Learn about Iowa's Ag Drainage Well Closure Project during Virtual Field Day May 2

Learn about Iowa's agricultural drainage wells and the effort to close them

April 23, 2024, 11:25 am | Elizabeth Ripley

AMES, Iowa – Iowans can learn more about the ongoing effort to close drainage wells during a May 2 virtual field day webinar with Iowa Learning Farms.

The webinar is slated for 1 p.m. Central time and is being held during Soil and Water Conservation Week, April 28 through May 5. Iowa Learning Farms is a conservation program with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

Ten drainage wells remain in Iowa and the state’s Ag Drainage Well Closure Project is aggressively working toward closing these this year.

Rick Pederson, Mike Bouland and Vince Sitzmann pictured during the closure of seven agricultural drainage wells in Humbdoldt County on April 8, 2024.To date, the state ag department has worked with landowners to close and adapt drainage for 195 of the wells. This virtual field day will explore the process of drainage well closure, benefits to water quality and improved ease of farming with the use of innovative, alternative drainage systems.

“Ag drainage wells have been a focus area in Iowa for many decades,” said Mike Naig, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture. “I want to commend the sustained effort to get them properly closed over the last quarter century by many landowners, partners and conservation professionals, including the team at the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. With the last 10 ag drainage wells set to be closed this year, we are on the cusp of finally closing this chapter of Iowa’s history and marking another win in improving Iowa’s water quality.”

The live discussion will feature IDALS Mines and Minerals Bureau Chief Vince Sitzmann, and Mike Bourland, senior environmental engineer; Mike Anderson, senior engineer for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Water Allocation and Use Program; and Rick Pedersen, Humboldt County supervisor.

Agricultural drainage wells were developed in the early to mid 1900s to discharge cropland tile drainage water to underground aquifers. The ADW Closure Assistance Program fund was established in 1997 to protect drinking water aquifers by cost-sharing with landowners to close agricultural drainage wells and develop alternative drainage outlets to surface streams or install alternative management practices.

The challenge in Humboldt County, according to Bourland, is that there is no practical way for a gravity outlet.

“The thing that is unique about this project in Humboldt County, is that it is at a very low elevation and there’s no practical way to have a gravity outlet. So we have been working with these 12 landowners to close seven of the remaining 10 agricultural drainage wells and create a wetland mitigation bank,” noted Bourland. “One of IDALS primary goals is to improve water quality in Iowa and through this project we are not only protecting water quality through the closure of these wells, but also through the creation of a wetland.”

Virtual field day access

To participate in the live virtual field day at 1 p.m Central time on May 2,click this URL https://iastate.zoom.us/j/98608335082  or visit https://www.iowalearningfarms.org/events-1. Or, join from a dial-in phone line by dialing 309-205-3325 or 312-626-6799. The meeting ID is: 986 0833 5082 

The event will be recorded and archived on the learning farms website so that it can be watched at any time.

Participants may be eligible for a Certified Crop Adviser board-approved continuing education unit. Information about how to apply to receive the CEU (if approved) will be provided at the end of the event.

The virtual field day is offered in partnership with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Iowa Nutrient Research Center and Conservation Learning Group.

Shareable photo: Rick Pederson, Mike Bouland and Vince Sitzmann during the closure of seven agricultural drainage wells in Humbdoldt County on April 8, 2024.

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