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Department of Sociology - Extension and Outreach

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Water Quality and Watershed Management

Almost 40,000 streams, lakes, rivers, and wetlands in the United States are classified as impaired. Non-point source (NPS) pollution from urban and agricultural lands is the leading source of impairment with major causes attributed to siltation, nutrients, bacteria, metals and oxygen-depleting substances.  Despite federal and state agency efforts and millions of tax dollars invested since the passage of the 1972 U.S. Clean Water Act, recent state reports document close to 40 percent of the waters surveyed as too polluted for basic uses like fishing or swimming.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in their 2000 Water Quality Report call for “wider public involvement” to help with “complex problems like NPS pollution, where control options are difficult or expensive.”  

ISU Sociology research examines this wider public involvement and the role of citizens in solving water quality problems. Sociology Extension programming provides support for Extension specialists, public agencies, formal and informal community groups and their leaders, farmers and landowners who want to develop watershed groups and engage each other in watershed problem solving. Watershed projects and resources include:


Heartland Regional Water Quality Coordination Initiative

Urban Fishing Program Heartland Regional Water Quality Coordination Initiative The Heartland Regional Water Coordination Initiative is a partnership of Iowa State University, Kansas State University, the University of Missouri, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture's National Water Program, and US EPA Region 7. The goal of the Heartland Initiative is to build institutional partnerships and increase the capacity of citizens, educators, agencies and community leaders to better address water quality concerns. Heartland programs make research, education and extension resources of the land grant universities more accessible to efforts on regional priority water issues. More


Performance-based Watershed Management

Urban Fishing Program Performance-based Watershed Management The Leadership and Performance-based Watershed Management project is designed to help improve watersheds in the state. The project, funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Cooperative State Research Education and Extension Service (USDA-CSREES) Integrated Water Quality Program, focuses on establishing watershed groups in impaired sub-watersheds throughout Iowa.  Local farmers, rural residents, and business owners residing in the watershed participate in the watershed groups set goals at the watershed level that are environmentally sound and economically practical.  The project will be implemented through partnerships of farmers, extension specialists, Iowa State University Extension and state agencies at the state and local level. More


Urban Fishing Program Case Study

Urban Fishing Program This case study of a pilot urban fishing program in Des Moines, IA includes analysis of resident focus groups, interviews with city and state-level stakeholders, and interviews with urban fishing program staff and managers from other states. We examine the formation how urban residents and stakeholders engage in questions concerning water quality, their role in improvements and program implementation, and  support for an urban fishing program. State agency staff prioritized urban park ponds in Des Moines for the potential program. We selected participants in our case study using purposive snowball sampling from community organizations, neighborhood groups, and educational institutions. More


Navigating the Waters

Urban Fishing Program Navigating the Waters Women own or co-own 47% of Iowa farmland and 54% of leased farmland (1). They are part of an increasing trend of women-owned agricultural land across the country. With this change in land ownership emerges great potential for efforts to work with women landowners on improvements to water and soil quality. However, this demographic group is not one that has traditionally assumed the responsibility of land management nor been engaged by natural resource and conservation agencies. Greater economic reliance upon the land by women agricultural landowners when compared to their male counterparts heightens the need for conservation programs that target women landowners. More