IIHR Hydroscience and Engineering Work plan (2021-2022)

Aug 2021


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 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 can help meet the objectives of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.


The IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering 2021-2022 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 the state's water quality to inform practice effectiveness by generating data with sensors funded through INRC and other partners.


To achieve these objectives, IIHR will

  • interpret water quality, hydrologic and weather data necessary to follow trends linked to INRS implementation and other factors;
  • 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; and
  • verify and document at multiple scales the nutrient mitigation effectiveness of best management practices for both point and non-point sources.

Project Updates

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

June 2022


The water quality sensor network was redeployed beginning March 1. Currently about 60 sensors have been deployed, with some sites still awaiting maintenance because of high water. The 2021 water year water monitoring data summary was submitted to INRC.

Project assistant Elliott Anderson recently completed his PhD thesis documenting phosphorus loss statewide and from numerous individual Iowa watersheds. He will continue working as a post doc for one year to create more P loss models and relate turbidity to stream E coli levels.

Related activities and accomplishments

Other activities include six field days, 10 presentations and development/submission of four journal articles.

January 2022

Water monitoring continued at approximately 60 sites across the state of Iowa throughout the second half of 2021. The ongoing drought conditions around Iowa required frequent visits to sites to keep sensors immersed as stream stages receded throughout the summer. Nitrate levels measured were historically low as water throughput left nitrogen on the landscape. Heavy rains in northeast Iowa in early August mobilized some nitrogen in the Upper Iowa, Wapsipinicon and Cedar River watersheds, but levels were not extraordinary as much of the moisture was absorbed by dry soils.

As of this writing, five IIHR nitrate sensors remain deployed this winter. The IIHR Water Quality Information System continues to also collect and aggregate data from four sites in the Raccoon River watershed and the Iowa River. IIHR continued to work with Iowa State researchers on deployments at Carnarvon Creek and the bioreactor research site. The saturated buffer site in Adair County continues to be monitored. These sites will be monitored in 2022.

Sensor projects with Iowa DNR at the Iowa Great Lakes and USACE at Lake Red Rock will continue in 2022. The Lake Red Rock project will assess the capacity of the reservoir to sequester nutrients; the Great Lakes project will assess sediment and nutrient transport in that system.

Other activities included 10 presentations.