Targeted Wetland Restoration for Water Quality Improvement: Potential Impact on Nitrate Loads to Mississippi River Subbasins
Non-point source nitrogen loads to surface waters in the Midwest Corn Belt are among the highest in the Mississippi River Basin. In addition to the potential local impacts on receiving waters in the Corn Belt, nitrogen loads from the region are suspected as a primary source of nitrate contributing to hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico. The problem of excess nitrate loads can probably be ameliorated by a combination of in field and off site practices, but the limitations and appropriateness of alternative practices must be considered. Wetlands sited to intercept tile drainage have the potential to reduce nitrate loads by 40-90%, and this approach is particularly promising for heavily tile drained areas like the Corn Belt. We are using a performance forecast modeling approach to estimate how much nitrate loads could be reduced if wetland filters were established on tile drainage systems throughout the Corn Belt and to develop guidance for siting and design criteria to maximize the benefits for the investment made.
Iowa Lake Water Quality: Value, Risk and Emerging Issues
Despite the enormous economic and social importance of Iowa’s lakes, their water quality had only been analyzed twice (1980 & 1992) prior to 2000. The Iowa DNR and Iowa State University launched a collaborative and systematic lake water quality survey in 2000, sampling and analyzing 132 of Iowa’s most important lakes on an annual basis. The many key parameters collected form the backbone of the Iowa Lake Information System that provides state scientists, policy makers and citizens with the information to monitor the conditions and changing face of Iowa’s public waters. After five years of systematic data collection, this information system (limnology.eeob.iastate.edu) offers an emerging look at the water quality of some of the most variable and nutrient rich aquatic environments in the world.
This presentation examines existing data resources to illustrate the value of good water quality to Iowa society, the relationship between land stewardship and water quality, and the relationship between water quality and social value of water resources. Illustrations will be presented of the use of these data to assess risks of poor water quality and its sources, risks of attainment or non-attainment of water quality goals, and risks of loss of value of resources due to degradation. Emerging issues impinging upon the quality of Iowa’s lakes will also be explored, including exotic Cyanobacteria and toxins, relations between fish growth and water quality, the difficulty of defining water quality in impacted landscapes with variable climates, the lack of resolution on trends and reference conditions, freshwater hypoxia, ammonia toxicity, the role of Iowa lakes in global change, and the critical problem of Cyanobacterial dominance.
Developing a Wetland Monitoring Program for Iowa: We’re not mucking around here
Wetlands are a unique and vital resource that is important to water quality in many ways. Despite their importance, less than 1% of this original resource remains in Iowa, and very little information exists on the current ecological condition of these wetlands. It is likely that many different stressors such as altered hydrology, excessive nutrients, soil erosion, and invasive species may be compromising the quality of the few wetlands that still exist, but we do not know the extent of the impact. Since wetlands now comprise such a small percentage of the Iowa landscape, those that remain are a very critical component to many watersheds in Iowa. As science continues to unravel the mysteries of wetlands, new environmental and economic benefits are revealed. In the next few years the state of Iowa, with funding from the Environmental Protection Agency and assistance from other partners, plans to coordinate a wetland monitoring program that will assess the ecological condition of the state’s wetlands. Results may provide information to help wetland managers improve existing wetland areas, improve newly restored wetlands, and increase the public’s awareness of the benefits of wetlands, with the hope that more wetlands will be restored and protected. Ecologically healthy wetlands can offer a more diverse landscape and increased recreational opportunities for the state’s residents and visitors. There’s a long way to go, but this talk will explain how we plan to get started!
Discovery Farms – Improving Water Quality Through Research and Education
Dennis R. Frame
The UW – Discovery Farms Program was designed after a program in the Netherlands where the producers and federal environmental and agricultural agencies are working together to identify and correct the causes of nonpoint source pollution. The focus of the program is to assure everyone (producers, consumers, agency personnel and consumers) that environmental regulations are:
ü Necessary - identify the levels and sources of pollutants;
ü Reasonable - identify practices that will reduce these pollutants while maintaining farm profitability on a range of farming systems;
ü Achievable - implement a variety of practices that can be adopted on a wide variety of farms under a wide range of physiographic and management conditions.
