From the USDA Agricultural Research Service:

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Department of Agriculture‘s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) today announced that it has established a Long Term Agro-ecosystem Research (LTAR) network from among its existing experimental watersheds and rangelands nationwide to address large-scale, multi-year research, environmental management testing and technology transfer related to the nation’s agricultural ecosystems. ARS is USDA’s chief intramural scientific research agency.

“This national network of agro-ecosystem research will aid our understanding and forecasting of the nation’s capacity to provide agricultural and other ecosystem-related goods and services under changing environmental conditions, in addition to society’s changing demands on natural resources,” said USDA Deputy Undersecretary for Research, Education, and Economics Ann Bartuska.


Category : News

From the Iowa Flood Center:

The Iowa Flood Center and IIHR—Hydroscience & Engineering (IIHR) at the University of Iowa have announced the selection of four watersheds for the initial phase of the Iowa Watershed Projects.

The selected entities and respective watersheds include:

  • Clayton County for the Turkey River.
  • Dallas County for the Middle/South Raccoon River.
  • Davis County for Soap Creek and Chequest Creek.
  • Floyd County for the Upper Cedar River.

The selected watersheds will partner with the Iowa Flood Center and IIHR on a multi-year project to monitor, plan, and implement watershed projects aimed at reducing the adverse impacts of flooding in Iowa. Specific goals of the watershed projects include:

  • Maximizing soil water holding capacity from precipitation.
  • Minimizing severe soil erosion and sand deposition during floods.
  • Managing water runoff in uplands under saturated soil moisture conditions.
  • Reducing and mitigating structural and nonstructural flood damage.

Read More:

Category : News

From the Des Moines Register:

The river that swamped this city now splits it in more ways than one.

The Cedar River cuts through the heart of Iowa’s second-largest metro, a 338-mile-long waterway that stretches from Minnesota and feeds into the Mississippi River. The sheer survival of Cedar Rapids was at stake nearly four years ago when this river swelled to a record 31-foot crest and inundated 10 square miles. Residents rallied and were united by the struggle to escape the floodwaters.

But the river today is seen as less the common enemy and more as a dividing line, while neighbors clash over how to complete recovery from the 2008 disaster and brace for the inevitable next flood.

Read more:|topnews|text|Frontpage

Category : News

From American Rivers:

Communities looking for the most cost-effective options for managing polluted runoff and protecting clean water should choose green infrastructure solutions, according to a report released today by American Rivers, the Water Environment Federation (WEF), the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), and ECONorthwest.

Read the report:

Category : Uncategorized

On February 23rd, Dr. Keith Schilling (Iowa DNR & Adjunct Assistant Professor at the University of Iowa) gave an interesting talk about flooding in the Cedar River basin. Here is the summary of the talk from the flyer:

In 2008, flow in the Cedar River at Cedar Rapids reached 140,000 cubic feet per second, more than double the previous record set in 1961, and inundated over nine square miles of the downtown area. Likewise throughout the rest of Iowa, 85 of Iowa’s 99 counties were declared federal disaster areas by FEMA in 2008 due to historic floods. While precipitation patterns certainly deserve a large part of the blame, changing watershed characteristics, such as land use, tile drainage and urbanization, also played an important role in the occurrence and severity of flooding. In this talk, Dr. Keith Schilling presented the watershed factors contributing to changing streamflow patterns and flooding in Iowa. Results from recent watershed modeling were presented that suggest that land use changes have potential for reducing flood risk in basins dominated by agriculture.

The slides from Dr. Schilling’s talk are available for viewing here: Schilling Flood Talk @ Coe College.

Category : Uncategorized

UNESCO-HELP World Conference: Iowa Reflections

On November 21st-25th members of the Iowa-Cedar UNESCO-HELP basin joined those from all over the world to share their experiences, success and lessons learned at the UNESCO-HELP world conference in Panama. The conference was well attended, by numerous Latin American basins as well as basins in Europe, China, Philippines, Malaysia and others.

Iowa-Cedar UNESCO-HELP Basin Coordinator, Marian Muste and Iowa-Cedar Watershed Interagency Coordination Team Study Manager, Jason Smith jointly conducted a presentation during day two of the conference that was very well received by those in attendance. A couple of the attendees, namely representatives from the Tweed Basin (Scotland) and Brasilia Basin (Brazil) expressed interest in the potential for “twinning” to learn from each other and share ideas. In addition, a USDA Forest Service partner who manages a basin in Puerto Rico thought there was a great opportunity between Federal Agencies to Collaborate on public engagement processes and how to effectively communicate technical information (data and models).

