Iowa State Faculty and Extension Specialists Present Watershed Program

AMES, Iowa---A group of about 40 people gathered at Big City Burgers and Greens in downtown Des Moines on April 3 to learn about headwater streams, watersheds and individual, neighborhood or larger scale actions to protect and enhance stream conditions. Iowa State University Natural Resource Ecology and Management (NREM) specialists and faculty used a panel discussion to talk about physical, chemical and biological conditions of urban streams and the implications of daily actions by individuals with respect to stream health and sustainability.

“There are several questions central to understanding sustainability of watersheds, especially in the urban environment,” said Allen Pattillo, ISU Fisheries Extension specialist. “Questions that were covered during our discussion included: What is a watershed? How do activities in a watershed affect streams, and why should I care? How can I help create sustainable watersheds with good water quality?”

The “SOS: Sustaining Our Streams” panel consisted of Iowa State faculty members: Jan Thompson, urban forestry; Tim Stewart, aquatic ecology; Rebecca Christoffel, wildlife extension; and Allen Pattillo, fisheries extension. “We honed in on watersheds in Des Moines, while urging participants to keep the big picture in mind and how Iowa’s waterways ultimately drain into the Gulf of Mexico through the Mississippi River, affecting others downstream,” he said.

Those present took part in an interactive exercise assessing stream conditions of several pictured streams, and worked in groups to identify potentially harmful influences on stream conditions of specific watersheds in Des Moines. They were asked to suggest practices that might be used to reduce or mitigate harm to their waterways. Solutions such as the installation of pervious surfaces in parking lots, bio-swales downslope from a subdivision, and the installation of rain gardens were mentioned. Additional tips on sustainable stream quality practices were made available.

The program was a Science Center of Iowa Café Scientifique segment, recorded by Iowa Public Television and now available at