Individual volunteer water monitoring efforts have been happening in Iowa for decades. One of the earliest was the Izaak Walton League's Save Our Streams program. Others included the Iowa Rivers Project as part of Area Education Agencies, the Natural Resources Conservation Service's volunteer monitoring program, and scattered local coalitions such as the Raccoon River Watershed Project and the Iowa Great Lakes Clean Water Project. The Iowa Environmental Council got together a grass roots coalition in 1996 to begin organizing a statewide volunteer water quality monitoring effort.
IOWATER 1998 - Origin and Funding
1. IOWATER began May 1998 as a cooperative effort of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (Divisions of Information and Education, Environmental Protection, Fish and Wildlife), Iowa Division of the Izaak Walton League, Iowa Environmental Council, Iowa Farm Bureau, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the University of Iowa Hygienic Laboratory. Representatives from these organizations formed the IOWATER advisory committee which provided input and direction to the program.
2. Original support for IOWATER was from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, including federal Nonpoint Source Management funds through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (Section 319 of the Clean Water Act), and Sportfish Restoration Fund provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Iowa Fish and Wildlife Trust Fund.
3. The first draft of the IOWATER manual was developed. Major contributions were made from other states experienced in citizen monitoring such as Missouri, Ohio, and Illinois, and other experienced organizations such as the Adopt-A-Stream Foundation and the Izaak Walton League's Save Our Streams program. A number of reviewers from around the state contributed to subsequent editions throughout the end of 1998 and beginning of 1999. The first edition of the IOWATER manual was printed in August 1999.
1. Continued funding support for IOWATER came from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (Section 319) and the Sportfish Restoration Fund. In addition, a Resource Enhancement Protection (REAP) Conservation Education Program grant was received to help support IOWATER training workshops, manual printing, and public database development.
Raccoon River Watershed project. The first pilot IOWATER workshop was held in February 1999, with the Raccoon River Watershed project. This coalition, formed in 1994, was already involved in monitoring processes, local action projects, and landowner education. They offered to pilot IOWATER so they could get their volunteers involved in water monitoring. This also benefited IOWATER because input from that workshop helped to improve later training efforts and the manual.
IOWATER Workshops. The first general registration IOWATER workshop took place in August 1999 at Springbrook State Park outside of Guthrie Center. Because of overwhelming public response, a second workshop was schedule in October. The Iowa Student Environmental Coalition (ISEC), interested in student driven environmental projects, sponsored their own workshop in September 1999. Among all of these workshops, approximately 250 individuals were trained in IOWATER protocols.
1. The IOWATER program is located with in the Iowa Geological Survey, Water Monitoring Section of the Department of Natural Resources and has its staff offices in the Wallace Building in Des Moines.
2. Additional members were added to the IOWATER advisory committee. Those included the Area Education Agencies, Iowa Association of Naturalists, Iowa Conservation Education Council, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Iowa Department of Natural Resources (Parks and Preserves Division; Geological Survey Bureau), Iowa Resource Conservation and Development Areas, Iowa State University 4-H Extension, Iowa Student Environmental Council, and Trees Forever.
3. The IOWATER program was given new direction with Governor Tom Vilsack and Department of Natural Resources Director Paul Johnson. Iowans were strongly encouraged to take an active role in protecting their natural resources, including water. IOWATER is undergoing tremendous expansion in scope and activities. IOWATER's mission is "To protect and improve Iowa's water quality by establishing and supporting a statewide volunteer water monitoring program." Some tenets of the IOWATER program are:
IOWATER is a citizen-based program, directed by volunteer's needs within the communities.
IOWATER focuses on solutions, not just documenting problems.
IOWATER is interested in results, not regulation.
IOWATER is flexible, allowing local groups to design their own monitoring and action plans.
IOWATER is committed to partnerships, developing local working partners and sharing information and resources within state and federal agencies.
IOWATER will concentrate on a watershed approach, integrating land use, soil concerns, and the water bodies involved.
A. On-Site Training Workshops - The training is going to the people, instead of the people going to the training. Workshops are held throughout the summer all over the state (see our workshop schedule)
B. Testing Equipment - At IOWATER workshops, individuals and groups will be provided testing equipment to do everything they have been trained to do and resources to begin their monitoring programs. Our volunteers are also kept re-supplied with testing materials to keep the effort sustainable.
C. Advanced Workshops - There will be different types of training, commitment, and data input directly related to additional training opportunities. IOWATER will accommodate everyone from a group of fifth graders testing once a year to retired professionals testing once a week!
D. Written Materials – Every volunteer is supplied with a IOWATER manual that instructs how to do the monitoring. In addition, this manual will be used in tandem with the Adopt-A-Stream Foundation's Streamkeeper's Field Guide
E. Online Database – The online database houses all data submitted by volunteers. Only those trained can submit data but anyone can access it.
F. Advocacy - IOWATER plans to give local resource groups the tools they need, including media relations training and data interpretation training, to encourage local advocacy on local water quality issues.
G. Technical Assistance - IOWATER is here to stay and will provide ongoing technical assistance and statewide networking through additional training workshops, its quarterly newsletter, and other special events.
H. IOWATER newsletter - A newsletter will include information on upcoming workshops and updates on program activities along with other information about water quality issues
I. IOWATER web site - IOWATER's web site is iowater.net. Available at this site is the IOWATER database, the IOWATER newsletter, the latest workshop schedule, and other information of interest.
J. Funding - Financial support is being provided by the Water Monitoring Section of the DNR.
The IOWATER program is a vital component of the statewide water monitoring program. Iowans involved in the monitoring process will receive many benefits including local involvement in water quality issues, progress made in attempting to restore Iowa's natural water wonders, and a little fun and muddy exercise to boot!