The Nature Conservancy in Iowa is focusing on upstream conservation practices to store and filter water and preserve agricultural productivity for the benefit of more than one million residents in the Cedar-Iowa River basin in eastern Iowa.
The Conservancy aims to develop science-based, lasting solutions to flooding and poor water quality at the source – changes in land use and increases in precipitation – and it recently received a $60,000 grant from the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation towards this effort.
Funding will support effort to increase flood water storage upstream
The Community Foundation's funding will provide support to the Conservancy's collaboration with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) and the Farm Service Agency (FSA) to increase flood water storage upstream of Cedar Rapids. Together, these partners will restore a 5.6-acre wetland in Grundy County that can store 7.8 million gallons of water and filter 40% to 70% of nitrates from a 623-acre drainage area. The Conservancy can measure the flood water storage capacity of conservation practices, such as wetlands, to determine the amount of flood reduction practices needed upstream to produce a desired flood risk reduction for a community.
"The Community Foundation has invested significantly in flood recovery, and appreciates this project as an opportunity to develop flood risk reduction practices that will benefit Linn County," says Karla Twedt-Ball, senior vice president at the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation.
Wetland restoration includes water quality benefits to Iowans
"This wetland restoration project is particularly exciting because the environmental impact extends beyond flood mitigation to include water quality benefits for residents. It is a solid investment on efforts that will make a tangible difference." The grant is the largest grant amount available at the Community Foundation which will be distributed over two years.
"We have been trying for decades to reduce flooding and improve water quality through sandbagging, flood walls, levees, nutrient treatment plants, public education, river cleanups and agricultural regulation," says Elizabeth Schott, Cedar Rapids resident and Conservancy Trustee. "These strategies provide short-term, site-based protection, but are no match for land conversion and increased precipitation that have brought us the greatest flood risk and poorest water quality Iowans have ever seen."
Eastern Iowa has had 31% increase in very heavy rain storms
A 2010 report from the Iowa Climate Change Advisory Council indicates that eastern Iowa has experienced a 31% increase in very heavy precipitation events over the last 50 years. More than 90% of Iowa's water storing and filtering wetlands have been drained for agriculture and development according to USDA. These two trends have resulted in a more than 400% increase in average Cedar River flow rates over the last 100 years according to United States Geological Survey data. The National Institute of Building Sciences estimates for every dollar we spend on flood mitigation, we save $4 in future damages.
Since 2009, the Conservancy has assisted with the restoration of 39 wetlands in the Cedar River Basin, including 10 wetlands providing more than 1.3 billion gallons of water storage upstream of Cedar Rapids.
About The Nature Conservancy: The Nature Conservancy is a leading international conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. The Iowa program of The Nature Conservancy was established in 1963 and currently has more than 7,300 members. To learn more visit nature.org/iowa.
About the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation: Through professional philanthropic services, strategic investments, and community leadership, the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation connects donors who care with causes that matter. The Community Foundation is a public, nonprofit organization with assets totaling more than $142 million and over 740 different charitable funds, large and small, established by individuals, families, nonprofit organizations and businesses to benefit Linn County, Iowa. Our vision: To be a trusted partner in charitable giving, improving the quality of life in our community…forever. Our mission: To help donors give in meaningful ways, to strengthen nonprofits, and to provide leadership that supports a vibrant community. For more information on the Community Foundation, visit gcrcf.org or visit us on Facebook.