The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has served as the Nation's principal
collector, repository, and interpreter of earth science data for more than
a century. The USGS has been assessing, mapping, and reporting on Iowa's
earth resources since the early 1900's. Ongoing USGS programs include
activities in water availability and quality, natural hazards, biological,
geographic and cartographic information, contaminated environments, land
and water use, and mineral resources. Examples of these programs, many of
which are conducted in partnership with State and local agencies, follow.|
Ground water is the primary source of drinking water for Iowa's population.
Information is needed by State and local governments to understand trends
in water levels and water quality in the principal aquifers and to develop
policy and management decisions related to their use. The USGS, in
cooperation with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), collects
and compiles water-level data from a statewide network of about 150
observation wells ( fig. 1). Information
from this network also is used by local governments and individuals that
require information on the depth to and availability of ground water at
specific locations throughout Iowa.
|A statewide program of ground-water sample collection and analysis from the principal aquifers is operated by the USGS in cooperation with the DNR and the University of Iowa Hygienic Laboratory. The data from this program are used by State agencies to track trends in water quality at various depths and locations throughout Iowa and to respond to undesirable concentrations of specific chemicals, such as pesticides, through policy and management decisions.|
As urban populations grow in Iowa, communities need to obtain additional
water supplies to meet their needs. The USGS, in cooperation with several
Iowa municipalities, is studying the availability and quality of
The USGS is evaluating the river-deposited sand and gravel aquifer along the Cedar River near Cedar Rapids. The evaluation is focused on determining the natural relation of the River to the aquifer and how the aquifer is affected by pumping of alluvial wells. The availability and quality of ground water in undeveloped areas of the aquifer also is being determined.
|In Johnson County, the USGS is collecting ground-water level information from the Silurian bedrock aquifer for the cities of Iowa City and Coralville. The bedrock aquifer is used by several communities in the area, as well as by numerous rural residents with private wells. Because of the density of withdrawals within the greater Iowa City area, there has been a history of alleged withdrawal interference problems in the bedrock aquifer. As population growth results in continued development of the aquifer, the potential for interference problems will likely increase. The USGS is collecting background water-level information that can be used by municipal and private well owners to manage their well withdrawals and to document water levels in the aquifer.|
The USGS provides information to Federal and State agencies on the rivers
and agricultural lands in Iowa. The USGS's Iowa Cooperative Fish and
Wildlife Research Unit at Iowa State University is helping evaluate the
benefits of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to ring-necked
pheasants, which is a popular game bird in Iowa. The CRP, which is
administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), has taken
millions of acres of marginal farmland out of production throughout the
United States and converted them to improve habitat for wildlife. Impacts
on population dynamics are being examined. The Unit investigates impacts
of habitat fragmentation on other, game and non-game bird and mammal
species. Agricultural chemical use also has been studied as it affects
other organisms. The fishery resources of the State and, especially the
Mississippi River, are a focus for aquatic ecosystem research.
|The USGS participates in the upper Mississippi and the lower Missouri River initiatives that were developed in the wake of the catastrophic Mississippi River flood of 1993. The programs were established to provide government agencies in Iowa and adjacent States information to help restore and manage the natural functions and economic values of the upper Mississippi, the Illinois, and the lower Missouri Rivers. Other EMTC activities include the administration of the Upper Mississippi River System Long Term Resource Monitoring Program (LTRMP), in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the states of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin. The State-operated LTRMP field stations collect inventory and monitoring data on vegetation, water quality, fishes, and invertebrates to support development of integrated resource-management options.|
In an effort to assess properly the future energy resource potential of the
Nation, the USGS is conducting a National Petroleum Assessment of
undiscovered conventional and unconventional natural gas and oil resources.
With these estimates, energy planners can plan for the future.
|Iowa is situated along a geologic feature known as the midcontinent rift system. This feature could have produced structures capable of trapping natural gas and oil resources. As part of the USGS's ongoing National Petroleum Assessment, this area is being evaluated for its potential to contain and produce commercial quantities of petroleum. Scientists from the USGS are working with DNR personnel to determine the potential for hydrocarbon in this region.|
The USGS is participating with the DNR and various State and Federal
agricultural agencies in efforts to determine the effects of changes in
land use and management on streamflow and water quality in several small
watersheds in Iowa. The primary purpose of these interagency efforts is to
implement best-management plans in a watershed and to observe the changes
in flow and water-quality that result from these changes. The observed
changes are often compared with data collected from a similar nearby stream
for which management practices have not been changed. Watersheds that are
selected for this type of comparison are used to demonstrate the
effectiveness of changes in land management to local land owners and to
provide public education on the effects of land use on water resources.
In northeastern Iowa, two studies of the effects of land use are in progress. Streamflow is being measured in the Big Spring ground-water basin, and streamflow and sediment data are being collected from the Sny Magil and the Bloody Run watersheds. Data collected from the Big Spring watershed, which is a ground-water basin that discharges primarily through Big Spring near Elkader, are used by DNR and other agency managers to evaluate the long-term effectiveness of intensive management changes and public education efforts that were implemented during the 1980's. Sny Magil, which is a small tributary stream to the Mississippi River, was selected for implementation of improved land-management practices to reduce sediment and nutrient inputs. Bloody Run is an adjacent watershed being measured for comparison.
