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ACWA: Water monitoring data says continued farm improvements needed

By Staff | Nov 22, 2015

ANKENY (ACWA) – Water quality samples obtained this year by Agriculture’s Clean Water Alliance’s in the Raccoon and Boone river watersheds reaffirm the need for continuous improvement and greater collaboration.

“Water monitoring is the cornerstone of our organization,” said Harry Ahrenholtz, ACWA chairman, “because we firmly believe you must know where you are in order to measure progress.

“Since 1999, we have invested $1.5 million in monitoring as part of our commitment to improving water quality.

“This year’s data reaffirms our focus and demonstrates the challenges that often arise when working with Mother Nature.”

Funding provided by ACWA resulted in the collection of 2,500 water samples from 75 sites.

The results are not surprising, considering weather patterns during the past decade.

More than half of the 45 Raccoon River water monitoring sites reported their highest average nitrate levels in 10 years of data collection.

The Boone River also experienced high nitrate concentrations across 30 sample sites.

“We acknowledge that water quality across the state needs to improve,” said Roger Wolf, ACWA executive director. “Many factors influence water quality, but weather is a particular driving force.”

Experts have long recognized the large impact weather has on nitrate loss from farm fields.

Fluctuation between wet and dry weather patterns during the last several years resulted in large shifts in water movement allowing nitrate that has moved below the root zone and accumulated in dry times to be rapidly transported during wet periods.

“Data allows us to pinpoint where we should be focusing our efforts and dollars to have the biggest impact for water quality at a local level and across the state,” Wolf said.

One area of focus is the Elk Run Watershed – a subwatershed of the North Raccoon River.

In March, ACWA and 15 commodity and conservation partners were awarded a $354,000 Water Quality Initiative grant from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship in the Elk Run Watershed.

The project focuses on engaging farmers in parts of Sac, Calhoun and Carroll Counties in discussion and implementing water conservation practices outlined in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

The Elk Run WQI strives to further awareness and ultimately adoption of water quality conservation practices, through evaluating present practices, collecting water samples, implementing Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy practices and uniting farmers, partners and urban entities.

Additionally, farmers are working to improve water quality through three other WQI projects – the headwaters of the North Raccoon River, the Boone River Watershed Nutrient Management Initiative and the Riverside Stormwater Wetlands in Webster City, which is an urban WQI project.

“We are excited to see the positive progress these partners can achieve by working together,” ? said. “For our part, ACWA members will help farmers identify and implement practices beneficial to the environment and water quality.

“Our water monitoring program will be a valuable tool for documenting future successes.”

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