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Iowater is a volunteer program within the Iowa Department of Natural Resources that trains citizens in monitoring the water quality of creeks, rivers, wetlands and lakes, through chemical, physical and biological tests.

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Photo by Caleb, Swaesy, Sam and Haley


Location: Squaw Creek, Ames, IA
Featuring: Sam, Haley, Erv, Caleb

Volunteers like 18-year-old high school students and 80-year-old Erv Klaas conduct tests to help protect Iowa’s water quality.

Iowater is a volunteer “citizen science” program within the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) that trains volunteers in monitoring the water quality of creeks, rivers, wetlands, and lakes, through chemical, physical, and biological tests.

The DNR continues to value volunteer water monitoring for its role in increasing citizen awareness, knowledge, and stewardship of Iowa’s water resources, and appreciates all volunteers that help us achieve our natural resource conservation and enhancement goals. Volunteer water monitoring is best able to inform local water quality goals if the decision-making and coordination is locally-led. With the help of the DNR to get started, interested communities, watersheds, counties, and regions have an opportunity to take ownership and derive more value from their locally-led volunteer water monitoring programs.

The tests they conduct include:

1- Chemical: the concentrations of dissolved nutrients (like nitrates and phosphates) indicate how toxic the water is to humans as well as to aquatic life.

2- Biological: the amount and kinds of life in a body of water are good indicators of the quality of that water. For example, mayflies prefer to live in water that is clean, and certain species of worms thrive in water that is polluted.

3- Physical: characteristics like transparency and temperature are affected by and can affect nutrient concentrations and aquatic

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