|The USGS, in cooperation with the DNR, is collecting streamflow and sediment data in the Walnut Creek watershed in Jasper County. Much of the Walnut Creek watershed is included in a recently established National Wildlife Refuge. Refuge managers will eventually convert much of the formerly intensively farmed land in the watershed to a restored prairie. This conversion of land use offers a unique opportunity to determine its effect on streamflow and suspended-sediment concentrations at a scale not often available for study.|
|The goals of the USGS's National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program are to describe the status and trends in the water quality of selected watersheds throughout the Nation and to identify the factors that affect their water quality. The Eastern Iowa Basins study that is being conducted as part of the NAWQA Program is focused on the Cedar, the Iowa, the Skunk and the Wapsipinincon River Basins (fig. 2). The study currently is in the intensive data-collection phase of implementation. Progress and information collected from this Program are being communicated and provided to water-management and other water-resource agencies in the State.||
One of the most-used aspects of USGS programs in Iowa is streamflow-data
collection and reporting. The USGS operates a statewide network of about
120 gaging stations (fig. 3) and
surface-water stage recorders for a variety of Federal, State, and local
agencies. Streamflow information is used by the National Weather Service
during storms to issue flood warnings and forecasts and by the USACE in
operating the four Federal reservoirs in Iowa and in support of commercial
navigation on the Mississippi and the Missouri Rivers. The DNR and the
Iowa Department of Transportation use streamflow data to monitor the
hydrologic conditions of the State, to provide a historical data base that
is used to develop water-related policy and management decisions, and to
design construction projects. Local government agencies use streamflow
data for a wide variety of activities that range from local flood-warning
systems that help protect lives and property to providing discharge volumes
used in complying with wastewater-discharge permit requirements. Private
citizens and businesses have access to USGS streamflow data.
In addition to the gaging-station network, the USGS maintains a statewide network of peak-stage recording gages on small drainage basins for the Iowa Department of Transportation. Data from this program are used to determine flood frequency and discharge for the numerous small, ungaged drainage basins. Flood-frequency and discharge data are used by State and county transportation engineers in the design of bridges and other structures.
The most readily apparent material that flows with the water in Iowa's
streams is suspended sediment. Suspended sediment can have serious
negative effects for some users of the resource and is an indication of the
amount of erosion that occurs in a watershed. The USGS collects samples
and determines the concentration of suspended sediment in water from a
variety of sites in Iowa. The USACE uses the data to provide information
on the amount of sediment that enters and potentially is deposited in
Federal reservoirs in Iowa and the Mississippi and the Missouri Rivers
because of problems to navigation caused by sediment deposition. The DNR
is using sediment data as part of land-use and land-management studies to
monitor water quality in several watersheds throughout Iowa.|
In addition to measurements of water in streams, the USGS is collecting data on ground-water levels in the Missouri River alluvial aquifer in western Iowa for the USACE. The USACE is developing a revised management plan for the Missouri River. The stage of the Missouri River and ground-water levels in the adjacent alluvial aquifer are being studied at two locations in Iowa and three locations in Missouri to determine the effect of higher levels of flow on the adjacent flood plain. Data that are collected by the USGS are used by the USACE to verify predictions of the effects of changes in river flow on the aquifer.
The USGS has participated in jointly funded map production and revision
projects in Iowa for many years and, more recently, has prepared digital
cartographic data in cooperation with Federal and State agencies in Iowa.
In 1993, the USGS completed contour digital line graph (DLG) data statewide
for the 1:100,000-scale topographic map series under a joint funding
agreement with the DNR. Other DLG data layers and digital raster graphics
(digitized images of topographic maps) are now being produced under similar
agreements with the DNR.
The USGS also is preparing digital orthophotoquads (DOQ's) and digital elevation models (DEM's) for parts of Iowa under cost-share agreements with the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service. A DOQ is a digital image of an aerial photograph in which displacements caused by the camera and the terrain have been removed. A DEM is a sampled array of regularly spaced elevation values registered to a map base.
|Mapping partnerships do not always involve the exchange of funds. In some cases, production tasks are shared among cooperating agencies. The benefits of work/share arrangements include the leveraging of limited resources (equipment, personnel, space, and funds), avoiding duplication of effort, producing standardized products, and accelerating data availability.|
|Geologic mapping in Iowa is being conducted through a USGS program called statemap. statemap is one of the external funding opportunities offered by the USGS's National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program (NCGMP). Agreements are open to all 50 State Geological Surveys. Funding announcements for statemap are issued each year, and a competitive proposal process is used to distribute funds. Federal funding is matched equally by the recipients of the cooperative agreements. Typically, proposals focus on issues of importance to the environment and society, such as ground-water quality, geologic hazards, and landfill siting and management. Proposals also address a range of resource issues, such as oil and gas assessments, coal quantity, sand and gravel resources, and economic mineral development. The geologic map data generated are archived at the State Survey level and within the National Geologic Map Data Base of the NCGMP.||statemap funds important geologic mapping projects in Iowa. These projects provide local agencies and private individuals with the geologic information required to evaluate the suitability of land tracts for development, housing density, construction practices, septic-system density and design, agricultural practices, waste disposal, ground-water and well-head protection, and emergency responses to accidental release of hazardous materials in these areas.|
from U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, Fact Sheet FS-015-96
For more information contact any of the following:
USGS State representative
400 South Clinton Street
P.O. Box 1230
Iowa City, IA 52244
Fax: (319) 358-3606
Additional earth science information can be found by accessing the USGS Home Page on the World Wide Web at http://www.usgs.gov/
For more information on all USGS reports and products (including maps, images, and computerized data), call 1-888-ASK-USGS
|The USGS provides maps, reports, and information to help others meet their needs to manage, develop, and protect America's water, energy, mineral, biological, and land resources. We help find the natural resources needed to build tomorrow and supply the scientific understanding needed to help minimize or mitigate the effects of natural hazards and environmental damage caused by natural and human activities. The results of our efforts touch the daily life of almost every American.|
USGS Fact Sheets (listed by state)
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Web version by: Patsy Campbell
Last modified: 15:00 19 MAY 97 pac