EnvIowa Podcast: Dr. Larry Weber on flood mitigation and water quality improvement projects

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Jenna Ladd | June 29, 2017

In episode 7 of EnvIowa, we sit down with Dr. Larry Weber to learn more about the Iowa Watershed Approach. Dr. Weber is a UI professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Director of IIHR–Hydroscience and Engineering, which is the parent organization of the Iowa Flood Center.

Dr. Weber explains how the $96.9 million project came to be and how it improves quality of life for Iowans while protecting our natural resources and health. He tells of successes the Iowa Flood Center has had with its flood reduction and water quality improvement programs and discusses the organization’s fight to maintain state-funding earlier this year.

The director and his team work many long days and spend hours each week driving around the state to each of the nine watersheds included in the Iowa Watershed Approach. For Dr. Weber, his work’s motivation is clear. He said,

“As an Iowan, I grew up here, I’ve worked and spent my whole career here, and I plan to retire here. I want a livable state in which we can enjoy our water and natural resources, enjoy being in the outdoors, enjoy interacting with the rivers, lakes and streams of Iowa, and, you know, programs like the Iowa Watershed Approach, I think, are vital to the long-term sustainability of our resources in Iowa.”

The EnvIowa podcast is also available on iTunes and Soundcloud, a complete archive of EnvIowa episodes can be found here.

Nine watersheds are a part of the Iowa Watershed Approach’s effort to reduce flooding, improve water quality and protect natural resources. (Iowa Watershed Approach)

Iowa fields are eroding at an unsustainable rate, study says

Agricultural runoff in Iowa (Lynn Betts/Flickr)
Agricultural runoff in Iowa (Lynn Betts/Flickr)

The rate of soil runoff from Iowa fields may be many times higher than previous estimates, according to a recent study.

The report, released by Environmental Working Group, shows that Iowa fields are eroding at unacceptable rates, depleting Iowa’s rich topsoil and sending sediment and chemicals into streams and rivers. Between 2002 and 2010, many fields consistently lost more than the sustainable rate of five tons of soil per acre from storms and other erosion events. A single storm in May of 2007 eroded up to 100 tons of soil per acre.

Much of the soil is carried away by gullies that are increasingly appearing in Iowa fields. These low channels are a telltale sign of high erosion, and are often refilled with soil only to be emptied again with the next storm.

High erosion creates high agricultural and environmental risks by carrying away Iowa’s rich topsoil and by polluting waterways with sediment and chemicals. An effective means of curbing this is to plant grass and trees along the edges of fields and in areas where gullies are likely to form. A series of buffers implemented in various fields reduced sediment, nitrogen and phosphorus by more than 90 percent in 2009.

New biomedical building features first green rooftop on University of Iowa campus

Nick Fetty | July 28, 2014
The Old Capitol Building on the University of Iowa campus. Photo by Matthew Anderson; Flickr
The Old Capitol Building on the University of Iowa campus.
Photo by Matthew Anderson; Flickr

The University of Iowa’s new Pappajohn Biomedical Discovery Building (PBDB) is the first building on campus to feature a green rooftop.

Crews began planting various perennial sedums – such as black-eyed Susan alliums, liatris, and hostas – in the spring. These plants are expected to provide several perks from a social and aesthetic perspective to environmental and sustainability benefits. The green rooftop is expected to not only save money on energy costs but also help to control water runoff and mitigate erosion. This rooftop greenery was key to the PBDB receiving gold-level LEED certification.

The University of Iowa has two buildings with platinum-level LEED certification and six that have achieved gold status. A recent list compiled by College Prowler ranked the University of Iowa the 279th greenest college campus in the nation and 6th amongst colleges in Iowa.

However, the PBDB will not be the only building on campus to utilize a green roof. The new Art Building – which is expected to be completed by 2016 – is projected to include a 14,600-square-foot rooftop garden, more than double the size the garden (6,440-square feet) on PBDB’s roof. The PBDB open earlier this month and is expected to be fully operational in the coming months.

On the Radio: Iowa Climate Statement 2013

Photo by Joe Bolkcom
Photo by Joe Bolkcom

This week’s On the Radio segment covers the Iowa Climate Statement 2013:  A Rising Challenge to Iowa Agriculture. Listen to the audio below or continue reading for the transcript.

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On the Radio: Cover Crops Work


Photo by NRCS Soil Health; Flickr

This week’s On the Radio segment covers the success of cover crop practices in conservation farming. Listen to the audio below or continue reading for the transcript.

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Iowa CRP Adds 47,300 Acres

Photo by US Fish and Wildlife Services – Midwest Region; Flickr

With this new addition, Iowa’s Conservation Reserve Program enrollment is now up to 1.4 million acres.

The CRP is a land conservation program administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA). In exchange for a yearly rental payment, farmers enrolled in the program agree to remove environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production and plant species that will improve environmental health and quality.

Contracts for land enrolled in CRP are 10-15 years in length. The long-term goal of the program is to re-establish valuable land cover to help improve water quality, prevent soil erosion, and reduce loss of wildlife habitat.

To learn more about the recent addition, follow this link.

Conservation Reserve Program in Iowa

Tom Vilsack announcing adding 400,000 acres to the CRP. Photo by USDAgov, Flickr.
Tom Vilsack announcing adding 400,000 acres to the CRP. Photo by USDAgov, Flickr.

Iowa Public Radio details the efforts of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) in Iowa.

The CRP is a program where farmers receive money to keep portions of their land out of production. This reduces runoff, prevents erosion and creates more habitats for migrating birds.

Read about CRP and its future here.