Volunteers document Iowa's poor water quality
Biological sampling at 150 stream sites across Iowa last year found that roughly two-thirds had poor or fair water quality, according to results from a volunteer program coordinated through the Izaak Walton League.
Why it matters: High levels of pollution can lead to harmful algae blooms, fish kills and human health problems.
- Brain-eating amoebas killed a swimmer at Lake of Three Fires in southern Iowa last year, the first confirmed case in the state.
Catch up quick: The league’s "Save our Streams" is the only nationwide program that trains volunteers to collect scientifically valid data to assess the quality of local waterways.
- The group launched a concentrated Iowa steam monitoring program in 2019, partly in response to the state dismantling IOWATER — a volunteer program coordinated through the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
Zoom in: Only about a third of stream samples were deemed to be good or excellent — results that don’t bode well for Iowa water, Heather Wilson, a coordinator of the Iowa program, told Axios.
- Soil erosion, excessive nutrients from chemical fertilizers and high fecal bacteria levels are among the factors harming our water quality, according to the league.
What they’re saying: Droughts and weather patterns with more freeze and thaw cycles are believed to be contributing to the water quality problems, Polk County Conservation director Rich Leopold told Axios.
- His staff documented elevated levels of chloride in metro streams, which can be toxic to aquatic life.
What's next: Metro officials recently launched efforts to improve water quality by promoting cover crops and establishing hundreds of acres of native prairies.
- But it could take years for some of their benefits to surface in ecological monitoring, Leopold noted.
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