Guest Post: Source Water Protection, Elliott Wetland Project

By Rebecca Ohrtman, SWP program coordinator Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR)

Source Water Protection
Iowa’s Source Water Protection (SWP) program is voluntary and works to assists communities in decreasing contaminant risk to their public water supply through technical planning. The Iowa DNR SWP Program coordinator assists a local Iowa community to first develop a local SWP planning team. The local SWP planning team includes, among other stakeholders, landowners/operators, conservation agencies/groups, ag retailers, water utility staff, city officials, and local citizens.  The program’s goal is to protect and sustain the community’s drinking water source through local ownership of their SWP project.

The state’s SWP program works with the community SWP team to conduct a hydro-geological site investigation within the municipal well’s capture zone. The Iowa DNR SWP coordinator utilizes the site investigation results to assist the local SWP team in developing a viable SWP action plan.  The plan includes identifying the priority areas to install best management practices (BMPs).  These BMPs can include but are not limited to; cover crops, wetlands, native grasses, buffers, etc. and are proven to decrease non-point source risk to water quality.

In addition, the SWP program assists in identifying resources for implementation of the SWP Plan. The SWP Plan and site investigation report can be utilized by the local community in development of grants to obtain resources for BMP implementation. Lastly, the SWP program includes evaluation of implementation activities overtime to determine the reduction in risk due to SWP efforts.

A local SWP project example – Elliott, Iowa
In Elliott, Iowa the local SWP team met, a site investigation was conducted, a SWP plan was created, resources were identified and grants were received. As a result, a wetland was installed to aid in decreasing nitrates to the municipal wells. In addition to the SWP goal of improved water quality, the SWP planning team included other practices to improve the quality of life for the citizens of Elliott. The video below describes the Elliot Wetland Project that was completed in May, 2014.

Iowa Source Water Agricultural Collaborative
The Iowa Source Water Agricultural Collaborative was initiated in April 2014 as a result of the interest of several agricultural groups and conservation agencies. The Iowa SWP program for Targeted Community Water Supplies received EPA grants to support conducting educational SWP workshops across the state from 2010 to 2014. The Collaborative is a culmination of Iowa Agriculture, Conservation, and Community Water Supply’s desire to connect in an effort to bring awareness for SWP as it pertains to the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy. Approximately 90% of Iowa’s municipal wells are located in agricultural areas within crop fields and may potentially be impacted by row crop production. The need for an Agricultural Collaborative to focus on SWP was deemed valuable.

(Click here for more on the collaborative's members, water concerns, strategies, and results)     

Rebecca Ohrtman is the SWP program coordinator. She coordinates the site investigations, gathers resource partners, provides plan development, and assists in locating in-kind assistance for project implementation.  

For more information, contact Rebecca Ohrtman at 515-971-1261 or by email at