The major difference between this program and other state and federal conservation programs is that instead of starting by mandating changes in practices, we start by proving to producers that their operations are impacting the environment. After the baseline data is collected, we work with an advisory group composed of producers, conservation specialists and industry to identify practices that can and will be implemented on the operation. We conclude the five to seven year study by monitoring water quality after the best management practices are implemented to determine the effectiveness of the practice not only on water quality, but on farm profitability.
Avian Influenza and Iowans
Avian influenza, SARS, West Nile disease, and Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome are recent zoonotic diseases that underscore the finding that 70% of newly emergent human infections are due to animal pathogens. The recent explosive epidemic of avian influenza in Asia has many public health officials concerned about a possible worldwide influenza epidemic. Iowa has numerous occupational and recreational exposures to birds and other animals that might lead to infection with avian influenza viruses. Iowans that may be particularly at risk are swine workers, poultry workers, game bird breeders, wildlife professionals, and waterfowl hunters.
Avian influenza virus is the pathogen that causes avian influenza and is found to occur naturally in wild waterfowl and shorebird populations. This virus is a member of the influenza A group that can infect birds, humans, pigs, horses, seals, and whales. The viral subtypes are based on the immune response to two major surface antigens, hemaglutinin (H) and neuraminidase (N). In preliminary studies we have isolated avian influenza virus from 20% of the wild duck samples obtained in Iowa. We also are beginning to test Iowans who handle wild waterfowl for evidence of past infection with avian influenza virus.
A Common Sense Approach to Bacterial Source Tracking
Fecal contamination of water can cause illness. For this reason, it is important to identify sources of fecal contamination and, when possible, to reduce or eliminate them. Bacterial source tracking (BST) identifies the sources of fecal contamination to water bodies by using a variety of different phenotypic, genotypic, and chemical methods. Phenotypic methods are based on traits expressed by the bacterium, like antibiotic resistance; genotypic methods are based on differences in DNA, like those associated with different ribotypes; and chemical methods are based on compounds associated primarily with human sewage, like optical brighteners in dishwashing liquids and laundry detergents.
The biggest problem with BST is that it is expensive, and as a result, many communities cannot afford it. To reduce the cost, I developed targeted sampling as a prelude to BST. Targeted sampling identifies sources of fecal contamination on a common sense basis by combining local knowledge (obtained by listening carefully to federal and state agencies, as well as riverkeepers and private citizens), and sampling in such a way that it resembles the children’s game of “hot” and “cold.” Although targeted sampling may encounter problems with property rights and liability (when volunteers are used), the method is capable of identifying almost all sources of fecal contamination quickly and inexpensively. Furthermore, in the few instances where the sources of fecal contamination are unclear and BST is required, targeted sampling makes BST better and less expensive because it reduces sampling complexity.
The Recreation Connection – Demands for Clean, Clear Waters
Iowa’s water resources are unique in this country. Unfortunately, they have also been little celebrated. Part of this was due to real-world water quality concerns – muddy rivers with cut banks, agro-industrial waste, channelized, and lacking natural streamside habitat. Who wants to associate themselves with a smelly river? Another part of it, though, was simply the lack of recognition that Iowa is a watery place crossed by numerous creeks, wetlands, and lakes. How could we have forgotten that Iowa is flanked by America’s two greatest rivers?
Quality of life, economic development, and restored high water quality can no longer be seen as separate tasks. Iowa’s vigorous future depends on these tasks being an interdependent vision. With both modest and major water quality progress made in the previous few decades, towns across Iowa are beginning to identify with their rivers again. This presentation explores the ways in which Iowa is reconnecting with its rivers, and how they can do a better job of bringing back the lore, the wildness, and an ownership in their watersheds. If people define themselves by the water, protecting it becomes necessary.
The Prevalence and Effect of Synthetic Fragrances in Natural Systems
Keri Hornbuckle, Aaron Peck, Emily Linebaugh, and Meredith Gooding
Synthetic musks are fragrance additives used in soaps, perfumes, cosmetics, air fresheners, laundry detergents, and shampoos. Over the last several years, we have conducted a series of experiments and measurements to determine how widespread these compounds are in the environment. We have measured these compounds in the water, air, and sediments of the Great Lakes, and in the air of Eastern Iowa. The concentrations of synthetic musks in the outdoor environment seems related to the proximity of the sampling site to urban areas and wastewater effluents. Studies of sources and sinks in Lake Michigan show that wastewater is the dominant source and both volatilization and outflow are important losses of these compounds from natural waters. A small portion of the compounds are buried in Great Lakes sediments and the profile of accumulation over time can be used to determine the consumption and use history of these compounds over the last one hundred years.
