Monitoring Iowa's Waters
by Bernard E. Hoyer
(Far left) Identifying small invertebrates found in streambeds provides an
indicator of water quality.
(Left) This device measures such water characteristics as pH, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity.
The uniqueness of this monitoring program lies in its comprehensive nature, including rivers, lakes, wetlands, and their ecological communities; groundwater from the water table to deep bedrock aquifers; and even precipitation. The program focuses on ambient water conditions. This means that all types of water resources are being looked at across the state to gain a fair and consistent appraisal of their condition. It is not concerned just with known water quality problems, or with checking on regulatory compliance – aspects of monitoring that have existed for years. It is “big picture” monitoring, and it can lead to many practical policies and management decisions. This program is growing and adapting with the strong emphasis placed on it by the Governor, the General Assembly, and a diverse coalition of other groups.
Initial emphasis has been placed on improved monitoring of Iowa’s interior rivers and lakes and developing a data management system that can capture data effectively and deliver it to government and public users.
Data collection is the most important and expensive portion of the program. Iowa’s interior rivers and streams plus 132 lakes are monitored for over 200 chemical, physical, and biological parameters, including pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and volatile organic compounds. All state-owned beaches are monitored for indicator bacteria groups throughout the swimming season. Groundwater is monitored from available public, private, and specially installed monitoring wells. All field and laboratory methods and techniques are recorded to insure future comparability of data for scientific analysis.
|Following electro-shocking, fish can be counted, identified, and examined before being released.|
Following the sampling phase,
data management, coordination, and interpretation are crucial areas of the
program, as well as the production of reports for management purposes and for
the public. Other agencies will be encouraged to add their data to a central
clearinghouse to ensure long-term curation and widespread availability. Timely
interpretation, annual as well as long-term, is essential as monitoring data
accumulates through the years.
Finally, keeping Iowans
informed is vital to the success of this monitoring program. Resource managers,
elected officials, special interest groups, and the public need to be aware of
what is done and learned. Part of this citizen involvement includes the IOWATER
program, targeted at educating the public by training volunteers to monitor
water resources in their home areas.
Monitoring Iowa’s waters is a long-term investment. The
program must continue uninterrupted, without gaps in data, to attain its goals
and maximize its usefulness to Iowa. At the same time, the program must maintain
flexibility and adjust as experience is gained and technology improves.