Do I live in a watershed? What do WMAs do? Are there currently cost-share opportunities? Read our Frequently Asked Questions to learn more about watersheds, about our organization, and much more.

  1. What is a Watershed Management Authority?
  2. Who are members of the English River Watershed Management Authority (ERWMA)?
  3. Who can be a member?
  4. My city or county is in, or partially in, the watershed area. Why aren’t they listed as member of the ERWMA?
  5. Why did the ERWMA form?
  6. How is the ERWMA governed?
  7. What “authority” does the ERWMA have?
  8. Are farmers represented among the ERWMA Representatives (including Board Members)?
  9. What are the goals of the ERWMA?
  10. Where are the ERWMA headquarters?
  11. What is a “Best Management Practice?”
  12. What is the difference between what the ERWMA is doing and the work of NRCS, County Conservation, the DNR, or IDALS?
  13. Is the ERWMA an extension of any governmental or regulatory organizations?
  14. What watershed improvement practices does the ERWMA promote?
  15. Who works for the ERWMA?


What is a Watershed Management Authority?
Watershed Management Authorities (WMA) have existed in other states for many years, and their scope of activities and “authority” vary from state to state.  Following the Floods of 2008, Iowa legislators recommended a watershed approach to more effectively address natural resource concerns through inter-agency cooperation across political boundaries. State of Iowa Code Chapter 466B “Surface Water Protection, Flood Mitigation, and Watershed Management,” defines WMAs in Iowa and their authorized activities.


A WMA in Iowa is formed by a Chapter 28E Agreement between at least 2 political subdivisions (cities, counties, and Soil & Water Conservation Districts) in a watershed. A 28E Agreement, defined by the State of Iowa, permits “state and local governments in Iowa to make efficient use of their powers by enabling them to provide joint services and facilities with other agencies and to co-operate in other ways of mutual advantage.”

A common example of a 28E agreement is when small communities without separate police (or fire) departments use a 28E agreement with the County to share law enforcement (or fire) resources with them. In these cases, there are fees affiliated with sharing this resource. There are no fees involved with being a member of the English River WMA.


Who are members of the English River Watershed Authority (ERWMA)?
The English River WMA currently consists of 14 Members: Poweshiek, Iowa, Johnson, Washington and Keokuk County Soil and Water Conservation Districts; the Cities of Barnes City, Grinnell, Kalona, Keswick, Riverside, and Wellman; and the Counties of Iowa, Washington and Keokuk. The ERWMA was established in August of 2013.

Who can be a member?
State code specifies that any County, City, or Soil and Water Conservation District can be a member of a WMA in their jurisdiction. There are no costs or financial obligation associated with being a member. Of course, we welcome donations, but they are not required.

My city or county is in, or partially in, the watershed area. Why aren’t they listed as a member of the ERWMA?
All of the Counties, Cities and Conservation Districts with any portion of their jurisdiction overlapping with watershed boundaries were invited to join the WMA. Entities who are not members have either declined to participate, or are undecided about it.

Why did the ERWMA form?
Cities at the lower end of the watershed (Kalona, Wellman, and Riverside) have been increasingly impacted by flood events in recent years. As a result, these communities provided the financial resources and leadership to organize the ERWMA. Other entities have joined along the way. Members may have joined because they are primarily concerned with flooding, others are worried about soil health or water quality, but all are concerned about the impacts of these issues on their townspeople, farmers, businesses, and infrastructure across the watershed. Essentially, all parties agree that partnerships and organized efforts are important for making improvements needed to protect our residents and our local economies.

How is the ERWMA governed?
Each Member Entity (City, County, SWCD) is responsible for appointing their own Representative (and an Alternate, if desired) to attend ERWMA meetings on their behalf. Seven of these Representatives comprise the ERWMA’s Board of Directors (also known as “Officers”). The Board of Directors meet quarterly at a minimum. All Representatives are encouraged to attend meetings, but are not required to do so. However, all Representatives are asked to attend the ERWMA’s annual meeting in November.