The presence of these compounds in the natural environment may have negative effects on aquatic organisms. To examine this potential, we have conducted a series of toxicity tests on the larva and juvenile freshwater mussels collected in the Boone River of central Iowa. Freshwater mussels are among those species that may be the most vulnerable to chronic exposures to synthetic musks. Mussels are often found in areas that are impacted by wastewater outflows, they live in the sediment and their life cycle includes early life stages that may be vulnerable. Freshwater mussels are the most imperiled group of organisms in North America, with 67% classified as vulnerable, extinct, or threatened. Our studies show a low level toxicity to synthetic musks that causes increased mortality in larval mussels and decreased growth rates in the juvenile mussels.
Water Quality and Fisheries in Iowa: Development of the State Lakes Classification Project
Research in Iowa has shown that nonpoint sources of pollution (runoff) is the number one problem impacting Iowa’s lake resources. Many of these watersheds and lakes are impaired and need restoration. The classification of Iowa’s lakes (Bachman 1979, 1990) needs to be updated to prioritize these restoration activities. The Limnology Lab at Iowa State University (ISU) was contracted to develop a new State Lakes Classification System. Sampling began in May 2000 and will continue to June 30, 2005.
The goals of this project are to improve/streamline access to past and current Iowa lake water quality data, create a website that serves as an information and educational resource for Iowa’s citizens, and to develop a lake classification system that facilitates management and restoration decisions.
This is, without a doubt, the most comprehensive, lake classification program ever undertaken in Iowa! Detailed data will be collected and compiled from 132 of Iowa’s principle lakes and impoundments. Very comprehensive water quality data will be collected three times each year for five years. Zooplankton, phytoplankton, and fisheries biota will also be assessed during this period. Watersheds will be delineated for each lake and integrated into a GIS project. Land-use patterns and other watershed characteristics will be included for each watershed. Lake contour maps will be scanned and included into this project. Previous studies (e.g. theses, research projects, etc.) will be scanned and included into this project All of these data will be included into a comprehensive database that will be available to any interested stakeholders via the World Wide Web. This system will be very useful for developing lake classifications, historical trends, detailed information on individual lakes, and among lake comparisons.
Blue-Green Algae: It Looks Like Grandma's Pea Soup, But Its Not!
This presentation will provide an introduction to blue-green algae and some of the nuisance conditions they cause in freshwater lakes and reservoirs. Information will be shared about the current state of knowledge related to the possibility of adverse health impacts associated with blue-green algae exposure to humans, pets, or other domesticated animals. Also, a summary of Wisconsin's findings on the presence of blue-green algal toxins will be shared as well as general recommendations and/or actions to help minimize health impacts for those that recreate on the water. This presentation may be very helpful to local community leaders and the general public seeking knowledge on how to minimize personal risk while working collectively to seek improvements to local water quality.
Midwest Volunteer Bacteria Project: Developing Consistent Training and Monitoring Methods
Bacterial contamination of surface waters is a priority issue in watershed restoration for Upper Midwest States. However, state and local agency resources may not be adequate for the needed sample collection and analysis costs. Developing a trained volunteer network able to produce accurate and reliable results is a priority for a team of university and agency partners from Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
While several states have vibrant volunteer monitoring programs, few states have included bacteria monitoring of surface waters for their volunteers. Several barriers exist in developing this type of monitoring including: the cost of test kits, lack of standardized methods for volunteers, questions regarding the accuracy and reliability of field kits, safe handling of bacteria cultures, and the interpretation of the results. Research collaborators from six states are evaluating bacteria test kits, creating a comprehensive training program, and developing public outreach materials.
