Applications Being Accepted for Urban Water Quality Demonstration Projects

DES MOINES, Iowa – Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey today announced that the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship is requesting pre-applications for projects located in urban areas focused on improving water quality. 

“We continue to see strong interest from both rural and urban areas in water quality efforts and we are excited to be able to offer another round of funding for urban focused projects. These funds are available to help communities, watershed groups, or other organizations interested in trying water quality practices in an urban area and are then are willing to share their results with others,” Northey said. 

Municipalities, Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs), watershed groups, and other non-governmental organizations are eligible to submit applications. Projects should focus on conservation measures that reduce a property's contribution to water quality degradation, runoff, and flooding by incorporating practices such bioretention cells, wetlands, native landscaping, and other approved nutrient reduction practice technologies. 

In addition to demonstrating urban conservation practices, projects should include strong outreach/education components to disseminate information and promote increased awareness and adoption of available practices and technologies for achieving reductions in nutrient loads to surface waters. Successful projects will serve as local and regional hubs for demonstrating practices and providing practice information to homeowners, municipalities, businesses, and local communities. 

The maximum three-page pre-application must be submitted by 4:30 p.m. on Friday, December 9, 2016. Pre-applications selected to submit a full application will be notified by January 13, 2017, and the full applications will be due on February 10, 2017. Projects selected to receive funding will be announced in early March. 

Project pre-application guidance can be found on the Department’s website at under “Hot Topics” or can be requested by contacting the Department’s Division of Soil Conservation and Water Quality at 515-281-5851.

Currently, 22 Urban Conservation Water Quality Initiative Demonstration Projects have been funded, nine in 2015 and thirteen in 2016. The state awarded over $1.6 million in funding and participating partners and landowners will provide $5.02 million to further support urban conservation efforts. 

Northey created the Urban Conservation program in 2008, which includes urban conservationists to educate communities, businesses, developers, and homeowners about practices to reduce runoff and improve water quality in urban areas. 

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. State assistance is limited to 50 percent on any practice and must be matched by the farmer, landowner, or other source. 

Earlier this year, Northey announced that 1,900 farmers committed $3.8 million in cost share funds to install nutrient reduction practices in 97 counties in Iowa.  Eligible practices include cover crops, no-till or strip till, or using a nitrification inhibitor when applying fall fertilizer. Participants include 900 first-time farmers and more than 1,000 past users that are trying cover crops again and receive a reduced cost share rate. 

In addition to statewide cost share, 16 targeted Water Quality Initiative demonstration watershed projects have been funded to help implement and demonstrate water quality practices. The state provided $7.4 million in funding to support these projects and has leveraged $11.7 million in additional funding from partners and landowners. More than 95 organizations are participating in these projects.  

Seven projects focused on innovative delivery of water quality practices beyond an individual watershed level also received funding. These projects will receive $4.98 million in funding through the Iowa Water Quality Initiative over the next three years and be matched in excess of $4.59 million in funding from other sources. These projects include expansion of cover crops, edge of field practices such as bioreactors and saturated buffers, and usage of water-quality wetlands.