Water Quality Monitoring
A Story County Water Quality Monitoring & Interpretation Plan 2021 -2030 has been completed by Prairie Rivers of Iowa in partnership with the Story County Iowa Water Monitoring Planning Team. The supporting chapters of the report including maps and data analysis were prepared by Prairie Rivers of Iowa Watershed Educator Daniel Haug. Read the full report here.
Beginning in November 2019, Story County Conservation, Story County Supervisors, the City of Ames, and the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Story County Community Foundation funded a project to launch a countywide monitoring program and to support data collection and outreach. 2020 was a challenging year, but we accomplished a lot!
Representatives from the Izaak Walton League of America, Story County Soil & Water District, City of Gilbert, City of Nevada, and the City of Huxley joined the planning team for a lively discussion of why we value local water bodies and how we can better work together to understand and improve water quality. Two of the partners (City of Ames and City of Nevada) were awarded SRF Sponsored Projects to address water quality in town through stream restoration and stormwater management practices. Congrats! …Read more about the partnership.
October 2020 Watershed Awareness Month
In addition to the proclamations and social media outreach by multiple jurisdictions, PRI and the City of Ames worked together to launch two educational videos.
What is a watershed (stormwater)?
The South Skunk River watershed
Expanded Volunteer Water Monitoring
Story County Conservation assembled 15 kits that it is loaning out to volunteers forregular testing of streams around the county. Find out about the monitoring program and sign up here.
The Izaak Walton League’s Save Our Streams program is supporting volunteer monitoring in Iowa through training events, a database, and fun entry points Stream Selfie and Winter Salt Watch.
PRI organized two socially-distanced “snapshot” events in the Squaw Creek (now Ioway Creek) watershed and beyond.
Expanded Lab Testing
Thanks to the support of the City of Ames Water and Pollution Control Laboratory, we’ve been able to collect monthly samples from 15 streams around the county.
Concerned by the E. coli numbers? …Read more for context.
Understanding the Wealth of Data We Already Have
Dan learned the computer programming language “R” to take a deep dive into our existing pool of data. This pool was much deeper than anyone realized including:
- 3 nitrate sensors, maintained by USDA and IIHR.
- 18 years of weekly monitoring in the South Skunk River, collected by City of Ames.
- We’ve used this data to interpret short-term trends. Nitrate concentrations have dropped dramatically in the past 7 years, but phosphorus trends are flat.
- We then used the data to interpret longer term swings in nitrate, an effect we’re calling “weather whiplash!” We expect nitrate to go up again in the next year or two, unless the pace of conservation picks up.
- 20 years of monthly data from DNR on the South Skunk River below Ames and dozens of other sites measured less frequently
- Over 10,000 records and 265 different chemicals. Now that we know what’s available, we can use it as a baseline when returning to an old site, or as a reference when sampling an upstream site.
Making the Case for Long-Term Water Monitoring
The idea behind a 10-year monitoring plan is to make sure that we sample often enough or long enough to tell us something useful.
- Some of the same difficulties that have undermined confidence in public opinion polling this election season apply to water monitoring, so we’re working to get ahead of the issue and budget our resources accordingly.