Iowa Delegation Aims for Waves of Change for Water Quality

One Water Iowa header, representing the 2018 Iowa delegation to the national One Water Summit

By: Sarah Feehan

The Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance (IAWA) and the Iowa Soybean Association will soon lead their third Iowa delegation to the upcoming One Water Summit, convened by the U.S. Water Alliance. Last year, the diverse Iowa delegation included Lee Gravel, watershed coordinator for the Headwaters of the North Raccoon Water Quality Improvement Project (WQI).

When asked about his most memorable ‘One Water’ moment from this past year, Gravel pointed to his work with a local landowner in the watershed – Art Dahl. “He believes that farmers should be doing their part to keep nutrients out of the water so that everybody can enjoy the natural resources we have,” Gravel says.

At 94 years of age, Dahl is still blazing trails and was the first to install a saturated buffer on his land in Buena Vista County. “I’m one-hundred percent for protecting the land,” Dahl states. With his strong commitment to conservation, Dahl is working with his tenants and Gravel to install more practices on his 2,600 acres of farmland, including a wetland and two bioreactors.

In northwest Iowa, where about 60% of all farmland acres is rented, proactive landowner-tenant partnerships are a foundation for successful collaboration that embody the One Water ethos of collaboration and cooperation. “When everybody is engaged, there is far greater impact,” Gravel says.

Mikayla Edwards, a fellow One Water Summit 2017 attendee and Iowa delegate, also helps to bring urban and rural partners together. She agrees with Gravel, saying, “It’s everybody’s water. We all hold partial responsibility, so all stakeholders need to be a part of one solution.”

A 7th generation farmer from Anamosa and soon to be One Water Summit 2018 delegate, Edwards is an IAWA Advisory Council member and serves on the Iowa Corn Animal Ag and Environment Committee. As a project coordinator for the Delaware Soil and Water Conservation District, she incorporates the ‘One Water’ message into her outreach efforts with landowners.

This “shared responsibility” has furthered Edwards’ skills of fostering upstream-downstream relationships. “The message helps me better explain the effects of a conservation practice,” Edwards says. “It makes a difference when landowners are deciding to put in a saturated buffer or a bioreactor.”

Melissa Miller, associate director of the Iowa Water Center, One Water Summit 2018 Iowa delegate
Melissa Miller, Iowa Water Center

At Iowa State University, Melissa Miller and Jamie Benning, both team captains for the 2018 One Water Iowa delegation, work to bring education and outreach across the state regarding water quality.

As the associate director of the Iowa Water Center, Miller looks forward to experiencing the One Water Summit for the first time in July. She sees the Summit as a platform for much needed dialogue between all players in water management.

Miller looks forward to hearing more about the ‘One Water’ message and incorporating it into her work. “Water connects all of us and that’s a core belief we have at the Iowa Water Center,” she says. “What the U.S. Water Alliance is doing on a national level is what the Iowa Water Center tries to do on a local and regional level. I’m interested in bringing the One Water message back to our Iowa Water Conference to expand and continue the conversation.”

Jamie Benning, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Water Quality Program Manager, and One Water Summit 2018 Iowa delegate
Jamie Benning, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

Across the campus from Miller, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Water Quality Program Manager Jamie Benning works on a variety of water quality initiatives. One of those is planning a semi-annual Iowa Watershed Academy for watershed coordinators like Gravel. The academy also serves to better incorporate the goals of the science-based Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy (NRS) to the front lines of conservation work.

“I’m very interested in meeting other communicators and educators and looking at how we’re communicating about water,” Benning says. “I’m excited to bring back to Iowa techniques of how we can shape our communication about water, especially by incorporating the ‘One Water’ message into some of our watershed projects and water quality efforts.”

Collaborative approaches are most successful at improving water quality when they’re routinely pursued together by urban and rural stakeholders and partners working together in the same watershed.

Benning concludes, “Rather than working in our own silos, we come together and work across disciplines and many political and jurisdictional boundaries to think about how we will address some of our most pressing water-related challenges."

Here’s a complete list of the Iowa delegation:

  • Adam Kiel, Iowa Soybean Association
  • Adam Rodenberg, Middle Cedar Watershed Management Authority
  • Adam Schnieders, Iowa Department of Natural Resources
  • Amanda Brown, Polk Soil and Water Conservation District
  • Brent Low, Agriculture’s Clean Water Alliance
  • Carol Brown, Iowa Soybean Association
  • Catherine DeLong, Soil and Water Conservation Society
  • Charlie Schafer, Agri Drain Corporation
  • Chris Hay, Iowa Soybean Association
  • Clare Lindahl, Soil and Water Conservation Society
  • Dan Dix, Agriculture’s Clean Water Alliance
  • Darcy Maulsby, Darcy Maulsby and Co.
  • Dave Walton, Iowa Soybean Association
  • David De Gues, The Nature Conservancy
  • Dean Mattoon, City of Dubuque
  • Eric Schmechel, Dubuque County SWCD
  • Hanna Bates, Iowa Water Center
  • Harry Ahrenholtz, Agriculture’s Clean Water Alliance
  • Jamie Benning, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach
  • Jamie Konopacky, Sand County Foundation
  • Jessica Turba, Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management
  • Jim Erb, Iowa Watershed Management Authority
  • Jim Jordahl, Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance
  • Jim Richardson, Prairie Rivers of Iowa
  • John Torbert, Iowa Drainage District Association
  • Jonathan Gano, Des Moines Public Works
  • Jon Nania, US Geological Survey
  • Kaitlin Little, Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance
  • Katie Rock, Center for Rural Affairs
  • Kayla Bergman, Prairie Rivers of Iowa
  • Laura Sarcone, Des Moines Water Works
  • Lisa Walters, Iowa Rural Water Association
  • Mario Fenu, Houston Engineering, Inc.
  • Mark Jackson, Iowa Soybean Association
  • Mark Shleisman, Iowa Soybean Association
  • Matt Sutton- Vermeulen, The Context Network
  • Melissa Miller, Iowa Water Center
  • Michael Kuntz, City of Cedar Rapids
  • Mikayla Edwards, Iowa Corn
  • Penny Brown Hub, Prairie Rivers of Iowa
  • Phillip Platz, City of Cedar Rapids
  • Roger Wolf, Iowa Soybean Association
  • Sam Wildman, The Context Network
  • Sarah Feehan, Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance
  • Shelli Lovell, Iowa Regional Utilities Association
  • Stacie Johnson, GSI Works
  • Susan Judkins, Center of Rural Affairs
  • Suzanne Shirbroun, Iowa Soybean Association
  • Todd Sutphin, Iowa Soybean Association
  • Tyler Bettin, Iowa Pork Producers Association
  • Will Myers, Iowa Department of Natural Resources
  • Zita Quade, Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance

Follow the national conversation from the Summit online by following #OneWater on Twitter and following IAWA posts during the conference.