DNR: 2010 efforts saved 24,000 tons of soil

Iowa’s waters may be filthy, but according to a DNR release, they could be worse:

Almost 24,000 tons of soil are staying put on the land and out of Iowa streams, rivers and lakes, thanks to conservation practices installed in fiscal year 2010, according to numbers released by the DNR.

Put that amount of soil in dump trucks, and it would make a line 7.5 miles long. The numbers indicate that conservation practices on agricultural and urban land are effectively reducing pollutants reaching Iowa’s water.

Local watershed projects work with landowners to use conservation practices in a watershed, which is an area of land that drains into a lake, river or stream. Common conservation practices include wetlands, ponds, terraces and buffers.

“I’m encouraged to see Iowans continue to make progress on improving our lakes, rivers and streams and I am excited that the DNR can assist them,” said Bill Ehm, DNR water policy coordinator. “Iowans are taking ownership of the waters in their communities, and looking at the long‐term totals, we’re making strides toward cleaner water.”

Each year, the DNR helps fund a number of locally‐led projects that help Iowans improve their water. Of those projects, 27 reported constructing a total of 372 conservation practices during federal fiscal year (FFY) 2010. From Oct. 1, 2009 to Sept. 30, 2010, those conservation practices:

  • Reduced sediment reaching waterways by at least 23,935 tons per year.
  • Reduced phosphorus reaching waterways by at least 31,116 pounds per year.
  • Reduced nitrogen reaching waterways by at least 52,538 pounds per year.

One successful local effort in Appanoose, Davis and Van Buren counties installed practices that keep sediment and nutrients from reaching the Fox River. Coordinator Brian DeMoss worked with landowners to install practices in federal fiscal year 2010 that reduced sediment delivery to the river by 2,483 tons per year – enough to fill 165 dump trucks – and phosphorus loading by 5,441 pounds per year and nitrogen loading by 3,229 pounds per year.

These conservation practices will continue to reduce pollutants at the same rate if properly maintained. The new numbers apply only to practices installed in 2010 through DNR‐funded watershed projects and do not reflect the total effects of all conservation practices in the state. Practices installed through DNR watershed projects since 2004 now collectively reduce sediment reaching Iowa’s waters by 154,882 tons per year and phosphorus loading by 233,428 pounds per year.

The DNR is currently accepting applications for grant funding for new watershed efforts. More information is available at watershed.iowadnr.gov. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provides DNR funding for nonpoint pollution programs.

Sediment can make water cloudy, damage the habitat of fish and other aquatic life, and fill in lakes and streambeds. High levels of nutrients, like phosphorus, can cloud the water, increase drinking water costs and lead to poor aquatic life diversity.

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