2003- January 2004 issue: (download
in pdf format)
Low-interest loans help replace failed
or inadequate septic systems
Protect surface water quality
Consider problems before feeding
County environmental health departments
Maximum pond usefulness
loans help replace failed or inadequate septic systems
By Linda Nelson, Dallas County Extension Education Director
One topic that concerns acreage owners is the septic
system. Its repair
and replacement can be costly, and county regulations
Currently, there are low interest loans available
in Iowa to replace failed
or inadequate systems. To qualify, these systems must
be in existing
homes in unincorporated areas not served by a public
The On-Site Wastewater Assistance Program (OSWAP)
in state funds and $1.5 million from the Environmental
Protection Agency to make loans up to $10,000 at 3 percent interest. Maximum
time is 10 years. For more information, talk to your
county sanitarian or
environmental health officer, who can explain county
direct you to a cooperating bank. For more information,
Hopkins, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, (515)
(e-mail), or visit this Web site,
For low-income rural residents, the United States
Agriculture – Rural Development is making loans
at 1 percent interest or
less. Again, call your county sanitarian or environmental
health officer for
information. You can also call Rural Development at
Tell them your county name and that you want information
504 Program. You can also look at this Web site,
For more information on septic systems, visit your
office and ask for EDC-266, Assessing Your Household
Management. On the Web, check out A
Homeowner’s Guide to
Septic Systems (pdf).
By Kapil Arora, ISU Extension Agricultural Engineering
We all want our lakes, streams, and ponds to be safe
for recreational use and as a source of drinking water.
Our surface water resources exist in the
watershed we live on. Falling rain or melting snow that
doesn’t soak into the soil runs off the land.
Water that runs off the acreage travels through ditches
and streams, ending up in ponds and lakes. Rainfall
and snow melt are natural, but runoff can be easily
contaminated by existing pollutants as it moves across
the landscape. What can we do to prevent that? Can we
identify the pollutants and find simple solutions to
reduce their effect?
The most common pollution occurs through erosion.
Lack of proper conservation practices results in erosion,
which adds sediment to runoff. Sediment is listed as
the most common pollutant in the 2002 List of Impaired
Waters published by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
Simple landscaping techniques such as swales along with
trees, shrubs, and vegetative buffers can help reduce
runoff as well as erosion.
As runoff moves across the acreage, it can become
contaminated if it comes in contact with excess fertilizer,
pesticide, or insecticide. Always apply chemicals as
directed. Never throw away excess or unused chemicals
by pouring them on the ground or spraying them indiscriminately.
Another impairment of surface water quality occurs
from improperly maintained septic systems. Faulty septic
systems pollute surface water with both nutrients and
pathogens. Inspect your septic system annually and pump
out the septic tanks on a regular interval. Decreased
water usage in your house can help prevent your septic system
from overloading and contaminating surface water.
Finally, very small amounts of hazardous waste also
can impair surface water quality. Dispose of hazardous
wastes such as lubricants and paints at a hazardous
waste collection center. Recycle used oil and antifreeze
by taking them to service stations and/or recycling
For more detailed information, contact your
local county Extension office. To learn more about
pollution of surface water resources, visit the Environmental
Protection Agency’s Web site.
problems before feeding wildlife
By Steve Lekwa, Story County Conservation Director
wildlife is a popular pastime for many people, and doing
so can bring wild creatures within easy viewing distance
from homes. Most Iowa wildlife seldom needs human assistance
to find enough food, though.
Only the harshest winter conditions deprive
birds and animals of their
usual food sources. Some wildlife feeding can create
unexpected problems. Feeding dogs and cats outdoors,
especially if food is left out, may attract raccoons,
opossums, and even a few skunks. Garbage stored in open
or easily opened containers will do the same. Skunks
are more common than most people realize, and they remain
the primary reservoir for rabies in Iowa. Raccoons,
while cute, appealing, and intelligent, can destroy
buildings, yards, and gardens. They also carry serious
diseases such as canine distemper and potentially dangerous
parasites such as raccoon roundworm.
Game species such as deer, pheasants,
geese, and turkeys are able to fend for themselves year
round. Waste grain tends to provide more food than they
need in fall and winter, and growing crops provide a
wonderful salad bar in spring and summer.
habitat is far more important to their survival than
feeding. Feeding in areas where you or others hunt can
lead to an expensive law violation called hunting over
bait. Deer can destroy landscapes and gardens if they
are encouraged to stay too close.
Feed for birds or animals needs to be
close to where they can hide if hawks, owls, or neighborhood
cats show up. Wild predators have to eat, and an occasional
winter song bird loss to a sharp shinned hawk or wintering
kestrel actually can make your feeder area more interesting
It’s not a good idea to feed wildlife
in one spot for a long time unless you’re willing
to do some thorough cleaning. Disease organisms and
poisonous molds can build up in damp waste food and
in the soil under feeders where bird droppings fall.
Raking away old food and periodically
cleaning the feeders with a 10 percent bleach solution
will help prevent the spread of disease. Make sure any
supplemental water is kept clean and is replaced often.
By Joy Rouse, Warren County Extension Education Director
There are times when you need work done on your acreage,
but buying the necessary equipment does not make sense
economically. It’s helpful to know approximately
what custom work would cost before you make a
contact. ISU Extension has two custom rate resources
available, the Iowa Farm Custom Rate Survey and the
Natural Resources Custom Rate Survey.
The Iowa Farm Custom Rate Survey (FM 1698) provides
expected rates for custom work, including fuel and labor.
