History of Water Sampling

Local private and public Upper Iowa River (UIR) Watershed partners have been working to better understand subwatersheds of the UIR Watershed since 1998 when they first began collecting and analyzing water samples. Today, the UIR partners boast one of the longest running and extensive water monitoring efforts in Iowa. They collect water quality data from 30 locations across the watershed, in Iowa and Minnesota. Since 2004, samples have been taken once a month, from April through October, at three locations along the main channel of the Upper Iowa River and 27 locations near the mouth of major tributaries. This data provides a snapshot of the entire watershed on a given day each month (e.g., 2nd Tuesday) and allows the comparison of one stream to the next and/or of one subwatershed to all the others. This helps Soil and Water Conservation Districts in two states maximize limited financial and technical resources.

The partners strive for consistency and accuracy. They developed and follow the first EPA approved Quality Assurance Project Plan for water sampling in Iowa. All 30 water samples are collected on the same day in the same manner, packed on ice, and sent to a lab for analysis. From 1999–2013, samples were analyzed by the State Hygienic Laboratory, and beginning in 2014, by the laboratory at Coe College. The samples are analyzed for concentrations of E. coli Bacteria, Nitrate and Nitrite Nitrogen as N, Total Phosphate as P, Chloride, Sulfate, Total Suspended Solids, and in past years: Ammonia Nitrogen as N, Atrazine, and Fecal Coliform. Field measurements are also taken, including temperature, pH and water transparency.

This extensive data collection conducted over a wide spatial area of the Upper Iowa River Watershed has helped partners and landowners identify and celebrate areas of good water quality. It has proven the success of SWCD subwatershed projects and of voluntary implementation of conservation practices. It has also helped partners identify water quality challenges that should be addressed in the watershed. The water quality data has allowed landowners, citizens, and organizations to work together to wisely invest local, state and federal dollars to solve specific water quality and conservation issues.

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