IWC Debuts New Logo

The Iowa Water Center is pleased to unveil our new logo!

It’s been five years since the Iowa Water Center last redesigned the logo, and it’s amazing how things have changed in that time. New staff, new projects, and a reinvigorated commitment to enhanced water management across the state have better defined our focus as originally laid out in the federal Water Resources Research Act (WRRA) of 1964.

Through this legislation, we are tasked with conducting a statewide research program that supports four critical needs on a local level:

  1. improvements in water supply reliability;
  2. the exploration of new ideas that address water problems or expand understanding of water and water-related phenomena;
  3. the entry of new research scientists, engineers, and technicians into water resources fields; and
  4. the dissemination of research results to water managers and the public.

We are also called to “cooperate closely with other colleges and universities in the State that have demonstrated capabilities for research, information dissemination, and graduate training in order to develop a statewide program designed to resolve State and regional water and related land problems.”

We don’t take these directives lightly. Through our conducted research, robust online presence, and role as a connector for collegiate and credible water-related agency and organization work, we strive to foster efficient, effective advances in water management for the state of Iowa. Every project we take on has to pass this test, so it is only fitting that our new logo symbolizes what we so highly value.

The water droplet, of course, is a familiar emblem for our industry. However, our water droplet takes subtle cues from an ear of corn to tie into Iowa’s agricultural roots. The four colors of the droplet represent those four critical needs defined in the WRRA. Additionally, these sections cross over and into each other, symbolizing the connective nature of our work. The font is a nod to our administrative home at Iowa State University.


We look forward to our stakeholders becoming familiar with the new look as we also look to improve our website so that it better reflects our Center. We’d also like to give a special thank you to Zao525 for their expertise, attention to detail, and guidance in this process.


A Weekend of Algae

ISU PhD student Tania Leung holding a sediment core at East Lake Okoboji in Iowa.

Story submitted by Dr. Elizabeth Swanner, Assistant Professor in the Geological and Atmospheric Sciences at ISU and a 2016 recipient of an Iowa Water Center Research Grant.

Over September 9-13, our new ISU PhD student Tania Leung and I traveled to northwest Iowa to the Lakeside Laboratory. Our goals at Lakeside were twofold:

  1. to collect preliminary data on our Iowa Water Center funded project in order to plan our field campaign for summer 2017, and
  2. to participate in the Phycological Research Consortium (PRC).

Our research will use deep West Lake Okoboji and shallow East Lake Okoboji to evaluate the potential that iron is released out of lake sediments, stimulating the blooming of toxic cyanobacteria in Iowa’s lakes during the summers. These harmful algal blooms (HABs) continue to increase, which threaten the safety of Iowa’s surface water for drinking and recreation.

The Phycological Research Consortium is a professional and collaborative network that serves as a forum for an exchange of ideas and information in algae. We scheduled our fieldwork with the PRC meeting because Tania and I needed to learn more about traditional microscopic identification of different algal classes for our work – and that is exactly the expertise of phycologists.

During the weekend, we split our time between the lake and the lab. On the water, we collected surface water samples and water samples from depth to analyze for nutrients and iron. A major goal was also to compare the taxonomy and abundance of algae microscopically with a fluorescence instrument we will purchase for the project. The fluorescence instrument can potentially help us screen for algal blooms rapidly, based on the fluorescent properties of algal pigments. This instrument needs to be calibrated to the algal communities expected in our lakes (and this requires microscopic identification). We also pulled up sediment cores to look for iron in the pore waters using a special type of microelectrode.

Back in the lab, we will test whether this iron is released to overlying waters to stimulate HABs. We have a lot of data to process, but I can say we found algae and iron! We are looking forward to the results this project will produce, and to spending more time at Lakeside Laboratory.

When it comes to water…

From Melissa Miller, Iowa Water Center Associate Director

What a difference a week makes. Last Friday, my family and I made a lunch and relaxation stop in Elkader on our way to Wisconsin for a weekend getaway. My girls love water, so we walked over the Keystone Bridge for a good look.

may and hana on turkey

Hana, 3, and May, 5 pose near the Turkey River in Elkader on 8/19/16.

Just a week later, Elkader and other Northeast Iowa residents are dealing with severe flooding from torrential downpours earlier in the week that dumped as much as 8″ of rain in some areas, causing damage to homes, businesses, and even killing one person swept away in the flash floods. Some residents had to evacuate their homes and take shelter elsewhere (including fish!). The water that makes these communities peaceful, beautiful places to live and visit can also pose severe challenges.

turkey river flooding

Flooding of the Turkey River in downtown Elkader as taken by NOAA’s National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center’s Airborne Snow Survey airplanes.

This storm is a solemn reminder of the power of water and the importance of studying it. Our seed grant RFP will be released soon, and this year we are partnering with other Water Resources Research Institutes in the Mississippi and Ohio River Basins to share knowledge so that we’re advancing our understanding together. In addition, the Iowa Watershed Approach has already begun work in communities to help address flood and water quality risks and increase community resiliency to events like the ones this week. Related to flooding, up-to-date flood information is available through the Iowa Flood Information System (IFIS).

IWC’s overarching goal is to improve management of water resources. “Management” might not be the best term, because in many cases, water (and nature) does what it will. There’s a parallel between “managing” water and “managing” children – no matter what you want out of it, the true nature of the water (and the child) will always rise up.

family on turkey

One of many attempts at a “nice” family picture at the Keystone Bridge. Getting kids to look at the camera with serene smiles can be as difficult as telling a river or a rain cloud exactly where to run or when to empty.


From the IWC Director: Water Quality – Why Such a Challenge?

