Adding up the 2020 Beach Season

posted by Alicia Vasto on Friday, September 11, 2020

As summer draws to a close, we would like to thank you for following along with Weekly Water Watch and supporting IEC through our biggest fundraiser of the year - Pro H2O. More than 100 clean water supporters tuned into our virtual program to celebrate IEC's 25th anniversary and the Iowans who are making a difference for clean water. Thanks to our supporters, we can continue our clean water work heading into next year. And that work is more necessary than ever. 

Even with weeks full of unbelievable news, Iowa's waters still saw toxic algae blooms, E. coli contamination, drought, and high beach visitation across the state during the summer of 2020. Iowa DNR issued 12 beach advisories for microcystin and 112 advisories for E. coli. Union Grove Beach experienced the most microcystin advisories this summer with five.

Microcystin advisories in Iowa 2006-2020

For the fifth year in a row, Backbone Beach had the most advisories for E. coli – it was under advisory for 14 of the 16 weeks of monitoring. As of the 2018 Impaired Waters List, Iowa DNR still doesn’t know the source of the E. coli contamination at Backbone

E. coli advisories in Iowa 2014-2020These issues aren’t going away and that’s why we continue to fight for clean, safe water for Iowans. 

The severe drought that impacted much of the state this summer makes it more challenging to draw conclusions about this year’s advisory numbers. Despite that, the pattern that we see year after year remains – contaminated beaches that put swimmers’ health at risk. 

Saylorville Lake, Polk County algae 2020

Algae bloom at Oak Grove Beach at Saylorville Lake, 2020. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

While COVID-19 impacted Iowans’ plans this summer, it didn’t keep us from our parks and beaches. Iowa state and county parks saw tremendous park, trail, and beach visitation. Our outdoor spaces are incredibly important for our health and quality of life, and this summer demonstrated how much Iowans value them.  

That’s why we appreciate your support so much, especially as the season changes and we head into preparation for the 2021 legislative session. Your voices will be crucial to make a positive impact on these issues at the Capitol next year. Sign up for our Legislative News Bulletin to stay connected on water-related policy during session, and continue the conversation with us when Weekly Water Watch returns next summer.  

We hope you join us in using your voice to call for clean water. And we hope you'll join us as a supporter as well - make a donation online or with your phone. Text PROH2O to 44-321 to make a donation of any size, or bid on items in our virtual auction through Sunday at Thank you again for your support!  

  1. beach advisories
  2. clean water
  3. harmful algal blooms
  4. microcystin
  5. public beaches
  6. public health
  7. toxic algae
  8. water quality
  9. water recreation

About The Author

Alicia joined the Council in 2019. She grew up in Adel, Iowa. She previously worked as the director of the Iowa Conservation Education Coalition, where she supported environmental educators and advanced environmental literacy. Alicia holds a Master of Environmental Management degree from Duke Uni ... read more