Learn about volunteer stream monitoring

Ever wondered about the condition of your local creek? What kinds of fish, aquatic insects, and other critters live there? Does the water quality pose a health risk for children wading or kayakers paddling? How much nitrogen and phosphorus is washing downstream to the Gulf? In some cases, a regulatory agency or university is collecting this information, but with 71,665 miles of rivers and streams in the state, that's not a given. Most of what we know about Clear Creek, Worrell Creek, and College Creek in Ames; Montgomery Creek and Prairie Creek in Boone County; Gilbert Creek (Ditch 70) in Gilbert; or Crooked Creek near Stanhope, we know because the efforts of volunteers in the Squaw Creek Watershed Coalition. For other streams in the area, including West Indian Creek in Nevada, Rock Creek in Maxwell, Middle Minerva Creek in Zearing, and Long Dick Creek near Story City, we have almost no information. Iowa DNR has had to scale back its role in providing equipment, training, and IT...
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Delivering Technical Assistance to Under-served Small Landowners: A Pilot Project in the Squaw Creek Watershed

Delivering Technical Assistance to Under-served Small Landowners: A Pilot Project in the Squaw Creek Watershed

We all see it. We all drive through it and we, for the most part, don’t think much about it.  It is that transition that happens when you leave the city limits of a community like Ames and you head into the county or farm land of Iowa.  It is that zone where structured homes and home development transitions to acreages and single family dwellings and continues to small farms or even larger acreages and eventually moves and transitions into the more traditional larger production farming agriculture of Iowa.  This transition area is what Prairie Rivers of Iowa has come to call the Urban Fringe.  It is that land and group of landowners, homeowners, and farmers that occupy that transitions ground between the city and large-scale agriculture. These landowners have chosen to live here for many reasons, some being: more space, aesthetics, fewer neighbors, space for animals and gardens, and the ability do and have more.  The reality is that...
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Upgrade your sewage treatment plant, get a free bioswale!

Upgrade your sewage treatment plant, get a free bioswale!

Does the State Revolving Fund (SRF) do infomercials for its Clean Water Loans?  I think they should because SRF Sponsored Projects are a classic case of "buy-one-get-one-free." We usually focus on conservation efforts by farmers but today let’s give some credit to the municipal wastewater departments—they do a lot to keep our rivers clean.  As a nation, we’ve generally been more successful in regulating and treating the pollutants coming out from sewage treatment plants and factories than we have been in dealing with the pollutants that wash off of farm fields, turf grass and parking lots.  We’ve now reached a point where the water coming out of the local sewage treatment plant is cleaner in some respects than the water in the backyard creek.  I’m not kidding: Ames Water and Pollution Control can’t exceed 126 E. coli colonies per 100mL in their treated effluent—E. coli levels in Squaw Creek for 2016 were eight times higher. Repairing an aging sewer system or installing...
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Local creeks can be special places

Local creeks can be special places

March 1, 2017 I spent Sunday hiking along Clear Creek in the company of a curious herd of six deer, who came within 20 feet of me.  Bigger rivers may afford more opportunities for boating.  Cold-water trout streams in the northeast part of the state may have better fishing.  But the warm-water creeks in Central Iowa have their own charms. Clear Creek starts in Boone County and passes through Munn Woods and Pammel Woods in Ames before joining Squaw Creek.  As a boy, the woods along this creek was one of my favorite places, full of interesting rocks and animal tracks and birds and crayfish, the site of both noisy stick battles with my friends and quiet contemplation. As my environmental consciousness grew, I would go to the woods to pick up litter.  At the time, I had no idea the storm drain emptied to creek, or else I would have stopped my friends from throwing pop cans down there.  A recent survey showed that 37%...
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Conservation Champions around the Squaw Creek Watershed

Conservation Champions around the Squaw Creek Watershed

This spring, planting season took off in the State of Iowa as the temperatures warmed up in the soils. We are seeing a multitude of conservation practices at work in the Squaw Creek watershed with each farmer implementing what works best on their land. Strip Tillage One farmer hard at work out in the field is Jeremy Gustafson, a diversified farmer who grows corn and soybeans along with raising hogs in the Squaw Creek Watershed. Gustafson, a Soil and Water Conservation District Commissioner for Boone County, implements strip-tillage as a conservation practice to protect his soil from erosion.  Gustafson comes from a multi-generational family farm and has been managing his farm with conservation in mind for over ten years. Strip tillage is a conservation tillage system in which only strips of soil are worked before planting. This allows for the soil to warm up and dry out for planting. Seeds are then planted directly into the strips. This practice improves the soil health and water quality...
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Now available: Online Form to Request Financial and Technical Assistance!

