Summary of the major water-quality findings from the Eastern Iowa Basins study unit of the National Water-Quality Assessment Program

Iowa Groundwater Quarterly



An integrated assessment of the water quality in streams and aquifers in the Wapsipinicon, Iowa, Cedar, and Skunk River basins was conducted in 1996 through 1998 as part of the Eastern Iowa Basins (EIWA) study unit of the U.S. Geological Survey's National Water-Quality Assessment Program (NAWQA). The EIWA study unit is one of 59 study units across the Nation designed to assess the status and trends in the quality of the Nation's ground- and surface-water resources and to link the status and trends with an understanding of the natural and human factors that affect the quality of water. Over 90 percent of the land in the EIWA study unit is used for agricultural purposes, while forested areas account for only 4 percent and urban areas about 2 percent of the land.

Surface-water samples were collected monthly and during selected storm events from six sites in medium-sized basins (125 to about 400 mi2) and five sites in large river basins (2,300 to 12,500 mi2). The medium-sized basins were selected to be representative of various physical features, hydrogeology, and agricultural landuse (row crops and concentrated animal feeding operations) that may affect water quality. The large river sites were selected to determine the integrated effects of combinations of landuse and hydrogeology on river-water quality.

Ground-water samples were collected primarily from the alluvial aquifers because of the aquifers' direct hydraulic connection with rivers and streams and because alluvial aquifers are one of the most important sources for domestic, municipal, and industrial water supplies in the study area. Monitoring wells were installed in agricultural and urban areas of the alluvial aquifers to assess the quality of the most recently recharged water in relation to land use. Existing domestic wells screened in alluvial aquifers and the Silurian/Devonian aquifer were sampled to assess deeper and older ground water.

Surface- and ground-water samples were analyzed for a wide variety of chemical constituents (major ions, nutrients, and pesticides) commonly associated with agricultural and urban activities. Because they were not expected to occur in rivers and streams, volatile organic compounds (VOC's), commonly comprising fuels, solvents, and other industrial compounds were only analyzed in ground-water samples. The age of the ground water, important information needed to relate ground-water quality to land use, was determined using both tritium and chlorofluorocarbons (Freon?) age-dating methods.

Results from the EIWA NAWQA study build on previous and ongoing research and water-quality monitoring programs in Iowa and provide new insights into the relation between the quality of the State's water resources and human activities. The major findings from the study are listed below.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Summary of the major water-quality findings from the Eastern Iowa Basins study unit of the National Water-Quality Assessment Program
Series title Iowa Groundwater Quarterly
Volume 11
Issue 3
Year Published 2000
Language English
Publisher Iowa Groundwater Association
Publisher location Oakdale, IA
Contributing office(s) Iowa Water Science Center
Description HTML Document
Country United States
State Iowa
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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