In Iowa, a watershed scale approach has been utilized as the way to address many of our natural resource concerns. With this approach problems are addressed at the source resulting in more long term, holistic solutions. Working on a watershed scale also brings an awareness of interconnectedness to the local communities and promotes working together to achieve goals. The Polk SWCD has taken this approach when working towards improving the natural resources in Polk County.

Every watershed we work in is unique with different environmental concerns and potential solutions. Because of this, each watershed project has a completed watershed management plan which includes a detailed watershed assessment, report of local issues, and an action plan to meet improvement goals. Polk SWCD plays a major role in implementing these plans by partnering with the residents and other stakeholders to achieve watershed goals.

Use the links below to learn more about the areas Polk SWCD is currently working towards improving!


Easter Lake Watershed Project

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Attracting nearly 400,000 visitors each year, Easter Lake Park has been a great recreational resource to central Iowa since its creation in 1967. Easter Lake is fed by Yeader Creek which is part of a 6,380-acre watershed that stretches across Des Moines from the airport east to the lake. Over the last several years this popular 178-acre lake has faced diminishing water quality as development in the area has increased. The lake currently suffers from poor water clarity, algal blooms, high sedimentation rates, low oxygen concentrations, and a poor fishery. The Easter Lake Watershed Project is dedicated to addressing these water quality issues, improving recreational opportunities, and reconnecting local residents with the natural amenities of the area.

Mud Camp & Spring

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Mud, Camp and Spring Creeks are located in Polk, Jasper, and Marion Counties. Together, the creeks and their tributaries traverse over 50 miles and their watersheds cover 64,511 acres. While agriculture is the predominant land use in the area, there is a large potential for development in the coming years. There are five cities located within the boundaries; Bondurant, Altoona, Mitchellville, Runnells, and Pleasant Hill. High nutrient levels, erosion, and flooding have all been identified as primary watershed issues. To address these issues, a Watershed Management Authority was formed in 2014.

Fourmile Creek

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Fourmile Creek Watershed encompasses 76,000 acres central Iowa. The creek itself runs for over 40 miles before entering the Des Moines River. The watershed’s northernmost reaches are located in Boone and Story Counties and include portions of the cities of Sheldahl and Slater. The largest area of the watershed is located in Polk County and encompasses the cities of Pleasant Hill, Ankeny, Altoona, Alleman, Elkhart, and Des Moines. Resource concerns seen in and along the creek include high bacteria levels, excess nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus), and erosion. A Watershed Management Authority (WMA) was formed in 2012 to try and address these concerns.

Walnut Creek

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The Walnut Creek Watershed is located in west central Iowa and encompasses 53,697 acres located in both Dallas and Polk counties. Around sixty percent of the watershed is rural/agriculture and forty percent is urban. The agriculture portion is mainly located in the northern portion of the watershed and includes the communities of Dallas Center and Grimes. The urban portion, located in the southern half of the watershed, includes the communities of Clive, Waukee, West Des Moines, Windsor Heights, Urbandale, and Des Moines. High levels of nitrates, bacteria, and increased flooding are the main concerns within the Walnut Creek Watershed. A Watershed Management Authority was formed in 2014 to address these issues.


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Iowa is America’s most biologically altered state.