Registration open for 2018 Master River Stewards Program

Registration open for 2018 Master River Stewards Program

Update Aug 27:  The class has been cancelled due to low enrollment.  Hopefully we can offer the program or a variation again in spring   If you'd like to get an in-depth understanding of rivers but missed our Master River Stewards class last summer, here's another chance.  This year, we're offering the course to retirees in a two-part (lecture + lab) format.  If you are not physically able to wade in streams or can't commit to the required volunteer hours, you may register for the lecture only. Lecture OLLI Open House, August 9, 10:30-11:45AM, ISU Alumni Center Registration opens August 9 for our River Stewardship class, offered through OLLI at ISU (formerly ISU College for Seniors) for anyone aged 50 and older.  The course is adapted from the Master River Stewards Program developed by Iowa Rivers Revival, and covers watersheds, river and stream dynamics, riparian habitat and wildlife, river chemistry and water monitoring, stream restoration, and agricultural conservation practices. Jerry Keys, the environmental education coordinator...
Read More
Local Leaders Tour Watershed to Learn About Practices that Improve Water Quality

Local Leaders Tour Watershed to Learn About Practices that Improve Water Quality

Along with a quarterly formal business meeting, the Squaw Creek Watershed Management Authority Board visits a site in the watershed to learn more about practices that improve soil health and water quality.   The Squaw Creek Watershed Management Authority Board is comprised of a representative from the cities, counties, and soil & water conservation districts in the Squaw Creek Watershed. The are representatives from the cities of Stanhope, Stratford, Gilbert, and Ames; the county board of supervisors from Boone and Story County; and the soil & water conservation districts in Hamilton, Boone, and Story County. Although it is common misconception of the word 'authority' in their title, the group acts as more of an alliance of communities and counties coming together to support each other in their efforts in water quality improvement.   July's quarterly meeting offered a glimpse at an uncommon site in Hamilton County - a dairy cow herd. Kevin and Ranae Dietzel operate their dairy herd business, called Lost Lake Farms,...
Read More
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...
Read More

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...
Read More
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...
Read More
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...
Read More
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...
Read More
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...
Read More
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...
Read More