On The Radio- Soil Conservation Mapping


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Kasey Dresser | September 10, 2018

This weeks segment talks about how Iowa is the country leader in soil conservation mapping.

Transcript:

Iowa is now one of the country’s leaders in soil conservation mapping.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Iowa officials have recently completed a map of the conservation efforts in the state. This map identifies the six different methods of soil conservation used in Iowa—including terraces, ponds, grassed waterways, sediment control basins, and more. The map shows where practices are deployed and how they are funded.

The map also acts as a visual for determining how different areas of Iowa are being funded for their conservation efforts, and whether that funding is public or private.

Iowa is the first state to conduct such a thorough analysis of its conservation practices statewide. The project took three years and was a joint effort between Iowa State University and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Researchers used something called LiDAR—laser imaging software—and years of aerial photographs to compile the conservation map.

Iowa State University is currently performing additional research to build a newer map, one that also shows the reduction of sediment and phosphorous buildup in Iowa’s waterways.

For more information, visit Iowa Environmental Focus dot org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Sara E Mason.

 

Iowa Flood Center resources for a soaking wet state


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This image taken from the Iowa Flood Information System shows the accumulation of rainfall in Iowa during the week leading up to this post.

Julia Poska| September 7, 2018

Citizens of Iowa know that with heavy rainfall comes flooding. The last few weeks of rain have served as a very real reminder around the state.

The Iowa Flood Center is a great source of information on current, forecasted and potential floods. Their Iowa Flood Information System in particular offers tools for researchers, city planners,  and even for concerned or curious private citizens.

At first glance, the IFIS may seem overwhelming. Fortunately for the everyday user, the IFIS homepage includes a tutorial video and links to some of the most universally useful features of the system.  These basic tools can be layered with additional information like rainfall, national parks and zip code boundaries, if users so choose.

The Inundation Maps feature shows current conditions at IFS water sensors . Zoom in on a selected area of the state and click on a blue “USGS” box along the water to view the water level at that sensor. Click “More Info” to view the level over time.  You can play with the slider in the panel to the right to see how higher or lower water levels would affect your community.

The Flood Alerts feature shows flood alerts at different stages, from “action” to “major” across the state. Clicking on the triangular alert symbols pulls up the same information about water level that the Inundation Maps feature does.

The River Communities feature dots the state with purple squares representing communities near rivers. Clicking on each will pull up information about future flood outlook and put a border around the upstream watershed so users can see what may be headed their way.

Use these tools during current and future flood hazards to stay informed, keep safe, or simply marvel at the power of nature and technology.

 

Heavy flooding expected in Cedar Rapids


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Picture taken at Tuesday, September 4th 12:11pm

Kasey Dresser | September 5, 2018

The Cedar Rapids area is currently under river flood warning. The Cedar Rapids River is expecting to crest at 16.5 feet midday Thursday. The crest is the highest point of a flood wave. For reference, Cedar Rapids’ last flood was in 2016 and crested at 22 feet. The devastating 2008 flood crested at 31 feet.

Mayor Brad Hart held a press conference yesterday stating that preparations were in place. City workers are preparing for 18 feet to be safe. Hart stated, “I’m confident that no matter how high the river gets this week, that we’ll rise above it and protect the community as best we possibly can.”

Right now there is expected to be no damage. City Public Works Director Jen Winter’s biggest concern is “water coming back into our storm sewer system and backing up.” “Unless something fails, we anticipate that no, that there would not be damage,” she said. “In some cases, depending on the age of a building, some people do get water in their basements despite the fact that we have kind of plugged off the river from backing up.”

You can access updates on the City of Cedar Rapids website.

Iowa Environmental Council withdraws legal petition against DNR


Julia Poska | August 24, 2018

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This map from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources shows the extent of water pollution in Iowa as of 2016.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources recently revised a problematic stormwater discharge permit in response to legal pressure from the Iowa Environmental Council.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources issued the permit, allowing the Des Moines Airport to discharge stormwater into Des Moines’ Yeader Creek, in May 2017. The IDNR has reported “impaired” water quality in the creek since 1998, due to low dissolved oxygen and runoff from the airport containing poisonous de-icing agents.

