Three locally-led watershed demonstration projects are slated to expand their work in targeted watersheds to accelerate implementation of practices that improve water quality, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship announced last week.

“We are excited for the next phase of these three projects as they focus on accelerating adoption of practices and broadening their reach to even more farmers and landowners,” said Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig said. “The 55 rural and urban demonstration projects in place across the state have played a critical role in reaching out and demonstrating new water quality focused practices and encouraging Iowans to try something new.”

The projects receiving extensions are:

• The Headwaters North Raccoon River Water Quality Initiative Project, which is led by the Buena Vista and Pocahontas Soil and Water Conservation Districts.

• The North Raccoon Farm to River Partnership Water Quality Initiative, formerly the Elk Run Watershed Water Quality Initiative Project. The project is located in Carroll, Sac and Calhoun counties and led by Agriculture’s Clean Water Alliance.

• Leading a New Collaborative Approach to Improving Water Quality in the Squaw Creek Watershed: The project is located in Boone, Story and Hamilton counties and is led by Prairie Rivers of Iowa Resource Conservation & Development.

Successful projects

These projects had a number of successes during the first three years.

• The Headwaters North Raccoon River project had a more than 400 percent increase in cover crop adoption from 2016 to 2017.

• The North Raccoon Farm to River Partnership project developed an effective edge-of-field strategy for implementation of bioreactors and saturated buffers.

• The Squaw Creek Watershed project partnered with the local Watershed Management Authority to support implementation and outreach efforts.

Water quality funding

The Iowa Water Quality Initiative will provide these three water quality projects a total of $1.43 million in additional funding over the next three years. In addition to the state funds, these three projects will access over $2.27 million in matching funds to support water quality improvement efforts as well as other in-kind contributions.

These funds will allow the projects to focus on scaling up implementation of conservation practices identified in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy and continue to build on existing assessments and evaluations.  

Also, an additional $475,000 of funds has been allocated for these projects, which will be targeted toward implementation of edge-of-field nutrient reduction conservation practices such as wetlands, saturated buffers and bioreactors.

“Extending these projects will allow us to build on the strong foundation that has been created in these watersheds and continue learn more about the best ways to get water quality focused practices on the land,” Naig said. “These projects are hitting their stride in terms of engaging farmers, getting practices on the ground and coordinating with partners and stakeholders.  We have always understood that it would take a long-term commitment to improvement in these watersheds and I’m excited to continue this important work.”