Building Watershed Communities

Lois Wright Morton, Associate professor, Sociology


Agency personnel and technical water specialists work with individual landowners on land use practices that reduce erosion and excessive nutrient losses to local creeks and water bodies through a variety of state and federal water programs.
However, these specialists often do not have skills or understanding of how collective landowner efforts within a watershed can effectively address water quality concerns and provide responses to sustaining farm and land use changes.   


Develop local landowners’ capacities to work together to solve and prevent water quality problems within their watershed.


In 2003, an Iowa State University (ISU) Extension manual was funded by Region 7 Environmental Protection Agency for developing community leadership in building watershed communities. Renewing Local Watersheds: Community Leaders’ Guide to Building Watershed Communities was completed and distributed to all Iowa Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) county offices. Over the last two years Dr. Morton has worked with a number of Iowa water specialists in IDALS and USDA NRCS, as well as extension educators, to implement many of the practices and strategies offered in the manual.


One result of the manual and one-on-one training with a SWCD water specialist assigned to a 319 grant is the development of a group in Camp Creek
Watershed. Camp Creek is an impaired 303d water body (impairment is fish habitat/aquatic habitat alteration). The water specialist says, “…I was studying the watershed…I was reading your book, trying to understand what the heck it all meant and should I trust it, should I go with it.” He decided to trust the manual and held a community meeting in December 2004; 35 farmers and landowners attended. As a result an advisory group of 5 farmers volunteered to work together to develop strategies to get themselves off the impaired water body list. The group has actively met throughout 2005 and is working at encouraging landowners along the creek to adopt a variety of recommended practices.


150 -- Environmental Stewardship

Page last updated: July 9, 2006
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