IIHR Hydroscience and Engineering Work plan (2020-2021)

Aug 2020


The state’s economic and environmental resilience is dependent upon sustaining and maintaining its natural resources, a goal that requires reducing soil and nutrient loss in ways that are not burdensome to the Iowa economy and the Iowa farmer. The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy, released in May 2013 by Iowa State University and partnering governmental agencies, outlined a roadmap to assess and reduce the consequences of nutrient loss to Iowa’s surface and groundwater resources and the Mississippi Basin. Implementing robust voluntary adoption of practices and strategies designed to stem nutrient loss, while coordinating these efforts with agencies and the agricultural value chain is a challenge unlike any Iowa has addressed. Emerging and as yet undiscovered practices, scientific strategies and a more in-depth understanding of controlling biological, chemical and hydrological processes are required to stem the loss of nutrients from Iowa’s farm fields. Merging our understanding of fertilizer and manure management to the patterns and processes of Iowa’s waters and landscape is critical to deliver a systems-based approach that will make the objectives of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy a reality.


The IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering 2020-2021 Work Plan for the Iowa Nutrient Research Center has two primary objectives:

  1. continued development and aggregation of the Iowa nutrient database to be used by the Iowa Nutrient Research Center and others in support of scientific understanding and enhanced nutrient management; and 
  2. continued characterization of water quality at smaller spatial scales to inform practice effectiveness by generating data with sensors funded through INRC and other partners.


To achieve these objectives, IIHR will

  • verify and document at multiple scales the nutrient mitigation effectiveness of best management practices for both point and non-point sources;  
  • interpret water quality, hydrologic and weather data necessary to follow trends linked to INRS implementation and other factors; and
  • generate, collect and aggregate water quality, hydrologic, weather and land-use data necessary to implement the INRS and to create tools that can be used to manage this data.
Award Number: 

Project Updates

Note: Project reports published on the INRC website are often revised from researchers' original reports to increase consistency.

July 2021


Water quality monitoring continues at approximately 60 stream sites, two constructed wetland sites (Mitchell County), a saturated buffer site (Adair County), the Big Spring Fish Hatchery (Clayton County) and the ISU Bioreactor Research site. Collaborative monitoring projects with the US Geological Survey have resulted in sensor deployment at Village Creek and Waterloo Creek, both in Allamakee County. Monitoring has been restored to a large HUC 8-Maquoketa River location, which had been abandoned by USGS due to budget issues. Many sites in western Iowa have been returned to the network following a year of not being monitored because of COVID-related travel restrictions. Also, the return to normal flows allowed re-deployment of instruments on the Mississippi River near Muscatine. Collaborative monitoring with USDA Agricultural Research Service continues at seven sites in 2021, and with Coe College for monitoring in Lime Creek.

In collaboration with Iowa DNR, a new Water Quality Index for Iowa streams has been created, and a journal article submitted for publication. Nine sites from the Central Iowa Water Trails project continue to be a part of the Water Quality Information System. Work on the NSF-funded companion system, the Upper Mississippi River Information System, continues.

Monitoring is beginning at a USACE-funded project in Lake Red Rock and at an IDNR-funded project in the Iowa Great Lakes that will include sensor deployments. The team is currently exploring other sensor deployment possibilities, including at the Linn County Airport, several farms around Iowa and in shallow alluvial wells, this last work in collaboration with the Iowa Geological Survey.

Graduate student Elliot Anderson is working to create rating curves for data generated by real-time turbidity sensors versus total phosphorus loads for Iowa streams, such that statewide phosphorus loading will be quantifiable in much the same way as nitrogen loading is calculated by the nitrate sensor network.

Activities included 10 field days and 18 presentations.

January 2021

University travel restrictions related to COVID limited overnight travel until late in 2020. As a result, sensors were only deployed at sites that could be accessed without overnight travel, i.e. the eastern two-thirds of Iowa. Nonetheless, most sites were deployed and operational.

The Polk County Water Trails Project was integrated into the INRC network and the Iowa Water Quality Information System (https://iwqis.iowawis.org) with nine turbidimeters in Polk County, in collaboration with the Great Outdoors Foundation, Des Moines Water Works and the Polk County Conservation Commission. One nitrate sensor was deployed at the Iowa State University bioreactor research site in northwest Iowa in collaboration with Dr. Michelle Soupir. Sensors continue to measure water quality at the saturated buffer project in Adair County and the CREP wetland in northeast Iowa (Floyd County). IIHR continues to work with USDA-ARS, Coe College, Iowa DNR and Grinnell College to deploy about 20 nitrate sensors, and with Iowa DNR to deploy 10 turbidimeters. Ten sites funded through the Iowa Watershed Approach Project continue to be deployed. Nitrate, turbidity, pH, specific conductance, and dissolved oxygen are measured at these sites.

An INRC funded project currently being planned will assess relationships between turbidity and total phosphorus levels in Iowa in 2021. Projects with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are planned for 2021 that will deploy sensors on a boat and floating platforms to measure nitrate levels in Lake Red Rock.

The Upper Mississippi River Information System (https://umissis.org) continues to be developed as a companion tool to the Iowa Water Quality Information System.

Outreach activities included 2 field days, 9 presentations