Youth visiting a raingarden

By: Margot Dick, IIHR Hydroscience & Engineering Communications Assistant

When Angie Auel asked the fifth graders of Fairbank Elementary School about water retention issues in their community, they told her about their basketball court. Whenever rain or snow falls on the court, they said, the space floods, leaving them without a place to play. Auel, with the help of the kids, created a plan to build a rain garden next to the basketball court to capture the runoff and keep the court dry.

Angela Auel, Upper Wapsi project coordinator

Angela Auel, Upper Wapsipinicon River project coordinator

Auel is the project manager for the Upper Wapsipinicon River Watershed (also called the Upper Wapsi), which encompasses a large stretch of northeastern Iowa. The Upper Wapsi is one of the nine Iowa watersheds that are part of the Iowa Watershed Approach (IWA), a project focused on flood management and resilience.

As an IWA watershed coordinator for the Upper Wapsi Watershed, Auel works closely with the community. Lately, she has focused on educating fifth graders on stormwater management, including students in Readlyn, Iowa. The City of Readlyn is in the process of building a wetland south of town to help contain stormwater runoff and improve water quality as it flows toward the Wapsi River. A teacher at Readlyn elementary received a grant of nearly $5,000 for wetland plants, which the students will plant once school is back in session.

Education is far from the only job Auel does, though she stresses the importance of keeping people involved with the health of the watershed.

“Once the [grant] money is gone, we still want people to be considering what is going on in our watershed, how we can help slow down the water, and not just push it downstream as fast as we can,” she says.

Citizens of Winthrop, another community within the Upper Waspi Watershed, recently received a grant to help install permeable pavers into their streets, a project that Auel will be helping them with. Currently, water runs off rooftops and onto gravel below. The runoff erodes the gravel into the river and on downstream. Runoff can erode river banks, carry dangerous toxins and litter into the rivers, and contaminate drinking water. Permeable pavers offer a solution to runoff by directing the water back into the soil before it can reach the river. The pavers are porous, allowing water to run through the street and into crushed gravel below, which filters the water as it flows into the ground. Water that infiltrates the ground rather than flowing directly into the river is filtered by the soil, removing chemicals that may have been picked up along the way, especially from rooftops.

From a group of fifth graders to the residents of an entire watershed, Angie Auel is constantly teaching people about the health and safety of the water around them.

For more information please contact Angie Auel at

The state has incurred 951 federal flood-related disaster declarations over nearly three decades, slamming every county in Iowa.

By Mikael Mulugeta


Beginning in July, Angela Auel will serve as the project coordinator of the Upper Wapsipinicon Watershed Management Authority.

Auel will coordinate the implementation of flood resiliency conservation projects, organize informational and education outreach programs, facilitate watershed planning activities, and work with landowners in southern Buchanan and Delaware counties.

Raised on a farm west of Jesup, Iowa, Auel received a BA in animal ecology (fisheries) from Iowa State University.

We caught up with Auel to discuss her new role.

Q: Where did you work before you took this position?

A: For the past seven years, I worked for Buchanan County Conservation Board as a naturalist. I also worked in Ringgold, Dallas, and Guthrie counties as a recreational coordinator and naturalist.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish?

A: I am excited to see acres of land go into helping protect our land and water. My key environmental concerns will include flood reduction, nutrient loading, sedimentation, and other hydrologic, soil conservation and water-quality issues for the Upper Wapsipinicon River.

Q: What was appealing about the position?

A: I have worked with children for years and know I am making an impact on their lives. However, by working with the WMA, I will be able to see the immediate impact on land and water.

Q: Is there anything you would like to tell the IWA partners?

A: I am excited to see what we can accomplish when we all work together. I am ready to hit the ground running!

Q: What’s a hobby of yours?

A: I grew up canoeing the Wapsi River from Cutshall to Otterville Bridge. I now enjoy taking my 5, 9, and 10 year-old children kayaking on the Wapsi. We also enjoy camping and visiting national parks.

Q: What is the last book you read?

A: I’m actually kind of cheating right now; I am listening to the Harry Potter books on CD. I started rereading/listening to the series this year when I got my son hooked on the Harry Potter series.

Q: What’s your favorite movie?

A: There are too many to list but Harry Potter and Indiana Jones are the movies that tend to be played the most.

Q: What’s your favorite food?

A: HuHot.

Q: Where would you like to go that you’ve never been?

A: Africa has been on my bucket list since I have been in high school. I would love to go on a safari.

Q: What’s your hidden talent?

A: It’s not exactly hidden, but my husband and I have started two archery teams in Iowa. I have figured out my talent is coaching archery. There is an art in coaching 4–12th grade students!


Upper Wapsipinicon River Dam

Buchanan Soil and Water Conservation District, in cooperation with the Upper Wapsipinicon River Watershed Management Authority (WMA), seeks a self-motivated, experienced Watershed Project Coordinator to implement the Iowa Watershed Approach project for the Upper Wapsipinicon River Watershed. The project will address areas of environmental concern that may include but are not limited to flood reduction, nutrient loading, sedimentation, and other hydrologic, soil conservation and water quality issues for the Upper Wapsipinicon River WMA. The ideal candidate will have experience in watershed planning and/or project management, an ability to interpret scientific concepts clearly and proficiently, and a demonstrated capacity to work with diverse stakeholder groups, including local public officials, NGOs, landowners, farmers, businesses, and the general public.


Application Closing Date: 05/12/2017


For more information, please visit: