Thursday, September 30, 2010


Iowater is a volunteer water quality monitoring group. Interesting information here.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Beautiful Weekend @ Silver Lake

Pelican Party at Silver Lake!

Total Maximum Daily Load for Algae & Turbidity - Silver Lake

From Iowa Department of Natural Resources
TMDL & Water Quality Assessment Section - 2004

The Federal Clean Water Act requires the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) to develop a total maximum daily load (TMDL) for waters that have been identified on the state’s 303(d) list as impaired by a pollutant. Silver Lake has been identified as impaired by algae and turbidity. The purpose of these TMDLs for
Silver Lake is to calculate the maximum allowable nutrient loading for the lake associated with algae and turbidity levels that will meet water quality standards.

This document (link above) consists of TMDLs for algae and turbidity designed to provide Silver Lake water quality that fully supports its designated uses. Phosphorus, which is related through the Trophic State Index (TSI) to chlorophyll and Secchi depth, is targeted to address the algae and turbidity impairments.

Understanding Iowa's Impaired Waters Lists

You've likely heard of Iowa's many "impaired" waters. But what makes a water impaired, and more importantly, what can we do to take streams and lakes off the list?
Each lake and stretch of stream or river in Iowa is designated for a specific use, like for contact recreation such as swimming or fishing; for drinking water; or for maintaining a healthy population of fish and other aquatic life. If the water quality in the stream or lake does not allow it to meet its designated use, it does not meet Iowa's water quality standards and is considered "impaired."
The waterbody is then placed on the "303(d)" list, commonly known as the "impaired waters list." This is named after section 303(d) of the federal Clean Water Act and means that the stream or lake needs a water quality improvement plan written.

Once on the 303(d) list, a water quality improvement plan is written. The plan outlines the water quality problems, identifies the needed reductions in pollutants and offers possible solutions. Waters that have a water quality improvement plan written for them move off the 303(d) list, or impaired waters list.
Even though it's off the 303(d) list, the waterbody is still considered impaired until water quality improves. Local groups need to take action and work with the DNR to improve their stream or lake.
Local action can lead to improved water quality, which can help the stream or lake meet state water quality standards again. When the waterbody meets those standards, it may be able to come off the impaired waters list.

Final 2008 Impaired Waters in Iowa: 439

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service - Palo Alto County EQIP

Palo Alto County  - Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)


The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is a voluntary conservation program of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) that promotes agricultural production and environmental quality. This program is available to farmers and offers financial and technical assistance to install or implement structural and management practices on eligible agricultural land.

The following are Palo Alto County resource concerns to be addressed by EQIP:
  • Soil Condition-Organic Matter Depletion, Animal Waste and Other Organics (N, P, K)
  • Soil Erosion-Sheet and Rill
  • Soil Erosion-Ephemeral Gully
  • Soil Erosion-Classic Gully
  • Water Quality-Excessive Nutrients and Organics in Groundwater
  • Water Quality-Excessive Nutrients and Organics in Surface Water
  • Water Quality- Excessive Suspended Sediment and Turbidity in Surface Water
  • Water Quality Harmful Levels of Pathogens in Surface Water
  • Water Quantity – Inefficient Water Use on Irrigated Land, Drifted Snow
  • Plant Condition – Productivity, Health, and Vigor, Forage Quality and Palatability
  • Domestic Animals – Inadequate Quantities and Quality of Feed and Forage, Inadequate Stock Water, Inadequate Shelter
  • Fish & Wildlife – Inadequate Cover/Shelter, Inadequate food, T & E species
  • Air Quality – Adverse Air Temperature, PM 2.5, Objectionable Odors.    
These resource concerns address the following National EQIP priorities:  
  1. Reduction of non-point source pollution, such as nutrients, sediment, pesticides, or excess salinity in impaired watersheds consistent with Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs), where available, as well as the reduction of groundwater contamination and the conservation of ground and surface water resources.
  2. Reduction in soil erosion and sedimentation from unacceptable high levels on agricultural land.
The goal of the locally led group was to recommend a ranking system that rewarded and gave priority to those producers that address the above resource concerns. Further, the local work group prioritized one item-natural lake watersheds. Applications located within the watersheds of all natural lakes in Palo Alto County including Five Island Lake, Silver Lake, Rush Lake, Virgin Lake and Lost Island Lake will rank with priority points. The ranking will be completed for the specific practices to be applied through the EQIP contract. Sign-up is continuous at the NRCS field office. Application ranking will be done periodically as funding allocations become available, will be announced through the NRCS State Office, and will be publicized by all levels of NRCS. The NRCS may establish local, minimum ranking cut-off levels for funding selection.

