Testing the Water in Polk County

Posted:4/21/2017 Polk

In November 2012, voters supported the Polk County Water and Land Legacy Bond (PCWLL) in historic fashion passing the measure with 72%. This large margin of victory clearly shows that there is bipartisan support for critical water quality, wildlife, trails, and recreation projects. In part, this bond allowed Polk County Conservation (PCC) to start a water monitoring program to assess the water quality of watersheds in Polk County, Iowa.

Currently, 32 sites are monitored bi-monthly at creeks, streams and drainage ditches throughout Polk County. PCC staff is IOWATER-trained (Iowa’s citizen water monitoring program) to conduct basic chemical, physical, and biological measurements of water. Staff make observations such as water odor, color, streambank erosion, and adjacent land use. Water transparency, temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, nitrate/nitrite, chloride and phosphate are also recorded.

Monitoring began in the fall of 2015 and PCC staff continues to monitor the same testing sites. Gathering more data will allow staff to detect changes in water quality and better assess the health of our watersheds. We can then share this information with our watershed and governmental partners to aid in our future efforts. The complete Polk County Water Quality Monitoring Program report can be found online at www.leadingyououtdoors.org.

There is a lot of publicity concerning poor water quality. While problems exist, most of our public waters are safe and accessible most of the time. So get in there! Go creek walking, paddle a river, turn over some rocks in a stream to see what critters live beneath, or go fishing. We all need access to healthy water and one step at a time we will make improvements and progress towards this shared goal.

What streams are currently monitored? Beaver, Bluff, Camp, Carney, Deer, Fourmile, Mud, Paw, Spring, Walnut, and Yeader creeks, as well as two drainage ditches.

What tests are we doing? Water odor and color, transparency, water temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, nitrate/nitrite, phosporus, and chloride.

How will this data be used? PCC will share this data with watershed and governmental partners to aid in our future efforts.

Where can I find out more information about water quality? Visit the Iowa DNR’s Water Quality Bureau’s website at www.iowadnr.gov/Environmental-Protection/Water-Quality for information on water monitoring, restoration efforts, water quality improvement projects and more.

Should I be concerned about getting in the water? In general, streams in Polk County, while not meeting drinking water standards, are safe for recreational purposes. Join us for three creeks walks this summer! June 23 from 1-2 pm at Jester Park; July 8 from 1-2 pm at Thomas Mitchell Park; July 12 from 10:30-11:30am at Thomas Mitchell Park