AMANA, Iowa (AP) - Iowa officials are hoping to reduce water pollution by addressing problems in the small waterways that zigzag throughout the state, and they believe something as simple as name awareness can help.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Transportation have partnered since 2014 to install more than 900 creek name signs across the state. Stephen Hopkins of the DNR says the focus is on areas with past watershed improvement project, ongoing work or assessments that may lead to future projects.
One project is at Price Creek, a 13-mile stream that passes through the town of Amana before flowing into the Iowa River. Price Creek Watershed project coordinator Rose Danaher has been leading efforts to reduce manure flow into the creek. Price Creek signs were installed on Highway 151.
“When people know the name of the creek, they maybe have a little more respect or attachment to that body of water,” she said.
The creek, named after early settler Abraham Price, is on Iowa’s list of impaired waters because of high bacteria levels. The signage is a small part of the effort to make it cleaner. Efforts include fencing out cattle, helping farmers manage manure and replacing failing septic tanks.
The $50,000 spent so far on the creek sign program comes from a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designed to clean up waterways impaired by nonpoint source pollution, which can come from sources including agriculture and industry. Part of the money is to be used for raising awareness, such as through signage.
“Our survey data show many Iowans don’t even know the names of their local creek, much less problems with water quality and how to fix it,” Hopkins said.
The agency signed a new contract with the state transportation department in September that provides for 239 more signs to be installed over the next three years, Hopkins said. DNR staff members pick the streams to identify and sends the list to the DOT, which then orders the signs and installs them as time allows.
The signs, which appear in both directions on bridge crossings, cost between $155 and $380 each, depending on factors such as how many posts the sign needs, how large the font must be and the length of stream name.
“Dry Run Creek would be much cheaper than the Little Wapsipinicon,” Hopkins said.