Water Quality

Currently, 474 bodies of water in Iowa are labeled as being impaired - not healthy enough for their designated uses including recreation, aquatic life, fish consumption, and more. Stewy Img 6377 Beach Closed

There are several ways water bodies can become impaired. High amounts of bacteria in water can be harmful to people and animals, which leads to beach closings. Suspended sediment creates a muddy-looking river, and decreases the amount of sunlight available for aquatic plants. Excessive amounts of nutrients can lead to unsightly algal blooms. Other chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides can negatively impact living organisms within the stream. Identifying the source of these contaminants isn’t easy, though: sediment, nutrients, and bacteria are forms of nonpoint source pollution that cannot be tracked back to the original source.

Fortunately, there are a variety of practices that can be implemented to reduce the delivery of these contaminants to Iowa’s waterways. Buffer strips of grass and shrubs around streams and grass waterways in fields will decrease the amount of sediment and nutrient transport. Farming practices such as no-till, strip-till, and cover crops help protect the land from erosion. Fencing off streams prevents animals such as cattle and sheep from adding bacteria to water, and keeps stream banks stable. Wetlands add beauty and wildlife habitat on the landscape, and can also reduce the amount of nitrate and sediment in our rivers and streams. Whether you enjoy spending time on the lake or a cool glass of fresh water, water quality matters to us all!

Video Resources

What's In Your Water? Series

A Culture of Conservation Series

We All Have a Place in the Watershed
Troubled Waters
Out to the Lakes
Incredible Wetlands

Music Videos

Everybody Poops
Human Landfill
Isle of Plastic
We All Live in a Watershed
Wetlands Have Real Important Jobs To Do

Adventures of the Conservation Pack

Episode 4 - Wetlands and water quality
Episode 6
- Water quality monitoring
Episode 8
- Visiting ISU's Water Quality Research Lab

Other Videos

Explore More: Water Quality (Iowa Public Television)

Enhanced Learning Activities

A Culture of Conservation Activity Booklet (Grades 6-12)
Get It to the Spigot
(Grades 3-8)
How Do Landfills Work? (Grades 6-8)
I Spy: Plastics and Bioaccumulation (Grades 6-12)
Make It Rain! (Grades 6-8)
SOS: Saving Our Soil (Grades 6-12)
Tap Into Persuasion (Grades 6-12)
What's In Your Water? (Grades K-8, 10 separate worksheets/activities available)

Additional Resources

Clean Water Iowa
Drinking Water FAQs

Iowa Learning Farms
Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy
IOWATER Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Program
Planning for Water Quality: Iowa's Nonpoint Source Management Plan





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