The Ames Water & Pollution Control Department is investing in watershed conservation practices after entering a new agreement with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
An Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy requirement challenges wastewater treatment plants in Ames and 100 other communities to reduce nitrogen levels by 66% and phosphorus levels by 75%. The agreement is meant to incentivize cities and farmers within the same watershed to follow water quality requirements together.
Three other Iowa communities — Dubuque, Cedar Rapids and Storm Lake — signed similar agreements with the Iowa DNR, according to a news release.
“This agreement allows Ames to address nutrient reduction from multiple angles,” said John Dunn, director for Ames Water & Pollution Control Department, according to the release.
Last year, the Iowa DNR reported that 750 lakes, rivers and waterways — nearly 60% of all Iowa water sources — did not meet state requirements, which could mean the presence of harmful bacteria, algae growth and murkier water.
The new stringent requirements aim to reduce the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus entering the Mississippi River. The nutrient and phosphorus level contributes to the “dead zone” where the Mississippi meets the Gulf of Mexico.
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This agreement will allow Ames to “invest in structural practices such as wetlands, saturated buffers and bioreactors, and annual conservation practices such as cover crops,” according to a news release.
These practices will be applied to the South Skunk River watershed to both improve water quality and reduce flooding, according to the release. A national agricultural conservation nonprofit, the Sand County Foundation, helped model the agreement.
“The watershed projects undertaken will not only have a nutrient reduction element but will also provide additional benefits such as increased recreational opportunities, improved wildlife habitat, flood mitigation and source water protection,” said Neil Weiss, assistant director for Ames Water & Pollution Control Department, according to the release.