On July 26, IWC Director Rick Cruse presented to about 150 attendees at the Arkansas Water Resources Center’s Annual Conference. The theme of the conference was “Nutrients, Water Quality and Harmful Algal Blooms.” Dr. Cruse spoke during the opening general session in a presentation entitled “Water Quality – Why Such a Challenge?” The following is a summary of what he told our downstream friends in Arkansas.

Why is water quality such a challenge?  A few simple concepts help recognize why this challenge exists.

We know that water added to a pail filled water will be lost.

We know that complex systems are more difficult to understand and manage than simple ones.

We also know that activities favoring economics of an individual may not favor natural resources or the general population.

And finally, to be a champion one must be willing to identify a goal and be committed to meet that goal.

Transposing these concepts to agriculture is quite simple.  Adding nutrients to a landscape that has had repeated nutrient additions and does not have the capacity to hold additional nutrients will likely lose those nutrients as a full pail loses water added to it.  Managing nutrients in agricultural systems is incredibly complex; elements of this complex system range from policy influencing human management choices to highly variable weather systems.

Understanding these elements independently is difficult, understanding how they interact is incredibly challenging.  Management practices that favor maximum short term economic returns require short term management choices; managing natural resources such as water requires a long term vision.  Short term profit motives seldom support long term water quality goals.

Finally, if we want improved water quality, we must make water quality a committed goal and not just an add-on to a system that we know to be very leaky.

We’ve got news…

It’s been a little quiet around this old blog-that tends to happen in the aftermath of the Iowa Water Conference. A challenge we’ve always faced is limited staff – you’ll notice there are only two faces on our About Us page.

That’s about to change. Today, our posting for a program assistant went live on As public interest in Iowa’s water management has heated up, so has the role we’re able to play in shaping Iowa’s water future. The Iowa Watershed Approach grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and increasing expansion of the Daily Erosion Project have put us in a place where we not only need more staff, we have the support to do so.

So what will the program assistant do? Lots of important stuff. Does that sum it up? Okay, to be more specific, this person will:

  • administer our competitive grants program
  • help with planning education and outreach events (including the Iowa Water Conference)
  • keep track of the approximately 10 million details involved in managing IWC sponsored projects
  • spread the word about all the fantastic water research and activities going on

We’re looking for a know-it-all. A details person. A deadline embracer. A communicator.

The posting is currently open through June 5. If you or someone you know are interested in this position, please review the job posting and submit through the Iowa State system. Want to talk it through? Call or email. We’re ready.

Waxing poetic about working together (and NIWR)

In the water world, we talk a lot about working together. We all live in a watershed. The importance of partnerships. Work with your upstream neighbor to improve life downstream.

Sometimes, all it is, is talk. We say we want to work together, but it doesn’t happen, for whatever reason – maybe we can’t get together, we get busy with other things, we can’t agree on priorities. But the reason we talk about working together in water is because we do all live in a watershed. Working with your upstream neighbor DOES improve life downstream. Partnerships aren’t only important, they’re vital to success, and when we work together, impactful things happen.

Last week, 49 of the 54 Water Resources Research Institutes got together for the annual director’s meeting. The Virginia Water Resources Research Center planned the meeting this year (we had the honor last year) and for three days, we worked together.

A few droplets that represent the bigger “working together” stream:

-49 out of 54 WRRIs were in attendance. The meeting was in Washington, DC. The Virgin Islands made it. Alaska made it. Even Guam made it. (Actually, Guam director Shahram Khosrowpanah is a valued member of the NIWR board.) Distance didn’t preclude the Institutes from getting together.

-We heard from federal representatives that told us water resources research is headed toward the funding of collaborative, interdisciplinary research – multifaceted projects that address water resources not just from a technical perspective but also from a human dimension perspective. Water resources management IS the proverbial Big Picture. Research will treat it as such.

-Over a period of 24 hours, the Iowa, Illinois, and Tennessee Institutes went from chatting  over a few sandwiches about potentially working on a regional effort to planning, identifying, and putting into action a plan to work with USGS Water Science Centers in our state and region to focus on making a difference in the Mississippi River basin. (More on that as it develops.) All three states have different priorities and run their Institutes a little differently, but we all have one goal.

This meeting was, and always is, a short period of time in which we focus on what it means to work together. Iowans, you have an opportunity to do the same thing next month at the Iowa Water Conference. Use the conference to not only learn about the latest in water management in Iowa, but to find people and organizations with whom you can work together. Work with your upstream neighbor; you WILL improve downstream. Partnerships ARE important. And for goodness sake, we all live in a watershed!




Registration open for 2016 Iowa Water Conference

It’s here! It’s perhaps one of the best days of the year over here at the Iowa Water Center! Registration has opened for the 2016 Iowa Water Conference. There is an overwhelming amount of information on the conference website, so scurry over there and take your time checking everything out. Some of the highlights:

  • $150 regular/$75 student registration – ends March 11. Add $25 for late registration.
  • $50 optional workshop – “The Psychology of Sustainable Behavior: A skill building workshop to support voluntary behavior change”
  • $500 commercial exhibits/$50 nonprofit exhibits – commercial exhibits include one registration
  • Poster registration is online again this year (there’s a big red button on the bottom to start registration)

Have any questions about this year’s conference? Call Melissa Miller at 515-294-7467 or send an email to Can’t wait to see you in March!

P.S. If you see anyone from any of the following organizations, give them a pat on the back for their hard work in helping plan this year’s conference: Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Iowa Flood Center, Iowa Floodplain and Stormwater Management Association, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Iowa Storm Water Education Program, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Luther College, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Trees Forever and the U.S. Geological Survey — Iowa Water Science Center.