Water Conservation | Building a Culture of Conservation

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Water Conservation

Our relationship with water is intimate and essential. Many people appreciate lakes and streams for what they are and what they are capable of doing; others take water for granted.

"Sources of abundance and destruction, life and death, creativity and imagination, rivers, and the fresh flowing waters, are at the heart of human existence. ...Although rivers are only 0.2 percent of all the fresh water on Earth, they are vital carriers of water and nutrients to where they are needed. Rivers drain nearly 75% of the earth’s land surface. They provide habitat, nourishment and means of transport to countless organisms, not just humans."

--From the film "Troubled Waters"


Water Quality Resources

Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy - Aiming to Improve Water Quality
Nutrient pollution threatens our drinking water supply, diminishes water quality in lakes and streams, increases algal blooms that can cause beach advisories, decreases housing values, and diminishes enjoyment for residents and visitors. Learn more about the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy efforts to improve water quality in Iowa.

Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy - Frequently Asked Questions
The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy is focused on reducing nitrogen and phosphorus in Iowa waters. Farmers, landowners, municipalities, agencies, conservation organizations and everyday Iowans are collaborating to make changes to help meet nutrient reduction goals. This publication addresses some frequently asked questions regarding the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

A Closer Look: Harmful Algal Blooms
What are algea? They’re not plants. They’re not animals. They’re simple aquatic organisms that are most often found atop ponds, lakes, and still water in Iowa. When conditions are right, algae will “bloom” or rapidly replicate. Not all algae are harmful, but the most common harmful algal blooms in Iowa are comprised of blue-green algae—also known as cyanobacteria.

A Closer Look: What Drives Conservation Decisions in Iowa?
Iowa’s fertile soil has helped the state become a global agricultural leader. However, that same soil and the fertilizers used to boost crop production contribute to water quality challenges when nitrogen and phosphorus leave through drainage, runoff and erosion. The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy set statewide goals for reducing nutrient losses through a variety of practices.

A Closer Look: Iowa Farmland Ownership and Water Quality
Nearly 75% of Iowa’s landscape is farmland. This rich, fertile soil has helped Iowa become an agricultural leader in corn, soybeans, eggs and pork production. However, soil amendments that boost production and livestock waste contribute to water quality challenges when nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus leave the farmland. Land management and conservation practices utilized by farmers and landowners play a key role in improving water quality by reducing loss of nutrients to waterways.

A Closer Look: Stream Delivery of Nitrogen and Phosphorus
The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy identified the delivery of nutrients to water bodies by point sources and nonpoint sources. Point sources, like wastewater treatment plants, industry and urban areas, contribute 8% of the nitrogen and 20% of the phosphorus to the stream. The remaining 92% of nitrogen and 80% of phosphorus delivery comes from nonpoint sources like agricultural land. This illustration shows the relative stream delivery of nitrogen and phosphorus from each source, with the arrows sized proportionally.

Drinking Water Resources

Where does your drinking water come from? 
Two new infographics from the Conservation Learning Group take a closer look at that question and how nitrogen and phosphorus move on our landscape. 

A Closer Look: Drinking Water - Source to Tap

This publication was produced by the Conservation Learning Group and is based upon research conducted at Iowa State University under USDA NIFA award number 2014-51130-22494. The full project report, Economic Benefits of Nitrogen Reductions in Iowa (Chuan Tang, Gabriel E. Lade, David Keiser, Catherine Kling, Yongjie Ji, and Yau-Huo Shr).

A Closer Look: How Does Nitrogen and Phosphorus Move?

This publication was produced by the Conservation Learning Group and is based upon Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy, work done by Iowa Learning Farms and research conducted at Iowa State University under USDA NIFA award number 2014-51130-22494.

Iowa Learning Farms Water-related Videos

"Incredible Wetlands" (23:18) explores the biologically productive, and diverse, nature of wetlands and the vital role they play to life on Earth. The film highlights several Iowans who are involved in wetland restoration or construction in Iowa. It explores the wealth of biodiversity in wetlands, their importance for migratory birds and others who call wetlands their home.  

For more information, be sure to check our our new Wetlands infographic now available!

-- 2014 Iowa Motion Picture Association Award Winner:
    Award of Achievement for Documentary

"Out to the Lakes" (43:22) encourages viewers to think about water quality and their personal relationship with their local lake or water body. It addresses water quality through the perspective of lakes and the water bodies that feed them and offers insight into what Iowans know, or don't know, about water and water quality. 

--2012 Iowa Motion Picture Association award winner:
    Award of Achievement in Documentary
    Award of Achievement in Educational Production
    Award of Excellence in Music

The Iowa Learning Farms film "Troubled Waters" (26:21) explores rivers and the human relationship with them. The film calls attention to human attitudes and treatment of rivers, both good and bad. 

The film can be viewed in segments on YouTube.

--2011 Motion Picture Association award winner:
    Award of Excellence in Educational Production
    Award of Achievement for Script

    Award of Acheivement for Original Music Score

View other ILF water-related videos:

The Water is Life (8:05) video reminds the audience how important clean water is to the body, the community and the Earth.

We All Have a Place in the Watershed (9:05) defines watersheds and how humans interact within them.

To view other ILF videos, see the Videos page on this web site. To request a DVD of any of the ILF videos, email: ilf@iastate.edu

Water Quality Matters To Us All

Water Quality Matters to Us AllWater Quality Matters To Us All provides insite into the attitudes and practices of agencies and stakeholders involved in protecting Iowa's water quality. Based on listening sessions between 2008-2011 with farmers, urban residents, Soil and WAter Conservartion District commissioners, and field staff from Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Iowa Department of Natural Resoures, the book details the institutional, community, and individual impediments towards water conservation and curtailing nonpoint source pollution.

Download a PDF of Water Quality Matters To Us All here.



Iowa Learning Farms' publication series "It Begins With You."

Iowa Learning Farms Publication CoversIowa Watersheds
Water Quality and Conservation Practices
Wetlands, NEW! Wetlands Infographic 

Northwest Loess Hills
Deep Loess Hills
Des Moines Lobe Till Plain
Western Deep Loess and Drift
Eastern Deep Loess and Drift
Eastern Till Praries
Northern Mississippi Valley Loess Hills
Southern Thin Loess and Till Plain

Other publications in this series include:
Economics of Residue
The Cost of Soil Erosion
Transition to No-till
Cellulosic Biofuels and Your Farm
Language of Conservation
Strip-tillage Crop Management, NEW! Strip Till Infographic
A Whole Farm Approach
Urban Conservation Practices
Economics of Cover Crops

To receive printed copies of these handouts, email Iowa Learning Farms: ilf@iastate.edu