What “Authority” does the ERWMA have?
The ERWMA Can:

  • Utilize watershed level assessments and planning;
  • Increase communication and coordination in addressing flooding and water quality;
  • Support management of stormwater runoff to prevent erosion, increase infiltration, promote groundwater recharge, and mitigate flooding;
  • Promote efforts to protect and enhance beneficial uses of waterways within the English River watershed such as fish and wildlife habitat, and water recreation;
  • Promote uniform local policies for surface and groundwater management;
  • Increase public education about water quality issues and flood mitigation;
  • Seek funding opportunities;
  • Provide a forum for exchanging information among the Members.

The ERWMA Cannot:

  • Impose taxes of any nature, nor pledge the credit of any Members of this agreement, nor acquire debt or other financial obligations which have not been provided for in the current or approved future budget;
  • Have any independent power of eminent domain and shall not own any interest in real property without written approval and authorization of the Members;
  • Have the lawful power to enact or exercise land use planning or zoning regulations.

Are farmers represented on the ERWMA Board of Directors?
There are currently 8 representatives from ERWMA Member Organizations who are farmers.  Currently, 3 of our 7 board members are farmers.

What are the goals of the ERWMA?
Simply put, the primary goals of the watershed are to:

  1. Partner with technical experts to gather data on the watershed’s strengths and vulnerabilities (flood risks, water quality, barriers in using practices);
  2. Educate watershed residents, landowners, landlords, businesses, and farmers about their watershed and ways they can help improve their watershed;
  3. Research and apply for funding resources (primarily grants) that support research, education, and implementation of best management practices.

Where are ERWMA headquarters?
The ERWMA office is located at the City of Kalona main offices, 511 C Avenue, Kalona. The City of Kalona donated this space for watershed efforts. Grant funds were obtained to supply watershed staff with computers, printers, a phone, and office supplies.

What is a “Best Management Practice?”
Best Management Practices (BMPs) are described by the EPA as “techniques, measures or structural controls used to manage the quantity and improve the quality of runoff.” Runoff impacts our waterways by carrying pollutants from our communities and farms into streams and rivers. Runoff is also directed into local waterways (through storm sewers and tiling) instead of collecting in wetland areas, or being sponged up by native prairie / vegetation like it did historically. This contributes to flash flooding during heavy rain events.

What is the difference between what the ERWMA is doing and the work of NRCS, County Conservation, the DNR, or IDALS?
The ERWMA works with the above agencies to supplement their efforts in outreach, education and implementation. By bringing together partners over the watershed area, we are able to assist with planning on a larger scale, and apply for funds only available to watershed organizations/regional coalitions. ERWMA staff do not provide technical assistance to individual landowners, rather, we rely on our partnerships with other agencies to provide these services with grant funds we help leverage.

Is the ERWMA an extension of any governmental or regulatory organizations?
No. The ERWMA is a locally-driven non-profit comprised of representatives from English River watershed cities, counties, and conservation districts. The ERWMA is not a separate legal or administrative entity, and has no rulemaking or enforcement authority.

What watershed improvement practices does the ERWMA promote?
The ERWMA encourages voluntary use of best management practices on the farm, in town, and at local business in ways that manage stormwater onsite, improve water quality, and are reasonable and feasible for landowners to implement. We promote the same practices that the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Department of Natural Resources promote. While many of these practices individually have small impacts, we believe that cumulatively, significant improvements in the watershed would occur if every landowner used as many practices as feasible for them to do so.

Who works for the ERWMA?
The ERWMA has one grant funded full-time staff member who serves as the Watershed Coordinator. The coordinator works with the project partners on an assessment of the watershed (flood modeling, water quality snapshots, social survey, and physical environment inventory) that is currently underway. The Coordinator also directs general operations, communications, and research. The ERWMA also has a part-time staff member who provides planning and research assistance to the Watershed Coordinator.