Watershed Success: A Look at Dry Run Creek

posted on Monday, February 24, 2020

As an advocate for the watershed approach in protecting Iowa's waterways, IEC partnered with Dry Run Creek Watershed staff in 2019 to share the results of their efforts to improve their waterway. IEC produced a handout on the Dry Run Creek project, outlining the watershed goals, the practices implemented, and the impressive outcomes of their work.

Dry Run Creek: Watershed Success

Guest blog post submitted by Josh Balk, watershed coordinator for Dry Run Creek.

Dry Run Creek Winter

As the watershed coordinator for Dry Run Creek in Black Hawk County, the Natural Resource Conservation Service’s motto of “helping people, help the land” comes to mind just about every day. There are wonderful folks all over our state, and especially here in the Dry Run Creek watershed, who want to see their land preserved and communities improved for generations to come. 

But even with that common vision, developing and achieving site-specific conservation goals for a project is never a simple, one-size-fits-all model. It is most effective when a community comes together and, with the help of technical and financial resources, develops a plan with manageable, incremental steps.

Dry Run Creek Watershed’s partners at the state and local level are serving our farmers, residents, businesses, institutions, and communities by encouraging sustainability and conservation throughout the Cedar Valley. With all of these resources coming together to serve our local landowners, we have begun to see positive and significant measurable improvement in the Dry Run Creek Watershed. 

Dry Run Creek statistics

Statistics showing the success of the watershed approach for Dry Run Creek

One of the most noticeable conservation practices that is also a wonderful example of community partnerships is the recently constructed stormwater wetland on the south edge of the University of Northern Iowa campus. When the university began experiencing some water management and flooding issues on a portion of their land, they reached out to the Soil and Water Conservation District’s office to see what options were available. The university also pulled together the Department of Natural Resources, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, and the Nature Conservancy, and the partners came together to make this large project a reality. 

UNI Stormwater Wetland, Dry Run Creek

Located at the corner of University Avenue and Hudson Road, what was once idle land is now a complex wetland system draining 73 acres of UNI’s campus, filtering more than 21 million gallons of stormwater each year to remove many pollutants before they reach the adjacent impaired branch of Dry Run Creek. It also provides valuable habitat for both our local and migrating birds and insect pollinator species. This stormwater wetland is a testament to the power of conservation and community.

Partnerships like this have spurred a strong sense of conservation in members of the community from all kinds of backgrounds. Farmers are taking measures to better protect their soil, homeowners are managing runoff from their homes and driveways, elected officials are looking at protective rules and regulations as well as encouraging adoption of conservation, educators and students are working to raise awareness for water quality, contractors and developers are reducing the imprint of their new development, and businesses are implementing long-term sustainability.

Dry Run Creek Volunteer StatsOur success is not just installing conservation practices alone, but also the increasing amount of activism and volunteerism. We are seeing record attendance at our educational workshops as well as increased numbers of volunteers at water monitoring events, stream clean-ups, and community rain garden installations. Involving the entire community is how targeted watershed efforts succeed.

With continued investment and involvement, we are confident we will get Dry Run Creek removed from the state’s Impaired Waters List. Highlighting our watershed-level progress helps to raise awareness across our state and encourages more people to get involved in clean water efforts. When you learn that your neighbor down the road is implementing conservation, it can help take the scare out of trying something new. It pulls a community together when we aren’t just thinking about our own small parcel of land, but about the impacts our decisions have downstream today, tomorrow, and beyond.

Dry Run Creek

Here in Dry Run Creek, we are truly grateful for all of the partners in conservation, including the Iowa Environmental Council, in helping to tell our story. We all live in a watershed, but it takes everyone coming together to make a sustainable and livable community. We look forward to our accomplishments yet to come.

For more information, view the handout, visit blackhawkswcd.org/dry-run-creek or contact:

Josh Balk, Black Hawk Soil and Water Conservation District
2950 Southland Drive, Suite 2
Waterloo, IA 50701

Dry Run Creek Watershed Handout

  1. clean water
  2. conservation
  3. flooding
  4. land stewardship
  5. water quality