About Us

About Us

Celebrating 75 years of Conservation

The Black Hawk Soil and Water Conservation District 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 encourages landowners and operators to alter their farming techniques to more wisely use our water resources and substantially improve our soil health.  Over the years, soil and water conservation districts expanded their focus beyond agriculture to provide assistance 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. Since its formation of the District, five elected commissioners have been working continuously at improving our water quality and preserving our soils for those 75 years.

Since the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy was introduced, a voluntary science-based program designed to reduce the impact of nitrogen and phosphorus on Iowa’s water systems by installing certain 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 Soil and Water Conservation District 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.

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.

In 2019 our urban watershed project, Dry Run Creek Watershed Improvement Project, made significant progress to improve water quality. About 55% of the city of Cedar Falls is in the Dry Run Creek Watershed, a watershed of about 15,000 acres.  Here is a summary of the total project impacts to date.

  • Over 190 conservation practices installed
  • $2.4 million dollars in financial assistance secured over 15 years
  • 1,800 tons of soil protected from erosion
  • 82,500,000 gallons treated stormwater

 

In 2019, the Pollutant Reduction was:

  • Soil Delivery Reduction – 86 tons/year
  • Phosphorus Reduction – 117 pounds/year
  • Nitrogen Reduction – 198 pounds/year
  • Total Suspended Solids Reduction – 7,039 pounds/year
  • Stormwater Treated – 2,581,430 gallons/year

 

The Miller Creek Water Quality Improvement Project, works with farmers and producers to install conservation practices in a watershed of over 42,000 acres of which % are crop land.  In 2019 the pollutants have been significantly reduced by the adoption of conservation practices. Planting cover crops alone prevented the loss of 3,273 tons of soil with a 50% reduction in average tile nitrate concentrations.  The installation of three woodchip bioreactors reduced nitrate concentrations by an average of 50.5%, 62.9%, and 60.8% respectively. All three exceeded 90% removal at various points in the year.

 

The Miller Creek 2019 conservation accomplishments include:

  • Average nitrate loss to watershed was slightly over 8 lbs./acre. This is reduced from 2018 and roughly identical to 2017 nitrate losses.
  • 50% reduction in average tile nitrate concentrations
  • In 2019, over 17% of Miller Creek acres were planted in cover crops, compared to the state average of 3.5 – 4%. Cover crops contributed to soil health and prevented the loss of 3,272 tons of soil.
  • Three woodchip bioreactors reduced nitrate concentrations by an average of 50.5%, 62.9% and 60.8% respectively.
  • There are three saturated buffers in Miller Creek. When recently measured, two research installations treated 9 million gallons of water removing 1,311 pounds of nitrates.

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

Goals: 

  • To conserve, protect, improve, develop, use and maintain soil, water and related resources for the benefit of future generations in both public and private sectors.
  • To successfully implement objectives in the Soil and Water Resource Conservation Plan through an orderly procedure in an Annual Work Plan.

 

 

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