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For Immediate Release
Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Dustin Vande Hoef
515/281-3375 or 515/326-1616 (cell)



New website includes additional information on rural and urban demonstration projects in place across Iowa

DES MOINES – Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey today announced the re-launch of with additional information about how Iowans across the state are taking on the challenge of improving water quality.

The updated site includes individual demonstration project pages that include success stories, news and updates, partners, and more. Conservation practice pages now feature descriptions, benefits, resources, and videos when applicable. There is also a new “Tools” area ( that showcase partner-run resources with additional information on a variety of water quality topics.

“As the water quality activities underway across the state continue to expand, this updated website will provide additional information about water quality practices and highlight the work that is taking place across the state.  And, hopefully it is more user friendly as the navigation is more in-line with how we’ve come to discuss collaboration, innovation, and the latest news regarding the Water Quality Initiative,” Northey said. 

The updated site also includes expanded information on the 57 rural and urban water quality demonstration projects currently in place statewide.

In addition to offering annual cost share statewide to farmers interested in trying cover crops, no-till or strip-till, or nitrification inhibitors to allow farmers, regardless of where they live, to try a water quality focused practice, these 23 rural and 34 urban demonstration projects play a central role in the water quality efforts underway in Iowa. These projects allow us to focus more intently on smaller watershed or targeted conservation practice while working directly with farmers and landowners to achieve significant results

For example, while we have seen increased adoption of cover crops statewide, in some demonstration project areas the increase has been more dramatic, reaching 10 to 15 percent of the cropland in the watershed in the first few years.

Early efforts have provided information that’s been valuable in identifying key areas to focus resources to complement and build upon all of the other water quality improvement projects in the state. More information about how additional funds for water quality efforts will be prioritized is included in the Iowa Water Quality Initiative Scale-up plan that can be found at

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and the Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance recently hosted an Iowa Water Quality Initiative project partner meeting to review these demonstration projects and discuss the progress to date and next steps in meeting the objectives of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.
Some of highlights from the demonstration projects that were shared during the meeting include:

Practice Implementation

  • We are seeing farmers trying cover crops on a few acres to better understand how they work on their farm. As a result, significant ability to scale-up acreage as they better understand the practice.
  • Leveraging private sector and partner expertise in edge-of-field practices (saturated buffers, bioreactors, and wetlands) has led to early success for these practices.
  • Projects are able to access other funding sources to add traditional conservation practices (grassed waterways, CRP, etc.) through other state and federal programs to complement WQI efforts.
  • Offering services for seeding and procuring seed with partners has helped to streamline the process and helps encourage adoption of cover crops.
  • Projects and farmers are learning ways that best suit seeding and managing cover crops in their areas.

Project Coordinators

  • The Watershed Academy, led by Iowa State University and the Conservation Districts of Iowa (CDI) has helped create long-term professional development training opportunities for coordinators.

Importance of Partnerships

  • Currently, more than 150 partners are involved in demonstration projects that are providing financial or in-kind support.  Encouraged by the focus on this issue across the ag industry, including multi-national corporations; federal, state, and local governments; local groups; advocacy organizations.
  • These partnerships have brought in significant additional funding to support water quality, examples include:
    • $13 million from two USDA Regional Conservation Partnership Program grants to support water quality efforts
    • Established 2 new entities to expand implementation and measuring progress towards the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy: Iowa Agricultural Water Alliance (IAWA) and Iowa Nutrient Research & Education Council (NREC)
    • $25,000 from the Iowa Pork Producers Association to offset up to 50 percent of costs for pig farmers to install saturated buffers or bioreactors on their farm land
    • $30,000 contribution by Ducks Unlimited to a recently completed CREP site in the Boone River Watershed project in Wright County.


  • Measuring effectively is important to showing progress to the public and informing our future conservation activities. 
  • The Iowa Water Quality Initiative focuses monitoring in smaller watersheds to provide information, target resources and confirm the effectiveness of practices.  Monitoring at this scale will show results well before monitoring in larger rivers and watersheds.
  • As part of the watershed demonstration projects, landowners have taken water samples from 208 locations to evaluate water quality needs and the effectiveness of practices.
  • In addition, Iowa has an extensive ambient water quality monitoring system in place.


  • Strong bipartisan support for the Iowa Water Quality Initiative that has provided nearly $10 million in each of the last two years.
  • Water quality improvements are a long-term process, as a result sustainable funding is needed to scale up efforts.

“The demonstration projects that are part of the Iowa Water Quality Initiative  have played a critical role in helping us learn how to best engage farmers in water quality efforts and have guided us as we have expanded our efforts.  I greatly appreciate the more than 150 partners that are part of these projects and I hope Iowans will visit to learn more about the efforts and see how they can become engaged in the water quality work that is underway,” Northey said.

Background on Iowa Water Quality Initiative
The Iowa Water Quality Initiative was established in 2013 to help implement the Nutrient Reduction Strategy, which is a science and technology based approach to achieving a 45 percent reduction in nitrogen and phosphorus losses to our waters.  The strategy brings together both point sources, such as municipal wastewater treatment plants and industrial facilities, and nonpoint sources, including farm fields and urban stormwater runoff, to address these issues.

The Initiative seeks to harness the collective ability of both private and public resources and organizations to deliver a clear and consistent message to stakeholders to reduce nutrient loss and improve water quality.

The initiative is seeing some exciting results. Last fall, Northey announced that 1,800 farmers committed $3.8 million in cost share funds to install nutrient reduction practices.  The practices that were eligible for this funding are cover crops, no-till or strip till, or using a nitrification inhibitor when applying fall fertilizer. Participants include 980 farmers using a practice for the first time and more than 830 past users that are trying cover crops again and are receiving a reduced-rate of cost share.  Farmers using cost-share funding are providing an estimated $6 million in their own funding to adopt these water quality practices.

A total of 45 demonstration projects are currently located across the state to help implement and demonstrate water quality practices.  This includes 16 targeted watershed projects, 7 projects focused on expanding the use and innovative delivery of water quality practices and 22 urban water quality demonstration projects. In addition, 12 new urban projects have been announced and will begin working later this spring.  More than 150 organizations are participating in these projects.  These partners will provide $25.28 million dollars to go with the $16.09 million in state funding going to these projects.

More than $340 million in state and federal funds have been directed to programs with water quality benefits in Iowa last year. This total does not include the cost-share amount that farmers pay to match state and federal programs and funds farmers spent to build practices built without government assistance. 

More information about the initiative can be found at



Mailing Address: IDALS,  Wallace State Office Building,   502 E. 9th Street,  Des Moines, IA 50319:     PH: 515-281-5321
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