Planning for clean water and a more resilient future

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The English River watershed, located in southeastern Iowa, is 409,236 acres (approximately 639 square miles) in area. It is home to approximately 21,700 people, the majority of whom live in one of several small communities in the watershed. The watershed covers portions of Poweshiek, Iowa, Johnson, Washington, and Keokuk Counties; and portions, or all, of the following communities: Grinnell, Guernsey, Montezuma, Barnes City, Deep River, Gibson, Millersburg, Keswick, Webster, Kinross, North English, Parnell, Wellman, Kalona, and Riverside.

There are over 1,400 miles of streams and tributaries in the English River watershed, and the English River is part of the Lower Iowa watershed. Almost 60% of the watershed landscape is utilized for row-crop production. A quarter of the watershed is covered in grassland or pasture. Timber and developed areas (combined) make up less than 12% of the watershed’s landscape.

In recent decades, communities and property owners in the watershed have been impacted by an increasing number of flood events. The severity of these events have also been on the rise. Each event has caused millions of dollars in damage to homes, farms, and infrastructure. Additionally, heavy rain events wash phosphorus-rich topsoil and nutrients downstream, impacting water quality and habitat locally, and as far away as the Gulf of Mexico.

In 2015, a comprehensive watershed assessment and improvement planning project was completed in the English River watershed. The first phase of the project involved an assessment of the watershed’s strengths and weaknesses. The second phase included development of recommendations (based on the assessment) to guide future improvement efforts. The Executive Summary is the short version of key findings and recommendations from the report. The full report and appendices are here.

Watershed statistics.

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Townships experiencing declining population in last decade

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Residents living in rural areas

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Watershed acres that were prairie in 1850

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Land in row crop production in 2014

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Water samples exceeding benchmark samples for e. Coli since 1999

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Surveyed landowners who agree that water quality needs improvemnt

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Surveyed landowners who have been impacted by flooding in last decade

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Surveyed landowners who had not heard of Iowa's Nutrient Reduction Strategy

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