ISU Center for Agricultural and Rural Development Awarded Grant for Lakes Survey

August 28th, 2014

AMES, Iowa — Iowa State University's Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) was awarded a $130,750 grant by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to renew a study that helped shed light on the use of recreational lakes.

“Collecting information on how, where and when Iowans use the state’s recreational lakes allows us to properly analyze and evaluate the return on investment for water quality improvement projects,” said Cathy Kling, director of CARD.

In 2002, CARD, the Department of Economics and the Department of Evolutionary Ecology and Organismal Biology and the Limnology Laboratory at Iowa State University created the Iowa Lakes Valuation Project ( The Limnology Laboratory had completed a five-year study that provided the DNR with a lake database that included biological analysis, watershed GIS and water chemistry for 132 recreational lakes across the state.

The Lakes Valuation Project took the information one step further by surveying Iowans to determine use and valuation information for the same set of lakes over a comparable time period. In all, the survey was sent to 4,000 households to collect information on how frequently they visited one of the 132 recreational lakes including possible future trips, personal perception of water quality, and willingness to pay for improved water quality at the site.

Of the households surveyed, 62 percent reported taking at least one trip to one of the lakes in the previous year, with the overall average number of trips per year being closer to eight. When choosing a lake for recreation the greatest number of respondents (32 percent) indicated water quality was the most important deciding factor, with lake proximity second. Respondents also indicated that when considering water quality, safety from bacterial contamination and health advisories was the most important factor, with water clarity second.

With the new grant, CARD will send surveys to 6,000 households, including some households that responded to the original survey, to determine usage information such as the number of actual trips and anticipated trips of each respondent to one of the 132 lakes, as well as income, gender, education level, and number of children in the household. The surveys also will help collect data to determine demand for visits, analyze visitation patterns and determine economic impact of lake water quality.

“An updated survey will allow the DNR to target its restoration efforts to locations that are the most valuable for Iowans,” Kling said.

Surveys should be mailed to households by early 2015, with data analyzed and presented in a final report by late next year.


Cathy Kling, Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, (515) 294-5767,
Nathan Cook, Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, (515) 294-3809,
Ed Adcock, Agriculture and Life Sciences Communications Service, (515) 294-2314,