Crystal Clear Classification? Iowa survey seeks public input on stream usage

By Willa Simmet 2008

Some of the fondest moments of my life involve Iowa’s waterways. The creek that runs through my backyard, Dry Run Creek, has been my recreational dreamland for years.

As a young child, my neighbors and I were in absolute LaLa Land in this natural paradise. We would pull the greenery off of the rocks, climb to the tops of the trees and have “Seaweed Wars.” When the weather wasn’t so warm, we liked to hold races with our self- constructed wooden boats. A couple of times my mother and I tried to float down the creek in inner tubes, but ended up rolling off the tubes in a fit of giggles.

Now as a 17- year–old high school student caught up in the reality of daily life, I use this creek as a natural sanctuary to get away from the world for a while, while reflecting on nature’s infinite beauty.

Every day many fishermen, boaters, swimmers and regular ole’ splashing humans retreat to Iowa’s rivers, lakes and streams to enjoy the slow pace of nature inside of these flowing paradises.

Unfortunately, these same water lovers are also capable of polluting Iowa’s waterways. Many of Iowa’s waterways are not in compliance with Iowa’s Water Quality Standards or the Federal Clean Water Act.

In an attempt to assess Iowa’s streams, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources is asking for anyone who has recreated on any of Iowa’s waterways to fill out a brief survey. By listing the streams you use, the activities you use them for and where you access them, the DNR will be able to keep our waterways clean and accessible because they will be able to determine the level of protection for each stream.

Once they receive the results, the DNR will use them to decide where to apply recreation-based stream designations to Iowa’s waters. You can access the survey at www.iowadnr.gov/water/standards/.

“Water quality standards are essentially the goals for Iowa’s waters,” said Adam Schnieders, a DNR environmental specialist, according to a DNR press release.

“Use designations are one part of the standards, and they help us categorize water bodies by what they’re used for—recreation, aquatic life, drinking water or a combination of those. These designated uses help dictate the level of protection afforded to a water body.”

I encourage all of you to submit surveys by May 15 in order to assist with the development of the new database. By not filling out this survey, many of Iowa’s polluted waterways could remain neglected.

This is great step toward preserving Iowa’s natural beauty.

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