The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us

University of Iowa News Release

Aug. 3, 2004

Three-Year UI Water Quality Study Concludes With Aug. 4 Meeting

A University of Iowa research group studying water quality protection in agricultural watersheds will hold its third and final steering committee meeting from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 4, at the Iowa Memorial Union on the University of Iowa campus.

The meeting is the result of a competitive three-year, $394,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2001 to study water quality in the Iowa River and the Des Moines River watersheds and review federal laws, such as the Safe Drinking Water Act. The goal is to produce a set of recommendations that will help legislators and others interpret or rewrite existing legislation and regulations to take into account differences within and between watersheds.

Raj Rajagopal, professor of geography in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and project principal investigator, says that it is expensive and ineffective for all communities to test for the same set of contaminants, regardless of seasonal, geographic and other differences. He says that water quality testing procedures should be tailored to suit particular watersheds, rather than exist as an expensive "one size sits all" test. He notes that periodic Safe Drinking Water Act tests check for about 92 different constituents in water when monthly or weekly tests for only five or less suspected constituents, depending upon the history of the particular area, would be more accurate and cost-effective.

To help convince legislators and professionals that change is desirable, Rajagopal and his group used geographic information systems (GIS) to locate Iowa water quality sites and gathered data on suspected contaminants in an electronic map. The map and findings of the three-year study will be compiled on a compact disc and distributed to meeting attendees, interested legislators, policy makers, educators and other interested parties.

Selected meeting participants and their presentation topics include:

--Mary Skopec, Iowa Geological Survey Bureau/Iowa Dept. of Natural Resources, "Water Quality in Iowa: Past, Present, and Future"

--John North, director, Cedar Rapids Water Plant, "Cedar River Watershed Nitrate Study"

--Chris Jones, laboratory director, Des Moines Water Works, "Using off-river storage for nitrate reduction"

Rajagopal's colleagues in the study included David Bennett, associate professor of geography; Ed Brands, post-doctoral researcher and project manager; and David Osterberg, associate professor of occupational and environmental health and geography. The three-year steering committee included members of the Iowa House of Representatives, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the Farmer's Union, the Iowa Environmental Council, the University Hygienic Laboratory, and the UI Center for Health Effects of Environmental Contamination.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Gary Galluzzo, 319-384-0009,