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Water quality monitoring began in 1999 in an effort to identify potential contaminants in the Upper Iowa River Watershed. Agencies working in the Upper Iowa River Watershed have teamed up to collect a remarkable amount of water quality data from 30 locations across the watershed. Thirteen event samples were taken between 1999 and 2002 at 39 sites across the watershed.
Since 2004, samples have been taken once a month, from April through October, at 3 locations along the main channel of the Upper Iowa River and 27 locations near the mouth of major tributaries. This data provides a snapshot of the entire watershed on a given day each month (e.g., 2nd Tuesday) and allows the comparison of one stream to the next. For example, watersheds of streams in Howard county can then be compared and contrasted with similarly-sized watersheds that empty into the Upper Iowa 100 miles downstream in Allamakee county.
Water samples are collected on the same day by five public and private organizations, packed on ice, and sent to a lab for analysis. From 1999 to 2013, samples were analyzed by the State Hygienic Laboratory, and beginning in 2014, by the laboratory at Coe College run by Marty St. Clair.
The samples are analyzed for concentrations of E. coli Bacteria, Nitrate and Nitrite Nitrogen as N, Total Phosphate as P, Chloride, Sulfate, Total Suspended Solids, and in the past years: Ammonia Nitrogen as N. Field measurements are also taken, and they include temperature, pH and water transparency. Extensive data collection over a wide spatial area of the Upper Iowa River Watershed has allowed for a better understanding of the water quality problems in the watershed, and has allowed landowners, citizens, and organizations to find ways to solve the issues related to poor water quality.
Water Quality data is available at: data.upperiowariver.org
For a summary of State of Iowa surface water recommended limits click here.