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Iowa City, IA, United States

Schilling K.E.,Geological and Water Survey | Gassman P.W.,Iowa State University | Kling C.L.,Iowa State University | Campbell T.,Iowa State University | And 3 more authors.
Hydrological Processes | Year: 2014

Effects of agricultural land management practices on surface runoff are evident at local scales, but evidence for watershed-scale impacts is limited. In this study, we used the Soil and Water Assessment Tool model to assess changes in downstream flood risks under different land uses for the large, intensely agricultural, Raccoon River watershed in Iowa. We first developed a baseline model for flood risk based on current land use and typical weather patterns and then simulated the effects of varying levels of increased perennials on the landscape under the same weather patterns. Results suggest that land use changes in the Raccoon River could reduce the likelihood of flood events, decreasing both the number of flood events and the frequency of severe floods. The duration of flood events were not substantially affected by land use change in our assessment. The greatest flood risk reduction was associated with converting all cropland to perennial vegetation, but we found that converting half of the land to perennial vegetation or extended rotations (and leaving the remaining area in cropland) could also have major effects on reducing downstream flooding potential. We discuss the potential costs of adopting the land use change in the watershed to illustrate the scale of subsidies required to induce large-scale conversion to perennially based systems needed for flood risk reduction. © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Gassman P.W.,Iowa State University | Fields C.L.,Geological and Water Survey | Isenhart T.M.,Iowa State University | Schilling K.E.,Geological and Water Survey | And 3 more authors.
Journal of Soil and Water Conservation | Year: 2010

Coldwater trout streams are important natural resources in northeast Iowa. Extensive efforts have been made by state and federal agencies to protect and improve water quality in northeast Iowa streams that include Sny Magill Creek and Bloody Run Creek, which are located in Clayton County. A series of three water quality projects were implemented in Sny Magill Creek watershed during 1988 to 1999, which were supported by multiple agencies and focused on best management practice (BMP) adoption. Water quality monitoring was performed during 1992 to 2001 to assess the impact of these installed BMPs in the Sny Magill Creek watershed using a paired watershed approach, where the Bloody Run Creek watershed served as the control. Conservation practice adoption still occurred in the Bloody Run Creek watershed during the 10-year monitoring project and accelerated after the project ended, when a multiagency supported water quality project was implemented during 2002 to 2007. Statistical analysis of the paired watershed results using a pre/post model indicated that discharge increased 8% in Sny Magill Creek watershed relative to the Bloody Run Creek watershed, turbidity declined 41%, total suspended sediment declined 7%, and NOx-N (nitrate-nitrogen plus nitrite-nitrogen) increased 15%. Similar results were obtained with a gradual change statistical model.The weak sediment reductions and increased NOx-N levels were both unexpected and indicate that dynamics between adopted BMPs and stream systems need to be better understood. Fish surveys indicate that conditions for supporting trout fisheries have improved in both streams. Important lessons to be taken from the overall study include (1) committed project coordinators, agency collaborators, and landowners/producers are all needed for successful water quality projects; (2) smaller watershed areas should be used in paired studies; (3) reductions in stream discharge may be required in these systems in order for significant sediment load decreases to occur; (4) long-term monitoring on the order of decades can be required to detect meaningful changes in water quality in response to BMP implementation; and (5) all consequences of specific BMPs need to be considered when considering strategies for watershed protection.

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