About Us

About Us

Celebrating 75 years of Conservation and Planning for the Future

The Black Hawk Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) was formed on July 30, 1945, in response to the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.  During the “dirty thirties,” intensive farming during a time of drought allowed high winds to erode the landscape and carry clouds of dust from the Great Plains all the way to Washington, D.C.  Black Hawk SWCD joined with the other 99 districts that were created across the state of Iowa to encourage landowners and operators to alter their farming techniques to use our water resources more wisely and substantially improve our soil health.  Over the years, soil and water conservation districts expanded their focus beyond agriculture to assist in the urban areas of their communities.  Black Hawk SWCD has also expanded our base of clientele to include not only private landowners, but also other units of government such as counties, cities, townships, and watershed districts. For over 75 years, five elected commissioners have been working continuously to improve our water quality and to preserve and restore our soils.

The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy was introduced as a voluntary science-based program designed to reduce the impact of nitrogen and phosphorus on Iowa’s water systems by installing certain conservation practices. By offering cost-share to implement recommended conservation practices, Black Hawk SWCD has made quite an impact in the county. Our producers are confident that they can reduce the soil and nutrient runoff into our waterways, rivers and ultimately into the Gulf of Mexico. Their efforts are focused on achieving this goal by voluntary action to keep the EPA from further regulations of farming in Iowa and the Midwest.

Black Hawk SWCD partners with the Conservation Districts of Iowa and various state agencies to implement soil conservation systems containing practices that aid in improving both soil health and water quality. These systems aren’t new, but they continue to make a difference on today’s farms.

Creating a soil health management system with the right mix of conservation practices, e.g., conservation tillage methods, nutrient management practices and planting cover crops to name a few, allow producers to improve both the health of their soils and the health of their bottom line.

Improving our soil health by installing conservation practices is crucial to Iowa’s future. It is estimated by the year 2050, there will be 9 billion people on this planet. This means we will need to produce as much food in the next 40 years as we have in the last 500.

Given this potential growth in demand for Iowa’s agricultural products, the Black Hawk SWCD revised its 5-year plan in 2021. <Black Hawk SWCD 5-year plan> While our mission remains the same, new goals have been established to better serve, inform, and support all citizens of Black Hawk County.

Mission:  To bring about, through wise planning, a secure future of strong agricultural production and environmental protection of our precious resources in both urban and rural sectors.

Priority Goals: 

  • Increase and nurture knowledge of Black Hawk County citizens through outreach and education efforts about the conservation needs for improving soil health, water quality, natural habitat, and human wellness.
  • Support the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy by promoting the goals of watershed improvement projects and Watershed Management Authorities.
  • Explore the supportive role the SWCD can have in promoting urban farming and assisting underserved populations with conservation practices.
  • Partner with landowners and educational entities to demonstrate innovative management practices that influence the future of agricultural resources.
  • To raise money to finance identified goals. (Fund operational expenses, matching funds, scholarship, and poster programs)

Citizens of Black Hawk County have a unique opportunity to show the country that reducing soil and nutrient runoff can be done without regulations. We have two major watershed projects designed to do just that: Dry Run Creek in Cedar Falls and Miller Creek in south-central Black Hawk County.  Listed below are key results from each of these projects for 2020.

In 2020, our urban watershed project, Dry Run Creek Watershed Improvement Project, made significant progress to improve local water quality. The Dry Run Creek Watershed is about 15,000 acres total, with around 55% of the city of Cedar Falls draining into it.  Here is a summary of the total project impacts to date.

  • Over 200 conservation practices installed
  • $2.5 million dollars in financial assistance secured over 16 years
  • 2,000 tons of soil protected from erosion
  • 98,000,000 gallons treated stormwater

In 2020, the Pollutant Reduction was:

  • Soil Delivery Reduction – 90 tons/year
  • Phosphorus Reduction – 81 pounds/year
  • Nitrogen Reduction – 156 pounds/year
  • Total Suspended Solids Reduction – 12,767 pounds/year
  • Stormwater Treated – 4,739,042 gallons/year

It’s our Soil.  It’s our Water. It’s our Future.


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