Iowa’s Water Quality
This podcast was produced by Polk County Conservation and funded by Resource Enhancement and Protection Conservation Education program or REAP-CEP.
Water is important to all living things, including humans. We depend on water for our food, drinking, cleaning, recreating, and much more. We spend a considerable amount of time playing in and around water. But do we really know what’s in the water?
The number one pollutant in Iowa waters is soil. Erosion occurs along stream banks, farm fields, and construction sites. The excess soil muddies the water and settles into the bottoms of lakes, ponds, and streams. Some soil washed downstream eventually ends up in the Gulf of Mexico.
Many Iowa lakes are tested weekly during the summer for E. coli, a bacteria present in fecal matter. High levels of E. coli indicate there are pathogens in the water that can make you sick. If there are multiple high readings of E. coli, a swimming advisory sign is posted. This advisory does not close the beach, but rather informs people that swimming is not recommended.
Anglers can still enjoy fishing when bacteria levels are high. The fish’s scaly skin protects it from bacteria in the water. You should always properly clean and cook fish before eating them.
There is the same amount of water today as there was when dinosaurs roamed the earth. The problem is that we are using water faster than it can be replenished through the water cycle. How you treat and use water directly affects our water supply. Here are some simple tips to help keep our water healthy:
Reduce the amount of water you use by turning off the water when brushing your teeth, taking short showers, fixing leaky faucets, and installing a low flow toilet and shower head.
Use less pesticides and fertilizers on your lawn and don’t apply when a storm is predicted. Let your lawn go dormant during the hot summer months. If you must water your lawn, water during early morning to reduce evaporation.
If you wash your car at home, park it on the lawn to take advantage of runoff and keep pollutants from storm drains.
Take time to volunteer at a river clean-up or monitor water quality.
Whenever playing in the water, remember to practice good hygiene. If you swam in a lake, take a shower. If you touched a fish, wash your hands. Use your common sense. Iowa waters are still safe to play in. The risk of getting sick is extremely low. Remember how you treat water affects not only you, but our future too.
This podcast was funded by REAP-CEP which is a program the State of Iowa invests in to enhance and protect the state's natural and cultural resources. REAP provides money for projects through state agency budgets or in the form of grants. For more information about REAP, visit iowareap.com.