The English River Watershed at a Glance

The English River Watershed at a Glance

The English River Watershed is a 409,000 acre (639 square mile) watershed in southeastern Iowa. It is home to approximately 21,700 people. The watershed is part of the larger Upper Lower Iowa watershed, and consists of over 1,400 miles of streams and tributaries. Around 2/3 of the landscape is row crops; grassland or pasture make up about 23% of the landscape, timber (6%), and urban development (6%). Over 95% of watershed residents are white, and in general, the watershed population is aging. Slightly over half of the townships with area in the watershed have experienced declining population in the last 10 years. A recent assessment of the watershed provided the following additional insights about the English River watershed:

  • Kalona (pop. 2,363) is the largest community in the watershed
  • Approximately 60% of the watershed’s population are rural residents
  • In the mid-1800s, the watershed was approximately 83% prairie
  • Row crop agriculture, primarily corn and soybeans, is now the predominate land use in the watershed
  • Nearly half of the land in the watershed is considered “Highly Erodible”
  • Sediment loading in the watershed is higher than the statewide median, and indicates significant erosion from stream-banks and upland areas
  • Total phosphorus levels in the watershed have consistently exceeded EPA benchmark values for 28 years, and are higher than the state median
  • Bacteria levels (E. coli) in the watershed have exceeded benchmark values over 50% of the time since testing began in 1999
  • Nitrate levels in the watershed have been consistently below the state median
  • 1/3 of snapshot samples met EPA drinking water standards (10ppm) in 2014
  • The following subwatersheds are currently high priority for nitrate reduction efforts: Deer Creek, Town of Tilton
  • The following subwatershed are currently high priority for phosphorus reduction efforts: Dugout Creek, Upper South English River, Upper English River, Jordan Creek, and Deep River
  • In the last 75 years, flooding events have occurred in 25 of them, with most events occurring in May, June, or July
  • Over 80% of surveyed watershed landowners agree that we need to improve water quality here
  • Nearly 42 percent landowners have been directly impacted by flooding in the last 10 years
  • Watershed landowners were primarily concerned with topics such as soil erosion, loss of agricultural land, and soil fertility
  • Watershed landowners were generally less concerned about extreme temperatures, severe weather, and water quality impacts on recreation or tourism
  • The majority (70%) of those surveyed (in 2014) were unfamiliar with Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy (NRS)