The IEC feared the permitted stormwater discharge would further degrade the stream in violation of state and federal laws and make it and Easter Lake, into which the stream drains, more unsuitable for aquatic life and recreation.

A news release on the IEC website quoted Executive Director Jennifer Terry, who said the IDNR did not take public comments of concern submitted by the council seriously. On April 30, 2018 the council filed a Petition for Judicial Review in District Court in an effort to be heard.

The subsequently revised permit, re-issued August 1, mollified the council, who then filed to dismiss its petition

 

 

Dead zone in Gulf of Mexico smaller this year than expected


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The dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico was measured at nearly half its expected size this summer (NOAA)

Katelyn Weisbrod | August 9, 2018

Scientists found the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico is smaller this year than in years past.

The zone of water lacking sufficient oxygen to support aquatic life at the end of the Mississippi River measured just over 2,700 square miles — about the size of the state of Delaware and the fourth-smallest the zone has been measured since 1985.

Experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association expected the dead zone to be more than double this size this year. The lack of oxygen in the water is caused in part by algal blooms stimulated by nutrient runoff from farm fields in states like Iowa into the Mississippi River. Algae deplete dissolved oxygen in the water making survival nearly impossible for fish and other aquatic life.

A possible explanation given by Dr. Nancy Rabalais of Louisiana State University is that winds in the area may have mixed oxygenated water with the water lacking oxygen, reducing the zone’s size.

Scientists from Louisiana State University measure the zone’s reach annually, but the size can vary significantly throughout the year. In 2017, the zone was measured at its largest size ever recorded — over 8,700 square miles. These data help inform efforts like the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy about the progress of such initiatives to keep agricultural runoff and other nutrient loads from entering the Mississippi River.

Hawaii’s sunscreen ban


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Coral reefs provide food and shelter to numerous marine animals. (flickr/USFWS)

Eden DeWald | July 11th, 2018

Hawaii is making a move to protect its coral reefs. A bill banning the distribution or sale of synthetic sunscreens in Hawaii was signed by Governor David Ige earlier this month. The ban will go into affect in January of 2021, and will prevent the sale of sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate.

There are two main types of sunscreen found in any drugstore—chemical and physical. Physical sunscreen, or mineral sunscreen, often has active ingredients such as titanium and zinc oxide, which reflect or scatter UV rays by forming a protective layer on the skin. Synthetic sunscreens, which often contain oxybenzone and octinoxate, soak into the skin. They protect the wearer by changing the electromagnetic affect of UV rays. Physical sunscreens are not at all affected by the ban and will still be available for retail sale and distribution.

According to a 2015 study, oxybenzone has been found to cause the bleaching of coral reefs, as well as endocrine damage. There have been fewer studies done concerning octinoxate, but similar damaging effects have been associated with this chemical. Approximately 14,000 gallons are estimated to end up in the waters off the coast of Hawaii each year, consequently banning sunscreens with oxybenzone and octinoxate has the potential to remove thousands gallons of coral reef damaging chemicals from the environment each year.

Should Iowans worry about their water?


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Water is a valuable yet vulnerable resource, often taken for granted in Iowa (José Manuel Suárez/Wikipedia)

Katelyn Weisbrod | July 6, 2018

The safety of drinking water should be something Iowans don’t have to worry about. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for 20,000 residents in nine Iowa counties for two weeks in June.

The Creston Water Treatment plant experienced a mechanical failure that led to unsafe municipal water. Residents were told to boil their water or use bottled water until the system could be repaired and flushed — not an easy feat.

Professor Neil Hamilton of the Drake Agricultural Law center cautions Iowans not to take for granted the clean water that comes out of the tap. The systems could be vulnerable to floods, algal blooms caused by nutrient runoff, mechanical failures, or any other number of threats to a delicate, precious resource.

Hamilton stresses the importance of dealing with the vulnerabilities of Iowa’s water systems before they become a problem in this week’s episode of Our Water, Our Land.