Are you a farmer or landowner in the Squaw Creek Watershed interested in using conservation practices on your land? You have come to the right place! Cost-share programming is available through Prairie Rivers of Iowa for no-till, buffer strips, cover crops, extended crop rotations, bioreactors, and perennial plantings. Farmers and landowners who are a first-time user of the conservation practice, have not used the practice for at least two years on planted acres, or are installing an additional structural practice are eligible for our cost-share program. We know that no farm field is the same, and so we will find the conservation practices that work best for your land.    Cost-share for no-till is $10/acre and $25/acre for cover crops. Other practices include: extended crop rotations, saturated buffers, bioreactors, buffer strips, and perennial plantings at50% cost-share. More information is available on each of the practices upon request via our website or a call to the Prairie Rivers of Iowa office (515-232-0048). We now...
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Field Day: Soil and Water Health in Action

On November 7, 2015 Prairie Rivers of Iowa hosted an informational field day which included a tour of two farms near Stratford, Iowa. The beautiful, crisp day filled with sunshine and pastoral landscape views created a perfect setting for learning about soil and water conservation practices such as prairie buffers, filter strips, wetlands, rotational grazing, and cover crops. The highlight of the day for many of the attendees was the hay-rack tour. It was a classic way to learn about two Iowa farms and their stewards. It's definitely safe to say that both the farmers and the group covered a lot of ground. The first stop of the tour was at a ridge on Jim and Anita Johnson's farm, Prairie Hill Farm of Hamilton County. From this location you could see the prairie field borders, a prairie filter strip, and a wetland surrounded by a large riparian area. This area intercepts water draining off their farmland, which includes rotational cattle pasture and row crops. It also intercepts some...
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Why We Need Healthy Watersheds

A healthy watershed is important for a variety of reasons. Healthy soils and pristine waters support agriculture production, provide habitat for wildlife, and create outstanding recreational opportunities for Iowa residents and visitors to enjoy year-round. The health of a watershed significantly relies on how water flows through the landscape and interacts with the soil, and then enters our water system. When water travels through the landscape, it has the ability to carry excess nutrients, chemicals, other pollutants, and even the soil itself. This impairs the water quality and the ability of the landscape to support wildlife habitats, recreational opportunities, and resilient soils for agriculture production that is important to the people of the State of Iowa. Every place in the watershed is important, both urban and rural, because they affect one another. Whether you’re a landowner, farmer, or urban resident, we are all capable of playing a part in improving the Squaw Creek Watershed. If you live in the city, installing...
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Cost-Share Available for Conservation Practices in Squaw Creek

(AMES, IOWA) – Prairie Rivers of Iowa is working with the local Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) offices to provide funding for cost-share for conservation practices to farmers in the Squaw Creek Watershed. Funding for this effort is in cooperation with the Water Quality Initiative (WQI) from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and support from local partners. The Squaw Creek Watershed demonstration project is providing funding for farmers located in the watershed specifically for in-field practices, such as cover crops and no till at the state-wide WQI flat rate cost share rate, as well as fifty-percent cost share for edge of field practices, including saturated buffers. “The best use of these practices can vary from farm-to-farm and farmer-to-farmer,” said Hanna Bates, Watershed Coordinator for Prairie Rivers of Iowa. “By working with the conservation districts, it is our intent to build relationships with farmers and find what practices will work best for them while having an overall positive impact...
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Many from the Public attend the Squaw Creek Coalition Public Meeting

Many from the Public attend the Squaw Creek Coalition Public Meeting

On June 29th the Squaw Creek Watershed Coalition informational meeting was held at the Ames Public Library in the evening. Approximately 20 people came from the surrounding community to learn more about the Squaw Creek Watershed Management Plan.  Individuals from the community represented many different segments from the surrounding area, including Iowa State University students, urban residents, and farmers. Attendees asked questions about plan details and how Prairie Rivers of Iowa will assist in improving water quality in the watershed over the upcoming year. Erv Klaas, Vice President of the Prairie Rivers of Iowa Board of Directors, informed the public at the meeting about the current state of the water within our watershed and presented a summary of the Squaw Creek Watershed Management Plan. Key components of the plan are to increase the awareness and understanding of the watershed, improve the water quality, and to promote the practices that individuals can use to help improve our water quality. You can read the full...
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