Monona Demonstrates its Commitment to Water Quality

Story submitted by Eric Palas, Project Coordinator for Clayton County SWCD 
Story originally appeared on the Iowa Water Center website

 Monona Fire Department’s demonstration of the infiltration characteristics of the permeable parking lot. Photo contributed by Eric Palas.

Monona Fire Department’s demonstration of the infiltration characteristics of the permeable parking lot. Photo contributed by Eric Palas.

The City of Monona is in the rolling hills of Clayton County in Northeast Iowa. The picturesque town of 1,500 is known as the “Garden City of Iowa.” It is a local hub for outdoor enthusiasts just a few miles from the Mississippi River. Monona serves as an example of a community that recognizes its connection to its water resources, and is taking steps to protect and improve them. In 2014, the city created a permeable parking lot near their family aquatic center. The permeable lot soaks up surface water that once carried sediment and other pollutants downstream to Silver Creek. This summer, the city continued its efforts by installing a permeable roadway adjacent to the parking lot. 

In 2012, Monona joined with twenty-two cities, five counties, and seven soil and water conservation districts to form the Turkey River Watershed Management Authority (WMA). WMA members agreed to work together to assess and reduce flood risks, improve water quality, and develop a plan to address these problems. The process allowed the city council and staff to better understand the importance and benefits of controlling storm water runoff. Monona’s leadership realized that downstream flooding could be reduced and water quality could be improved by including storm water control practices when city infrastructure was designed or replaced.  

The permeable parking lot carried a price tag of about $260,000. The project would not have been possible without the Water Resource Restoration (Sponsored Projects) Program. The Sponsored Project program allowed Monona to defer a portion of the interest on its sewer project loan, and use those funds for watershed protection practices. The program is a joint effort of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the Iowa Finance Authority, and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. The permeable roadway project was also supported by the Sponsored Projects program. 

 Permeable roadway completed this fall. Photo contributed by Eric Palas.

Permeable roadway completed this fall. Photo contributed by Eric Palas.

While Monona was able to obtain funding to make these projects possible, the city understands the need to protect Iowa’s water resources. The Monona City Council recently adopted a new Storm Water Management ordinance. The ordinance requires property owners and developers to implement storm water management plans for all new commercial and residential development. In 2012, the city completed $2.6M of Phase I improvements to its wastewater treatment facility and is currently working on $1.8M of Phase II improvements to the sanitary sewer drainage collection system. Both construction phases will improve and protect water quality by more effectively processing wastewater. All of these efforts demonstrate Monona’s commitment to protect the watersheds that it is a part of.