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Iowa's Recreational Waters: Outdoor Fun with Risks

Iowa's rivers, lakes, and beaches are a source of fun for everyone and deliver millions of tourism dollars to communities around the state. Our recreational lakes and beaches are threatened by increasing bacterial pollution and nutrient loading, which contributes to harmful algal blooms (HABs) that can create dangerous toxins. 

Bacteria and algae can lead to swim advisories, and sometimes drinking water advisories, that make it impossible to enjoy our beaches and threaten tourism dollars for many communities.  Learn more about the benefits, impacts, and concerns below.

Iowa Water Watch aims to increase awareness of Iowa’s recreational water quality and make monitoring data more accessible and easy to understand. We do this by providing science-backed information, hosting education and advocacy events, and sharing news and updates. Iowa Water Watch is published as a monthly e-newsletter during the non-recreation season. During the summer recreation season, we transition to Weekly Water Watch every Friday.

Beach Monitoring Weekly Water Watch

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers monitor public beaches during the summer recreation season, typically from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Learn more about what they look for and why they conduct this monitoring.


From Memorial Day to Labor Day, IEC publishes updated weekly beach advisories to increase awareness of potential public health risk and help Iowans make travel decisions. Sign up for our e-newsletter to receive beach advisories in your inbox!

Visit Iowa Lakes Economic impacts of Iowa's Lakes

Iowa lakes provide recreation and tourism opportunities for millions of Iowa families and visitors year after year. Check out some examples of fun things to do at Iowa lakes and plan your next visit!

Iowa's beaches aren't just fun, they're a significant source of revenue and job creation for many Iowa communities. Learn more about the economic impacts of Iowa lakes locally and statewide.

Harmful Algae Blooms E.Coli Bacteria

Harmful algal blooms (HABs) are overgrowths of blue-green algae in water. HABs can produce dangerous toxins such as microcystin that present significant threats to our health, our environment, and our economy. 

 Some strains of E. coli can cause adverse human health effects, but high levels of the bacteria can indicate the presence of other harmful pathogens or disease-causing microorganisms in the water due to fecal contamination.  


IEC's Water Watch efforts are made possible through your generous support. Please consider a donation to help us continue this important work. Thank you!