Hundreds of Iowa’s rivers, lakes and streams do not meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s water quality standards and are impaired under the federal Clean Water Act. While it is very easy for a body of water to be added to this list, it is harder to get one removed.

Landowners in one small watershed in eastern Iowa are celebrating getting off the list this year.

Until just a few months ago, Farmers Creek was on the list of impaired waters in Iowa. Enough area landowners have started following Kremer’s lead to get Farmers Creek off that list. It’s taken years of work. Kremer’s conservation started in the early 2000s, around the time it landed on the list. The EPA mandates that all states update that record every couple of years.

There are three criteria for waters to be designated impaired: recreation (swimming, fishing, boating), biological (fish and invertebrates) and human drinking water.

“In this case, with the fish kills, and then the further sampling that was done in the creek, it was evident that the biological community was not doing what it was supposed to be doing,” said Iowa DNR biologist Jennifer Kurth.

The DNR estimates that roughly 14,000 tons of sediment from the highly erodible farmland surrounding the creek was washing into it every year. Kurth said getting an impaired water off the list is not very common.

“It does happen,” Kurth said. “But this is the first one that we’ve done that is based on the biological integrity, the scores of the fish and the invertebrates.”

Fast forward to today and the creek is in much better shape. Sediment from erosion is down and recent samples show a greater diversity of fish and invertebrate species. In late April, Kurth said it was officially delisted as an impaired water.


Read the entire article by Iowa Public Radio here.