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, and the second phase included development of recommendations (based on the assessment) to guide future improvement efforts. The Executive Summary of key findings and recommendations found in the full report. The English River Watershed Improvement and Resiliency Plan and Appendices are available on this website under “The Plan.”