Water Quality Protection Practices

The Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) program provides funding to the Division to work with soil and water conservation districts to address local water quality protection needs. The principal objective of the Water Quality Protection  program is to protect water quality in Iowa by targeting and preventing off-site sediment, nutrient and livestock waste pollution problems. This program complements the cost share program’s objectives to control soil erosion and protect land productivity.

Each year, funds from the Soil and Water Enhancement Account  are allocated to water quality protection projects Funds are allocated to 100 soil and water conservation districts equally across the state to address water quality protection problems of local significance.

Authorized in Iowa Code Sections 455A.19.c and 161C.4, 25% of the practice funds are used to support the establishment of trees and native vegetation for land resource enhancement and water quality protection. The remaining 75% can be used in the following ways within designated priority watersheds:

  • Land use conversion practices convert row crops to permanent vegetation for buffer establishment, stream bank stabilization, or other permanent cover applications
  • Traditional erosion control practices where those practices are installed to protect high priority public water resources, or where those practices address priority water quality problems such as sinkholes
  • Livestock waste management systems for water resource protection
  • Voluntary agricultural drainage well closure
  • Storm water practices

Fund allocations are made to soil and water conservation districts, commissioners set priorities for their use, and field office staff assure the technical quality of practices built. These practices are also subject to maintenance agreements

Water Quality Protection Projects

Water quality protection projects protect the state’s surface and groundwater resources from point and non-point sources of contamination. Authorized in Iowa Code Chapter 161C, projects are developed through a locally led process initiated by soil and water conservation districts, coordinating the resources and programs of a  variety of organizations to achieve local objectives. Project applications consider the importance of the resource to be protected, the nature and extent of the water quality concern, proposed solutions, landowner interest, and the overall cost effectiveness of the project.

Water quality protection projects commonly use the watershed approach to address water quality problems. this approach involves the assessment of all possible sources that may have an affect on water quality in the project area. It provides the most comprehensive, efficient and effective way to achieve soil and water quality protection objectives. Successful projects usually have a high level of community support and include strong public information and education programs. They also feature partnerships with federal, state and local agencies and organizations.

These projects have effectively improved water quality in watersheds above publicly owned lakes, trout streams, high use recreation areas, drinking water sources, urban developments and aquifer recharge areas. Practices commonly utilized in projects include permanent soil and water conservation practices (terraces, basins, etc.), temporary management practices (no-till, nutrient management, etc.) as well as urban erosion and storm water management practices (silt fences, bio-swales, etc.)

Funding of projects is provided through the Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) Program and the Watershed Protection fund with additional funding is available through the Iowa Department of Natural Resources from US Environmental Protection Agency, Section 319 funds. 

For more information about water, visit NRCS.