The main areas covered in this survey are tillage and
application, grain and forage harvesting, machine rental
(operator, tractor, and fuel not included), and miscellaneous
services. This survey is updated each April.
Available for the first time this year, the Natural
Resources Custom Rate Survey (FM 1873) summarizes the
survey results of contractors who provide services related
to natural resource conservation. Operations include
tillage and planting of native grasses, trees, and wildlife
weed control; tree and brush cutting; and dirt removal.
When hiring a custom operator, make sure to discuss
details of the specific job before entering into an
agreement. Conditions such as job size, terrain, and
location vary, which accounts for some of the range
in the rates charged. Some contractors set a minimum
charge per job to cover transportation
and setup costs.
Both surveys are available from your
county Extension office, or you can download them
Look for the noted publication numbers.
By Rich Wrage, Boone County Extension Education Director
The face of rural Iowa is changing. You
have probably heard others say this, but is it really
true? To know, we must compare reliable statistics from
today with those from some point in history. With the
introduction of Web-based census pages, this information
is much easier to find.
Iowa State University’s Sociology
Department maintains a great census data page called
Social and Economic Trade Analysis (SETA). SETA collects,
analyzes, interprets, and disseminates information on
social, economic, and demographic trends in support
of community and regional analysis. Basic population
data, as well as more in-depth information, is available
at the site.
For instance, 51 percent of the housing
in Iowa was more than 40 years old in 2000. In 1980,
it was 44 percent and, in 1940, it was 37 percent.
What about economics? The average worker
in Iowa earned $27,806 per job in 2000. This ranged
from $17,153 in Decatur County to $34,530 in
What about health care? Iowa averages
6.87 primary care physicians per 10,000 people. This
ranges from 1.24 in Adair County to 14.11 in Johnson
County. All of this data and more is available at www.seta.iastate.edu.
Iowa State University also has some publications that
provide a snapshot of a county’s demographics.
For each county in Iowa, there is Retail Trade Data
for Decision Makers, Child and Family Data for Decision
Makers, and Ag Data for Decisions Makers. They are available
Extension office or at www.extension.iastate.edu/pubs/D4D.html.
Other census-related Web sites include www.vitalrec.com/ia.html
environmental health departments
By Mary Ann deVries, Polk County Extension Horticulturist
County health departments are a source
of valuable information for acreage owners. While each
county may operate differently, there are certain services
that are common to each.
County health departments typically are
divided into two areas: public health and environmental
health. If you need information about things such as
West Nile Virus or home nursing visits, then you’ll
want to talk with the public health section of your
If your question has to do with environmental
engineering or sanitation, then the environmental health
section is what you’re looking for. It’s
here that you’ll find your local environmental
health officer or county sanitarian.
Assistance with private water wells and
septic wastewater treatment systems is available from
all 99 environmental health offices.This is of special
value if you’re buying or selling an acreage or
building a home in the country. Testing of well water
for drinking is another important service provided by
most county health departments. If you have an abandoned
well on your property, your local health department
may connect you with funding for plugging that well.
County representatives also can help if you suspect
someone of illegal dumping, illegal burning, improper
dead animal disposal, burning solid waste, and illegal
discharge of sewage.
Be sure to call your county environmental
health department to find out what services are available
in your county.
By Shawn Shouse, ISU Extension Agricultural Engineering
Whether it’s for runoff control,
recreation, livestock water, fire protection, or just
appearance, a pond can add value and beauty to an acreage.
But for maximum usefulness and life, a pond requires
For fishing and general recreation, a
pond surface area of ½ to 2 acres is desirable.
In Iowa, unless the pond is fed by a spring, each acre
of pond surface requires about 20 acres of land draining
into it from above.
Pond depth in Iowa should be at least
8 feet. Shallower pools are difficult to manage and
do not provide quality water for livestock or suitable
habitat for fish survival.
The quality of water draining from a
watershed depends on the way the land is used. Permanent
vegetation such as grass and/or trees is best. Land
in crop production requires careful management to prevent
eroded soil from filling the pond. If necessary, sediment
control basins can be installed above the pond. Spillway
pipes that draw water from the bottom of the pond and
not the top can help reduce sediment build up in the
pond. form a seal or the pond will leak. A soil survey
report will help you
determine if your soils are suitable for pond construction.
You can get a copy of your county soil survey from your
Natural Resources Conservation Service office.
In addition to quality earth moving and
compaction, the pond must be
equipped with an outlet tube (sometimes called a trickle
tube or a spillway pipe) and a properly designed emergency
spillway to handle rainfall events too big for the outlet
Careful shaping of the sides and selective
clearing of vegetation will add beauty to the pond.
Leaving some brush in the bottom of the pond can create
beneficial fish habitat. Creating irregular bank shapes
and leaving some trees near the shore will add character
to the pond and help create the beauty of reflected
tree lines on the surface.
Consider fencing the pond to prevent unsupervised
use by children. Swimming areas should be clearly marked
and safety equipment stored nearby. Refer to the article
on pond safety in the June 2000 issue of Acreage Living.
Technical assistance for pond design
and financial assistance in some circumstances is available
from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Depending
on the size of the pond, permits for construction or
water storage may be required from the Iowa Department
of Natural Resources.
You can find additional resources on pond design and
maintenance at www.extension.iastate.edu/Publications/PM1352B.pdf
local county Extension office for the bulletin series
on managing Iowa fisheries, Pm-1352.