A record-breaking wrap: 2023 beach monitoring statistics

posted on Friday, September 8, 2023 in Water and Land News

Last week was the final week of summer beach monitoring, unofficially ending the summer recreational season. Thank you for following along with us for the past 15 weeks of Weekly Water Watch. Before we turn our focus fully toward fall, let’s look back at what was a record-breaking year of Iowa beach advisories. 

The drought continued across the state in 2023, likely contributing to more microcystin advisories than average. In the 15 week monitoring period for 39 public beaches, Iowa DNR issued 21 beach advisories for microcystin and 111 for E. coli. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Rock Island District issued 19 advisories for E. coli on the six beaches it monitors on Iowa reservoirs (Saylorville, Red Rock, and Coralville).

Lower Pine Lake Beach, June 2023Lower Pine Lake Beach had the most advisories for E. coli – one for every week of the 15 weeks of the summer monitoring period. Since IEC began tracking E. coli advisories in 2014, we’ve never seen a beach under advisory for the entire summer. Along the same line, Brushy Creek had the worst harmful algae bloom we’ve seen since 2006; it was under advisory for microcystin for 10 weeks in a row. Lake Darling wasn’t far behind that total, with 8 advisories for microcystin this summer.  

If these statistics concern you, you can help! Share your stories and pictures with IEC, submit action alerts or contact your legislator or local officials to express your concerns, or write a letter to the editor or op-ed for your local paper. IEC can help get your piece published. Check out our LTE and Op-Ed toolkit, or contact IEC Communications Director Angelisa Belden for assistance. 

As we enter the fall months, we’ll return to our monthly Iowa Water Watch newsletter where we will continue to bring you the latest water news and events.  

Notable statistics from summer 2023 

  • Prior to this year, Brushy Creek only had two microcystin advisories in the last 17 years – one in 2013 and one in 2016. 
  • North Twin Lake East Beach experienced its first E. coli advisory since IEC began tracking advisories in 2014.  
  • Green Valley Lake, Honey Creek Resort Beach, and Lake Anita are now the only state public beaches monitored by the Iowa DNR that have never had an E. coli advisory. 
  • With 16 advisories, Lake Darling and Lower Pine Lake had the most combined advisories in 2023. Lake Darling had 8 E. coli advisories and 8 microcystin advisories. Lower Pine Lake had 15 E. coli advisories and 1 microcystin advisory. 
  • The state spent $12 million to restore Lake Darling from 2010-2014. Since it reopened in 2014, the lake has had 61 advisories for E. coli and 26 advisories for microcystin.  
  • Of the lakes monitored by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Lake Red Rock had the most beach advisories. Whitebreast and North Overlook Beaches had 8 and 6 E. coli advisories, respectively. 
  • Since 2014, Backbone has experienced the most E. coli advisories of all monitored beaches at 127. 
  • 22 state park beaches recorded swim advisories this summer. 15 state park beaches did not record an advisory. 

View our historical swimming advisory data at Iowa beaches.

  1. beach advisories
  2. clean water
  3. dnr
  4. e. coli
  5. environmental justice
  6. microcystin
  7. public beaches
  8. toxic algae
  9. water quality
  10. water safety