Miller Creek

Miller Creek

Water Quality Improvement Project

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The Miller Creek/Rock Creek Water Quality Improvement Project is founded on this simple principal: we can create the kind of world in which we wish to live. Everyone, including future generations, must rely on our soil and water. Sadly, both continue to be abused, degraded, and squandered. However, since the inception of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Iowans have improved as stewards of our land and water.

The Miller/Rock Creek Water Quality Improvement Project began as a demonstration project in 2014, relying on state funds directed towards protecting our streams, drinking water, the Mississippi Basin, and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico. We support Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy by consulting with farmers and funding conservation practices that reduce nitrates and phosphorous leaving fields and entering our streams. The project has grown into a 62,090-acre implementation effort encompassing three watersheds in Black Hawk and Tama Counties (Upper Miller Creek, Miller Creek, and Rock Creek). We rely on funding from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and USDA programs. We have also received some private and nonprofit donations.

Numbers Tell a Story of Ongoing 


Water Quality Practices 2014 2021
Cover Crop Acres (State and NRCS funded) 1,051 acres 10,858.7 acres
Strip-Till/No-Till Acres 348 (funded) acres ≥ 3,000 (357 funded) acres
Woodchip Bioreactors 0 units 3 units
Saturated Buffers 0 units 9 (on 7 farms)  units *
Constructed Wetlands 0 units 2 units (4 in planning) *

* Some in adjacent watersheds

We have tested water since the inception of our project. Between 2014 and 2019, nitrate concentrations in 14 tile outlets reduced by approximately 50% (figure 3). While this is good news, nitrate concentrations tested in Miller Creek itself showed no appreciable change. This is not unusual for watersheds where stream sediment, sloughing streambanks, variable weather, and hundreds of tile drainage outlets create a complex assessment environment.


In the Iowan landform region of our state (central northeast), the average stream nitrate concentration for 2020 was 13.5 mg/L. Miller Creek posted an average of 14.7 mg/L. Concentration measures must be below 10 mg/L to meet EPA standards for drinking water. A concentration of 5 mg./L has been proposed by some as optimal. We have more work to do.










  1. Miller Creek Watershed                               2. Rock Creek Watershed

Expanding Influence and Scaling Up:

Miller Creek began as a demonstration project and transformed into a 62,000-acre implementation project affecting three watersheds in two counties. Our farmer-led advisory board, colleagues and stakeholders continue to guide the project as we influence more farmers in our region and beyond.

In 2021, we will join forces with other water quality projects, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the Middle Cedar WMA, and the City of Cedar Rapids. Together, we will launch an initiative aimed at tripling the number of saturated buffers being installed in the Middle Cedar River Watershed.

Contact Us:

Please contact us if you have any questions about the Miller Creek/Rock Creek Project, or if you are a farmer or landowner interested in conservation and water quality on your farm. We offer consultation and financial assistance for an array of practices. In the case of saturated buffers and woodchip bioreactors, the entire cost of a project is funded. We also offer full construction costs and paid easements for wetlands. All participation is voluntary. There is no commitment for inquiring or having us consult with you.

Call, message or e-mail Clark Porter, Environmental Specialist, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, 2950 Southland Dr., Suite 2, Waterloo, IA 50701.

Cell Number: (515) 318-9857



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