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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Ames, Iowa » National Laboratory for Agriculture and The Environment » Agroecosystems Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #384056

Research Project: Agroecosystem Benefits from the Development and Application of New Management Technologies in Agricultural Watersheds

Location: Agroecosystems Management Research

Title: Virtual tour of water quality research in the Iowa River’s South Fork Watershed

item Cole, Kevin
item Stanfield, Allisyn

Submitted to: Meeting Proceedings
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/30/2021
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: The South Fork of the Iowa River watershed is a USDA Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) watershed located in north-central Iowa. The landscape is gently rolling and poorly drained, comprised of ‘recent’ glacial deposits (approx. 12,000 years). Agricultural drainage systems installed in the early 1900s have allowed the original wetland and prairie soils to become among the world’s most productive agricultural lands; today about 90% of this 200,000-acre watershed is in crop production. Water quality issues, particularly high loads of nitrate nitrogen, were identified in the mid-1990s through stream monitoring conducted by the US Geological Survey under the National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA). The USDA Agricultural Research Service’s National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment (NLAE) extended stream and tile monitoring efforts in the early 2000s, leading to the South Fork of the Iowa River Watershed being designated as a CEAP watershed around 2004. The virtual tour will explore the water quality monitoring stations that have been designed to quantify nutrient and sediment transport. The virtual tour will include drone captured video following the flow of water from farm field to the stream monitoring station. Monitoring stations collected data by using sensors and water samplers. Sensors have included turbidity, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, nitrate, phosphate and stage. Samples were collected automatically during runoff events and weekly visits. Those samples were analyzed by NLAE for nitrate nitrogen, total phosphorus, ortho phosphorus and suspended sediment. Stations were established to better understand the variability of transport with drainage area from edge of field, field tile, tile drainage district to large basins. Videos will be presented of field activities at a stream monitoring station. Summary nutrient data from the last twenty years will be presented.