This guest post was provided by Steve Hopkins, Nonpoint Source Coordinator with the Iowa DNR's Watershed Improvement Section.
The University of Northern Iowa’s Center for Social and Behavioral Research recently completed a study of farmers and stakeholders involved with the Lyons Creek Watershed Project about the farmers’ participation in the project and their attitudes toward adopting conservation practices.The study was a post-project evaluation done at the end of the Lyons Creek Watershed Project, administered through the Hamilton County SWCD in north central Iowa.
The primary goal of the watershed project was to reduce nitrate levels in Lyons Creek, which has the highest nitrate levels of all of the tributaries of the Boone River. The Boone River is a tributary of the Des Moines River, which is a source of drinking water for the city of Des Moines.
Despite the fact that the primary goal of the project was to reduce nitrate levels, and that the project coincided with the release of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy, the project fell short of its goals due to a lack farmer participation and adoption of nitrate-reducing practices. The purpose of the study was to find out why.
The study, based on in-depth interviews with farmers and project stakeholders, found both positive and negative factors related to farmer participation in the watershed project:
The study included recommendations for future watershed projects, including providing funding for a full-time project coordinator, involving farmers early on in project planning, and making project goals clearer.
UNI will be presenting the results of the study at the 2017 Iowa Water Conference in March.
This study, funded by Iowa DNR with EPA Section 319 funds, is available on the DNR Watershed Improvement webpage under “Watershed News” at https://www.iowadnr.gov/Environmental-Protection/Water-Quality/Watershed-Improvement.