In January 2016, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced an award of nearly $97M to the state of Iowa for its proposal titled, The Iowa Watershed Approach for Urban and Rural Resilience.  The award was made under HUD’s National Disaster Resilience Competition designed to fund cutting-edge projects that address unmet needs from past disasters while addressing the vulnerabilities that could put Americans in harm’s way during future disasters.

Mission & Vision

The Iowa Watershed Approach (IWA) represents a program through which Iowans are working together to address factors that contribute to floods. This approach is consistent with other statewide programs in Iowa to reduce flooding and improve water quality, such as the Iowa Flood Mitigation Program and the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

Nine distinct watersheds representing different Iowa landforms will serve as project sites for the IWA. Each will form a Watershed Management Authority, develop a hydrologic assessment and watershed plan, and implement projects in the upper watershed to reduce the magnitude of downstream flooding and to improve water quality during and after flood events. Flood resilience programs will be implemented in each watershed to help increase community resilience to future floods.  The nine project watersheds are:

The IWA will accomplish six specific goals in each watershed: 1) reduce flood risk; 2) improve water quality; 3) increase flood resilience; 4) engage stakeholders through collaboration and outreach/education; 5) improve quality of life and health, especially for susceptible populations; and 6) develop a program that is scalable and replicable throughout the Midwest and the United States.

Mayor John Lundell, chair of CCWC, discussing flooding with public

Partners Make the IWA a Success

The Iowa Watershed Approach (IWA) will include many activities in the nine target watersheds during its five year duration. These activities range from forming a watershed management authority to developing flood resilience action plans to working with landowners to build projects on their properties.

The IWA’s success depends on collaboration among the numerous agencies, universities, non-profits, and municipalities that helped conceive the program and the many more that will help develop and implement its many components. Many partner organizations support the IWA, but the funded partners and their roles or expertise include:

  • Iowa Economic Development Authority: Direct recipient of the HUD grant funds and overall program administration
  • Homeland Security and Emergency Management: Aid in outreach and education activites for public resilience programs and development of planning documents and technical assistance
  • University of Iowa: Program lead for watershed projects implementation and monitoring (water quantity and quality), resilience programming, and assessment
  • Iowa State University: IWA outreach programming and monitoring of watershed projects success (soil erosion and transportation)
  • University of Northern Iowa: IWA outreach programming
  • Iowa Department of Natural Resources: Direct resource to watersheds for formation of watershed management authorities and capacity building
  • Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship: Direct resource to watersheds for assistance with implementing watershed projects
  • City of Dubuque: Implementation of watershed projects and Healthy Homes program in the Bee Branch
  • Cities of Coralville and Storm Lake: Implementation of built projects in their cities
  • Benton, Buena Vista, Fremont, Iowa, Johnson, Mills, Winneshiek, and Howard Counties: Fiscal agents for the work in their respective watersheds