Have you ever wondered what is in the water that comes out of your faucet, or how safe it is to drink? That's a question Dordt College professors and students have been researching in various ways since the 1980s, and that question is at the root of a Sept. 8, 2011 Field Day at Sandy Hollow in northwest Iowa.
Some of the findings to be presented already have received extensive coverage in the national farm press, as well as television coverage courtesy of the Iowa Farm Bureau. Organizers of this field day hope to draw decision-makers together to learn more about how to protect source water in local communities. The Field Day is geared toward policymakers, researchers, educators, municipal water system operators, agricultural professionals, and media.
"There are hundreds of small communities across Iowa that are heavily agricultural and draw water from shallow wells like Sioux Center does," says Dordt College Agriculture Professor Ron Vos. "The studies we are doing are relevant for many different communities."
What project has shown regarding effective ways to control runoff
Sioux Center is in the midst of an agricultural area, and runoff from crop fields is often high in nitrates. The city is part of a pilot project with the Iowa DNR's Source Water Protection Program, which works with priority communities to decrease nitrate risk to public wells through the use of conservation practices and other means. The City of Sioux Center is a voluntary participant and qualified for the DNR program because of its shallow alluvial wells, its upward trending nitrate levels, and the involvement of community and stakeholder groups that are eager to work together to improve water quality.
"Nitrate levels have been slowly but steadily rising over the last ten years, although they fluctuate with the seasons," says Dordt College environmental studies professor Robb De Haan.
Nitrates are one of the water quality measures that municipalities monitor – those with more than 10 parts per million (ppm) in the water are sanctioned by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and can be required to provide bottled water for residents. Water with more than 10 ppm of nitrates can cause Blue Baby Syndrome and is not recommended for drinking by pregnant women or young children. Some countries limit nitrates to 5 ppm.
A 40-acre experiment near the well that supplies water for Sioux Center
Vos and De Haan will present findings from a 40-acre experiment near the Sioux Center well field. Their presentation is titled "Can cropping systems hold nitrogen and generate a profit?"
Other presentations at the Sept. 8 event will include results of the Source Water Protection groundwater site investigation conducted by DNR geologist Greg Fuhrmann; agronomic information from field trials conducted by local producer Matt Schuitemann, and an overview of Sioux Center water sources by Matt Van Schouwen and Harlan Kruid, City of Sioux Center officials.
The event is sponsored by Dordt College, the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, the City of Sioux Center, the Iowa DNR Source Water Protection Program for Targeted Community Water Supplies, and the Sioux County Soil and Water Conservation District. It will take place from noon to 3 p.m. at the Sandy Hollow Clubhouse at 3413 400th St. in Sioux Center. Lunch will be provided. For more information, contact Robb De Haan (712) 722-6220 or [email protected].