Prairie Rivers of Iowa, along with our partners Story County Conservation and City of Ames, have installed two water quality monitor units in the South Skunk River Watershed.

  • Squaw Creek at Lincoln Way in Ames
  • East Indian Creek at S27 north of Maxwell

water-quality-monitor-picture

In addition to our two monitors, the Iowa Flood Center publishes flow data from a gaging station near our Squaw Creek monitor. You may see this information at the Iowa Flood Center website. The Iowa Water Quality Information System also has a monitor in the area, which is at Moore Park in Ames. You can find more information by going to their website.

These units will automatically take samples every month, as well as during periods of higher flows, such as after heavy rains.  As part of our educational efforts, we are making the water quality data collected by these units available to the public.

Want to learn more about the components of water we are monitoring? Click to view our handout here.

The first year’s data has been analyzed by consultants at Emmons and Oliver, Resources Inc. in this technical report.  A summary follows.

Nitrate levels for both Squaw Creek and East Indian Creek were very high.  In at least 75% of samples, we measured nitrate levels outside the EPA recommended criteria range.  Iowa has not set numeric criteria for nutrients, so we used these numbers—based on the EPA’s analysis of nutrient levels in relatively unpolluted streams in the corn belt region—as a benchmark.

Phosphorus levels jumped above EPA recommended criteria range following storm events in July and September.  Together with total suspended solids data, this tells us that most of the phosphorus entering the creek is bound to soil particles, delivered when heavy rains cause erosion.

For water bodies that support swimming, canoeing, and other full contact recreation, Iowa has set an E.coli criteria of 126 organisms per 100 mL to assess whether there is contamination from human or animal waste that might pose a health risk if accidentally swallowed.  Bacteria concentrations in both streams were consistently ten times higher than the Iowa standard.  During the recreational season of April to October, concentrations in East Indian Creek averaged 1,283 organisms/100mL.  The geometric mean for Squaw Creek during this period was 1,464 organisms/100mL.

This year’s data will help establish a baseline for the annual nutrient loads delivered to downstream waters.  We will continue to refine our estimates of nutrient loading as we improve our measurements of flows in East Indian Creek and measurements of phosphorus during baseflow.

Live Monitoring Data:

Squaw Creek at Lincoln Way Monitoring Unit

Sample Date Nitrate (mg/L)

Standard: 3.3 mg/L

Total Phosphorus (mg/L)

Standard: 0.12 mg/L

E.coli (organisms/100 mL)

Standard: 126 organisms/100 mL

4/12/2017 11 0.11 95
4/26/2017 <0.1 0.12 301
5/10/2017  10  0.21  5460
6/14/2017 10 0.38 2750
6/15/2017 13 0.26 N/A
6/28/2017 9.2 0.21 3130
7/12/2017 7.5 0.11 663
7/13/2017 6.1 0.17 1340
7/21/2017 <1 0.54 7030
7/26/2017 1 0.23 1396
7/27/2017 <1 0.25 4960
8/2/2017 <1 0.25 7330
8/3/2017 <1 0.2 1340
8/9/2017 <1 0.19 384
8/14/2017 <1 0.2 57,940
8/23/2017 <1 0.24 1211
9/17/2017 <1 <0.1 336
9/26/2017 <1 0.17 9080
10/2/2017 <1 0.19 29,090

East Indian Creek at County Road S27 Monitoring Unit

Sample Date Nitrate (mg/L)

Standard: 3.3 mg/L

Total Phosphorus (mg/L)

Standard: 0.12 mg/L

E.coli (organisms/100 mL)

Standard: 126 organisms/100 mL

4/26/2017 <0.1 0.1 109
5/11/2017  10 0.28  12,230
6/14/2017 12 0.16 5480
6/28/2017 10 <0.1 740
7/12/2017 5.2 <0.1 830
7/26/2017 <1 0.16 706
8/9/2017 <1 0.17 754
8/23/2017 <1 0.22 15,531
9/6/2017 <1 0.18 4884
9/26/2017 <1 0.13 2010

 

 

*Disclaimer: above numbers are raw data collected and tested from water quality monitors. No further analysis has been completed on the data at this time to encompass trends, limiting factors, etc.

Check back monthly for up-to-date water quality data!

2016 monitoring results can be found here: http://www.prrcd.org/watershed_waterways/2016-water-quality-monitoring-results/