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SUS-RURI Reflections

Published onDec 24, 2019
SUS-RURI Reflections

To address water resource challenges in Iowa and at the Mississippi River Watershed level we will need strong science-based expertise and leadership working with social scientists, educators, creative professionals and economic experts to cross political boundaries. Participants from Minnesota shared great examples of art, education and science being brought together to educate stakeholders following the “one water” framework. It would bring value to have a water resources workshop with a diverse group that was focused on networking and sharing ideas for new relationships, programs and projects to form.

An Example Program
The Iowa Watershed Approach: A Vision for Iowa’s Future

Flooding has taken a heavy toll on Iowa, costing residents, businesses and farmers about $18 billion over the last 30 years. Iowa ranks fourth in the nation for number of flood-related presidential disaster declarations. Watershed groups across Iowa are working together to enhance resilience to flooding.

The $96.7 million Iowa Watershed Approach (IWA) was built upon the pilot Iowa Watershed Project (IWP, funded 2010-2106). Both projects received funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to voluntarily engage farmers and others in watersheds across Iowa to build a more flood-resilient state.

The IWA program goals are to reduce flood risk and improve water quality. Iowa Flood Center staff and other partners are working with local watershed management authorities (WMAs) to: (1) Complete hydrologic assessments to further understand watershed characteristics; (2) Develop a watershed management plan; and (3) Deploy a dense instrumentation network of real-time weather, stream, soil and water quality sensors to track watershed conditions. At the conclusion of the project, watershed groups will have built conservation infrastructure with voluntary landowners and stakeholders to mitigate damage from floods and protect our communities.

IWA funding scaled up the IWP project by creating projects with eight watersheds across Iowa, including three urban areas. In addition the new project funds enabled hiring seven project coordinators to work directly with stakeholders to develop long-term watershed management plans and build community flood resilience.

Through the IWA Flood Resilience Program, watershed stakeholders are working with local and state partners to help communities improve hazard mitigation efforts and disaster recovery plans. Community flood resilience (e.g., the ability of a community to prepare for, respond to, and recover from floods)is predicated on the development of recovery plans, and funding through federal disaster assistance programs is often contingent on having such plans in place. The IWA resilience team works with communities in the watershed to lower barriers to effective hazard mitigation planning, particularly for floods, so they will be eligible and ready for action with support from sources such as the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.

Kate Gianninni
The Iowa Watershed Approach
University of Iowa, Iowa City

This event is supported by the National Science Foundation, Award #1929601. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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