The local work group also recommended a list of conservation practices that are the most cost-effective, longest duration and address these priority resource concerns in the district. Based on agency directive, nutrient management standard 590 will be offered using the concept of management intensity which offers a larger payment for more environmental performance. 

Agency maximums have been incorporated for payments associated with Residue and Tillage Management Standard 329 (No-Till/Strip-Till) and Nutrient Management 590. The payment is limited to no more than 3 years of payments. For grazing contracts, no more than $50,000 in payment will be permitted. All individual practices are limited to a $75,000 cap. Also based on statewide guidance, Historically Underserved Producers will receive a higher payment of EQIP funding on specified practices. Conservation practices applied with EQIP funds are to be maintained for the service life of the practice, which may be longer than the term of the EQIP contract.

For more information on EQIP and other NRCS administrated programs contact the Palo Alto County USDA Service Center located at 3302 West Main Street (Highway 18), Emmetsburg, IA  50536. Phone (712) 852-3386, Ext. 3; Fax (712) 852-4906.

Silver Lake History by I.A. Schoonmaker

A few statements about Silver Lake found on 
by I.A. Schoonmaker "who was a bona fide pioneer of Ayrshire and surrounding areas and at times published the newspaper in Ayrshire - among other things."

"In the fall of 1879 was the first time I was ever at Silver Lake. Just before corn husking, I went to the south end of the lake and on a large hill, owned by Grandfather Whitman at the time, was about 100 sandhill cranes and plenty of white cranes too. Wild geese and gray and white brants were very thick here at times."

"Fish Story Way Back When - Now here is a fish story - one day in the spring of 1886, I was training a horse to trot and I drove out to Silver Lake and when I got there I saw a spectacular sight which clings to my memory. There was about two acres of water covered with buffalo fish. They were pushing each other out of the water and onto the bank. So I drove back to Ayrshire and got my four-tined fork and back to the lake I went as fast as the horse could trot. After tying the horse, I ran to the water's edge and with one thrust of the fork, landed a fish so big I could hardly lift it on the fork. The actual weight of it was twenty-five and one quarter pounds. That was a big one that never got away."

Iowa DNR - Silver Lake Watershed Project

Watersheds and nonpoint pollution
The major water quality problem in Iowa is nonpoint source pollution, and it has landed a number of streams and lakes on Iowa's impaired waters list.

Nonpoint source pollution happens when rainfall, snowmelt or irrigation water runs over land or through the ground and picks up pollutants and deposits them into streams, lakes or groundwater. Those pollutants include excess soil, bacteria and nutrients (from farm fertilizers and manure).
Keeping these pollutants out of our water is important for many reasons. Humans depend on clean water for drinking water and recreation like swimming, boating and fishing. Aquatic life, such as fish, depend on clean water to survive.

Nonpoint source pollution can come from practically any outdoor area that comes into contact with running water, unlike point source pollution, which can be traced back to a specific location or "point," such as an industrial facility, wastewater treatment plant, etc.

The area that nonpoint source pollution comes from is called a "watershed," which is an area of land that drains into a lake or stream. To truly improve Iowa's water quality, we need to clean up watersheds to keep sediment, nutrients and bacteria from washing into streams and lakes.

Follow these links for information on Silver Lake from the Iowa DNR: