

Spring, Where Art Thou?

It's been two months since we last wrote. And were talking about Spring at that time! But Spring has taken its sweet time to get here. With snow lasting well into April, we might just jump ahead right into Summer. But we need Spring. It is an important step to transition from Winter to Summer. Although I am a huge fan of Summer, Spring has many good points we cannot overlook. We need this in-between time. Farmers might be rushed, but they need to plant their crops. The ground needs to warm up to be able to awaken seeds and dormant plants. Small producers and artisans, scrambling, will need to get ready for Farmers Markets. My house will thank me again this year as I spring clean and open the windows to let in the fresh air. Nothing like a cool spring breeze floating in. I enjoy the windows-open season no matter how short it might be before I take the plunge...
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Robin Moore to deliver keynote at Outdoor Learning Environments Conference

Happy Outdoor Fun Friday! As you may have heard, we are hosting our first Outdoor Learning Environments Conference here in Ames on June 18th. We are very excited to announce that our Keynote speaker will be Professor Robin C. Moore from North Carolina State University, College of Design. Robin Moore has worked in landscape architecture as an educator, researcher, and consultant. He is an international authority on the design of children's play and learning environments, user needs research, and participatory public open space design. Moore has been involved in many large projects for outdoor spaces including the Nature PlayScape at the Cincinnati Nature Center, the Blanchie Carter Discovery Park at Southern Pines Primary School, the Playspace family play center in Raleigh, NC, just to name a few. More information about Moore and his work can be found here. Please don't miss this fantastic opportunity to see Robin Moore and learn more about how to implement, maintain, and use Outdoor Learning Environments. Make sure to...
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Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway Springs into 2018

Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway Springs into 2018

It is finally March and with that comes the promise of Spring! The Byway is gearing up for a wonderful 2018. We are into grant writing season and as we wait for large state-wide projects to come to fruition, we are happy to tackle  smaller localized ones. One project just completed was for the community of Westside. The residents recently developed a park, the Eugene Kock Memorial Park, in honor of a local man who lost his life in Vietnam many years ago. The park has engraved paver bricks that can be purchased, seating for visitors, and a military sculpture placed in the center. The area is flanked by flags and soon will have an interpretive panel we created about the community placed there as well. We continue to work with the Lincoln Highway Association (LHA) on other interpretive panels. Three smaller ones will be placed in the City of Jefferson's east entrance as part of their improvement project. The panels will...
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