The first year of the project focused on evaluating the accuracy and reliability of commercially available test kits and developing consistent training materials. In the second year of the project, the project team will identify and recommend the test kit method that best combines accuracy and user-friendliness and begin training new volunteers with consistent methods across the six states. A pre-training questionnaire will establish the basis of their knowledge with respect to water quality and bacterial contamination issues. Volunteer knowledge and proficiency in the use of the test kits will then be tracked over time. Training methods will be assessed and revised as necessary to produce proficient volunteers.
Onsite Wastewater Treatment Presentation Overview
Onsite wastewater treatment systems (septic systems) serve rural homes and some homes in cities in Iowa. An estimated 100,000 septic systems in the state are inadequately treating the wastewater from those homes. The effluent from these systems discharge to the ground and/or waterways of the state. This effluent contains solids, bacteria, viruses and a high level of nitrogen. Properly functioning septic systems effectively remove most of these contaminants.
This presentation will cover what a proper septic system is composed of and how it functions. We will also discuss the various types of septic systems, the laws relating to septic systems and who enforces them, as well as what measures are being taken to improve the present situation. These include low interest loan programs for homeowners and legislative initiatives to require septic system inspections at the time of a home sale. Conference attendees should go away with a better understanding of septic systems and the environmental challenges they pose.
Trends In Levels of Common Contaminants in Iowa Fish
Annual statewide monitoring of toxic contaminants in Iowa fish began almost 25 years ago as part of the U.S. EPA’s Regional Ambient Fish Tissue (RAFT) monitoring program. Although several changes in program design have occurred over the years, sufficient data exist to identify trends over time in levels of several common contaminants in Iowa fish, including dieldrin, chlordane, PCBs, and mercury. The most obvious trend is the decline of organochlorine compounds during the 1980s and 1990s. This trend has been observed nationwide and reflects federal action in the 1970s and 1980s to ban their use. Results from other fish contaminant monitoring programs, such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers program at Iowa’s flood control reservoirs, support these conclusions. Levels of mercury in Iowa fish appear stable over time.
Reducing Volume: Protecting Water Quality
This presentation will describe the historic hydrology that existed before the native ecosystems (prairie, savanna, wetlands) of tallgrass prairie were altered and eliminated. The native ecosystems held and infiltrated most rainfall. Infiltrated rainfall would have moved as clean, slowly released groundwater to feed wetlands, streams, and lakes. The infiltration-based, groundwater-driven system of old would have maintained a stable hydrology and pristine water resources. Our modern impervious and compacted urban landscapes shed polluted stormwater with each rainfall event. The runoff-driven hydrology of today causes flashy surges of polluted runoff to enter urban streams every time it rains.
After a look at the past, we will discuss how the native ecosystem model can be applied to modern landscapes to protect water quality and stabilize our hydrology. In the past we managed stormwater only to prevent flooding. Now, we must manage stormwater to protect water quality as well as control flooding. Infiltration-based stormwater management practices hold and infiltrate rainfall on-site. These practices target low intensity rains and the first flush of large storms, which carry the bulk of pollutants to receiving waters. Infiltration-based stormwater practices puts pollutants into the soil profile, where microbial activity breaks them down. By infiltrating more and shedding less runoff we can restore clean groundwater baseflows as the primary way surface waters are fed. Infiltrating stormwater runoff will enhance water quality and reduce the flashiness of our urban stream systems.
Trouble at Site CC00B – Human Waste at the Headwaters of Clear Creek
Water, for the most part, starts out pure when emerging from a spring or falling from the sky as rain or snow. As the water flows over and through the land that makes up the watershed, then travels to the streams, rivers and lakes, it changes. The water normally tries to clean the watershed of its chemicals and pollutants. However, sometimes the water has been contaminated before ever touching air. Often it is easier to locate, test and study such contaminations than it is to get the people to acknowledge the existence of a problem, or to act in correcting that problem.
This is the story of the tiles that make up the headwaters of Clear Creek, a tributary of the Iowa River in Southeast Iowa, which crosses two counties and goes through the towns of Tiffin and Coralville, Iowa. And this is the story of one of many sites across our country, where human waste and toilet paper are contaminating our watersheds.
WHEP; Getting Citizens into Wetlands”
The Minnesota Wetland Health Evaluation Program, (WHEP), is an innovative program that partners citizens, local governments, educators and scientists. Together they work to understand, improve, and protect wetland health. The biological data collected is processed and analyzed pursuant to a rigorous quality assurance program and used by local decision makers.