This conference was filled with numerous short conversations where representatives learned about agriculturally based work being done by a research group CATIE in numerous Latin American basins as well as the hydroinformatics work being done in Asian countries such as China and Malaysia. One of the great examples of how powerful a grassroots effort can be in building credibility and a unified vision was in the Philippines where there is a general lack of resources but a great need and so people have started to align in grassroots type working relationships to communicate their needs and strategize their actions in concert with the UNESCO-HELP Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) framework.

After listening to many of the conference participants it was apparent that an IWRM approach is difficult to stomach. Either because of lack of funding OR lack of political will to take action OR apathy of people to look to their future resource needs. After many presentations and discussions around a host of issues representatives believe that the work that is underway in the IA-Cedar basin is the most aggressive effort of all of the basins. Many of the basins included Public Engagement OR Policy Evaluation OR Technical Modeling and Climate Change but none of the basins sought to look at them all together in an integrative approach such as is being done in the Iowa-Cedar basin.

This brings pride in knowing that the difficulties we have faced internally in the IA-Cedar basin are justified and may also present some fear that we have taken too big of a bite of the apple, but it is with a strong focus that representatives returned from Panama, understanding that the work done here is the practical culmination of the hypothetical IWRM processes that many seek to understand.

This is said, not to toot our horns, but to stress the importance of active participation in international partnerships like UNESCO-HELP. Although the US is having to restructure how it funds efforts there is little question that basins in the US have one of the greatest capabilities to combine social engagement tools with technical tools in order to help people understand the trade-offs that occur with various future scenarios and to have a mechanism to convey their desires to the decision makers that determine laws and policies.

Category : Uncategorized

By JON ERICSON, | Posted: Sunday, June 19, 2011 4:00 pm

CEDAR FALLS — The University of Northern Iowa is the most conspicuous and largest landowner in Cedar Falls. The college is also the leader in attempts to reduce effects on the Dry Run Creek watershed.

UNI has completed a dozen projects designed to improve water quality. Two of the largest were under construction last week.

The latest effort includes installing asphalt and paving bricks in two large parking lots to allow water to soak into the soil rather than rush into the creek and wetlands.

The massive lot north of the UNI-Dome and Wellness and Recreation Center represented a perfect place to try permeable asphalt. For one, the sheer size of the area — eight acres — means copious amounts of water run off when it rains.

Secondly, the area drains directly to a new wetlands project and ponds to the north. The area is intended as a prime spot for learning and recreation, in addition to holding floodwaters along the University Branch of Dry Run Creek.

The other project is in the parking lot of the towers dorms downstream along the same creek. In that case, the permeable surface is paver bricks.

UNI first worked with the permeable pavement in a parking lot outside the McLeod Center back in 2007. In that case, the material was concrete, and the results have not been what officials hoped.

Paul Meyermann, head of facilities planning at UNI, explained the situation.

“It performed well in terms of infiltration, but we’re not real happy with it because the surface deteriorated,” Meyermann said. “We’re a victim somewhat of being one of the first to try it.”

Monica Smith, manager of transportation engineering at Robinson Engineering, is dealing with the asphalt project. She said the asphalt is much easier for construction crews to work with and does not require special techniques to apply, unlike pervious concrete.

The asphalt relies on a different mix, one without sand that binds small rocks that make up asphalt. As a result, the pavement has small crevices water can infiltrate and sink through to layers of gravel and rock under ground.

“It kind of has a Rice Krispie treat texture,” said Phil Schuppert, watershed conservationist with the Black Hawk County Soil and Water District.

For decades, the goal of engineers was to get storm water off properties as soon as possible. For nearby waterways, like Dry Run Creek, such philosophies led to erosion, elevated temperatures in the water and a hostile environment for wildlife because of lower water quality. Projects like these at UNI are designed to gradually make Dry Run Creek healthier.

The asphalt strips in the parking lot are designed to capture all the water from a 1 1/4-inch rain event in a 24-hour period. Total cost for the two parking lot projects amounts to about $350,000, with 75 percent paid through a Department of Natural Resources grant.

Category : Uncategorized