Jul 6, 2021 - News

Polk County's water quality investigations nearly complete

Rocks along Fourmile Creek near Ankeny, Iowa.

A water monitoring location along Fourmile Creek near Ankeny. Photo courtesy of Polk County Conservation

Some of the most comprehensive water studies in Polk County's history are concluding in coming months, and they could help target new ways to improve the area's water quality.

How it works: Data from Polk County Conservation Water Quality Monitoring Program studies will pinpoint pollution hot spots in the county's streams.

  • Water samples are taken twice a month at dozens of sites across the metro area, mostly by volunteers.
  • The consistent collections help scientists determine chemical, habitat and biological parameters that influence water quality.

Why it matters: A five-year assessment of the program's ongoing studies published last year found that most sites fell below pollution thresholds, but some exceeded chloride and phosphate levels.

  • Both are naturally occurring elements, but can be toxic to some aquatic life if their levels are excessive.
  • It may be linked with fertilizer runoff, industrial pollutants or human/animal waste.

Of note: The Water Quality Monitoring Program launched in 2015, three years after 72% of voters approved a special "water and land legacy" tax that funded the project along with other measures.

💬 Our thought bubble: DSM Water Works will spend up to $30 million to drill wells, an extreme measure being taken to find clean water, the AP reports.

  • It's yet another sobering reminder of our critical need to address water pollution issues.

What's next: Polk County Supervisors recently approved the final year's payment for a key study being led by Drake University, focusing on Fourmile and Walnut creeks. It's expected to conclude in May of 2022. (See item #9)

  • The program's final reports and improvement plans will be developed next year, Polk County's conservation director, Rich Leopold, told Axios.

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