Kicking off the $19 million Cedar River Source Water Partnership

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig joined the City of Cedar Rapids and Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance (IAWA) at the Clean Water in Iowa Starts Here tour stop inBuckingham, Iowa, today. The group gathered to kick off the Cedar River Source Water Partnership project, a $19.3 million conservation project that will improve water quality, protect drinking water and help manage flood flows in the Cedar River.

“This project is a great example of what we can accomplish when rural and urban partners work together to achieve our shared soil health and water quality goals,” said Secretary Naig. “This is one of four regional partnership projects that was recently awarded federal funding from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and that allows us to scale up our ongoing water quality projects exponentially. Iowa’s conservation efforts have been successful because we have a science-based strategy guiding our conservation efforts, we’ve prioritized watersheds where we can make the greatest impact, and we have the technical resources and landowner interest to get the practices on the ground.”

The Cedar River Source Water Partnership will link cities in the Cedar River watershed that have vulnerable drinking water supplies to their agricultural neighbors. The project’s overarching goal is to improve water quality and protect source water in the Cedar River watershed. Other expected project benefits include reduced flood flows to downstream communities and improved fish and wildlife habitat. Financial support will directly assist producers as they implement practices including cover crops, wetlands, bioreactors and saturated buffers. These farmland conservation practices are proven to significantly reduce nitrate runoff from farm fields. In addition to benefiting the Cedar Rapids drinking water supply, these practices will also help Iowa advance the goals outlined in the Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

“Cedar Rapids has been recognized nationally for our work to improve water quality through partnerships with upstream entities,” said Roy Hesemann, utilities director for the City of Cedar Rapids. “The Cedar River Source Water Partnership will scale up our efforts to improve water quality in the Cedar River.”

“This a great opportunity to build on several years of work in one of our priority watersheds to improve water quality and expand urban-rural partnerships in the Cedar River Watershed,” says Sean McMahon, Executive Director of IAWA.

Keys to success for this new RCPP include supporting the ag retail engagement, communications, and non-operator landowner outreach components of the project. “IAWA looks forward to supporting these aspects of the project and is especially pleased to help provide funding for a new Conservation Agronomist position that will be employed by the Iowa Soybean Association and embedded within Linn Coop,” adds McMahon.

The City of Cedar Rapids Utilities Department is leading the project. Contributing partners include the Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Land O’ Lakes Truterra, City of Charles City, Linn County Conservation Board, The Nature Conservancy, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Ingredion Inc., Iowa Future Farmers of America, and iHeart Media/WHO Radio. Other project partners will be added to assist with targeted education and outreach.

About the Clean Water in Iowa Starts Here Campaign

The campaign, created by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Iowa Soybean Association and Newsradio 1040 WHO aims to raise awareness about the conservation work underway all across Iowa. It also highlights opportunities for both rural and urban residents to use soil health and water quality best practices, and play an active role in conservation projects happening in their communities.

During the Clean Water in Iowa Starts Here campaign, The Big Show will visit locations throughout the state showcasing the people and practices that are having a positive and measurable impact on water quality. The conversations with farmers, landowners, agribusinesses and community leaders will be broadcast on Wednesdays during The Big Show airing from 11 a.m.–1 p.m. on WHO and 11:30 a.m.–1 p.m. on WMT.

The Clean Water in Iowa Starts Here campaign is a collaborative effort between a dozen public and private partners, including Agri-Drain, Hagie Manufacturing, Hands on Excavating, Heartland Co-op, Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance, Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa Soybean Association, Montag Manufacturing, Practical Farmers of Iowa, The Nature Conservancy and TruTerra. 

The Clean Water in Iowa Starts Here campaign began in August 2020 and highlighted 16 conservation projects throughout the harvest season. For more information about the campaign, upcoming stops, and rural and urban soil health and water quality practices, visit For assistance implementing conservation practices or to get involved in a community-based project, visit a nearby USDA Service Center or Soil and Water Conservation District office.

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