Most of the participating volunteers do not have a background in environmental science, yet they welcome the opportunity with enthusiasm. All of the necessary training, equipment, and leadership are provided. In 2004, 13 teams of volunteers monitored 49 wetlands, dedicating over 2,700 hours of time.
This presentation will focus on program design and implementation, and lessons learned along the way. WHEP has been working in parts of the Twin Cities metro-area since 1996, and continues to grow.
From Cheese to Sewage – The Buttermilk Creek Story
Greg Soenen and Earl Kalkwarf
Near the quiet Wright County community of Goldfield, water from a tiny creek begins its journey to the sea. Its headwaters are found in tile lines, and Goldfield storm sewers also help contribute to its flow as it winds through town on its way to the Boone River. Once upon a time, a former cheese factory located on its banks deposited by-products into it, thus its name, Buttermilk Creek. Today, Buttermilk Creek still suffers from pollution, but from a much different source. In 2001, noticeable problems began to surface in the stream. In the summer, when flows are low, the water is cold and crystal clear, but an odor of sewage, plumes of gray algae, ribbons of slimy green moss, and masses of red bloodworms make the stream look like something from a third-world country. During low-flow periods in the fall, elevated nutrient loads often lead to drastically low dissolved oxygen levels and hypoxic conditions. Varying amounts of grain can be found below city storm sewer lines after heavy rains, and sampling has also indicated elevated bacteria levels coming from one of the feeder tiles and city storm sewer lines.
With the help of the Wright County Sanitarian, work has begun to clean up Buttermilk Creek. Although a definite cause for the pollution has not been identified, evidence of toilet paper in the stream indicates illegal septic systems are contributors. As these systems in the Buttermilk Creek watershed are improved, monitoring along the creek will document their progress. Monitoring may also help solve the Buttermilk Creek mystery by identifying other, more elusive inputs impacting its water quality. Thanks to IOWATER, this problem has been identified and will continue to be monitored as county officials, citizens in and around Goldfield, and concerned water monitors work together to make a difference in their community.
Volunteer Monitoring: A National Perspecive
Cooperative Extension is the arm of each state's Land Grant University (or Universities) that provides lifelong learning opportunities to that state's citizens. The Extension network has community-based educators carrying out public outreach education - often related to natural resources issues. Extension educators can reach a very large audience due to local contacts and collaborations with numerous agencies, organizations, and citizen groups. Volunteer water quality monitoring can easily grow in this environment.
Currently Extension sponsors or co-sponsors 38 programs in the U.S. and islands. To help support and build this network, USDA-Cooperative State Research Education and Extension Service is sponsoring a National Facilitation Project for volunteer water quality monitoring. The goal of the Project is to expand and strengthen the capacity of existing Extension volunteer monitoring programs and to support development of new groups. The website for this National Facilitation Project, co-coordinated by the University of Wisconsin-Extension and the University of Rhode Island Cooperative Extension, contains a variety of information about existing Extension volunteer water quality monitoring programs, results from an inquiry of existing programs, and a “Guide for Growing Programs” with several chapters.
In this presentation, I will share details of this National Facilitation project as well as information about the activities and methods of several of the 38 Extension volunteer water quality monitoring programs.
Conservation Strategies for Growing Communities
There are many strategies that communities can use to protect water quality and reduce runoff and flooding potential. These methods retain water on-site and mimic the natural infiltration based hydrology of Iowa. This presentation will illustrate many of the water quality management practices and development strategies that have emerged across the country. These practices and strategies help communities meet emerging federal regulations and provide tools that promote quality growth.
Projects and practices implemented in central Iowa will be highlighted. Storm water quality management practices include permeable paving alternatives, bioretention cells, rain gardens, soil quality restoration, and others. The highway 65/5 project helping communities obtain a long-term vision for growth along the beltway corridor will also be discussed.
During the January, 13th, 2005 water conference in Ames, David Williamson will present several bio-based leadership components including…
1. Same Planet/Different Worlds
--understanding three views of reality
2. Ringing True
--understanding sequential leverage in decision-making
3. Atoms & Eve
--understanding leadership implications of molecular structure