Kitty Creek is among WMA water testing sites

Volunteers Lynette Seigley (foreground) and Dean Zimmerman of the Maquoketa River Watershed Management Authority prepare lab samples of water taken from Kitty Creek during a water monitoring project June 23 off E. First St. (Photo by Pete Temple)
Pete Temple
Express Associate Editor

     Water quality in the Maquoketa River is being carefully monitored, thanks to the efforts of the Maquoketa River Watershed Management Authority (WMA).

     Kitty Creek was one of 36 locations within the Maquoketa River watershed that was tested June 23 as part of the WMA’s water monitoring project.

     The creeks, known as subwatersheds, are tested for levels of turbidity (sediment), nitrates, phosphorus, chloride, sulfate, and E. coli bacteria.

     Volunteers Lynette Seigley and Dean Zimmerman were at the Monticello site, to collect the samples, which were then transported to the DNR Fish Hatchery in Manchester for turbidity testing, and Coe College for all other categories.

     Zimmerman dipped a plastic bottle into Kitty Creek off the E. First St. bridge, filling it. He and Seigley then poured the water into smaller bottles for lab samples, which were labeled and sent to the labs.

     “We started sampling in 2019,” Seigley said. “The idea is to sample for several years and see if we start to see a pattern where certain subwatersheds have higher levels or lower levels compared to the rest.”

     “Everything goes on ice in a cooler while they’re in transit to the lab,” Zimmerman said.

     Each year, the organization uses a “snapshot” approach by collecting and testing water samples from streams flowing into the Maquoketa River on three different dates. This year’s dates are May 19, June 23 and Aug. 11. This is the second year of the program.

     “Residents, communities, counties and soil and water conservation districts were all concerned about the watersheds and the water quality, and they started efforts way back in 2015,” said Lori Scovel, executive director of Limestone Bluffs Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D), which was instrumental in the formation of the Maquoketa River WMA.

     “It will help us identify some problem areas, and maybe those will be the first areas where we look at some conservation efforts.”

     The testing results are converted into color-coded maps, showing whether different areas have high, medium or low levels of the various elements.

     “Then I can pull data from the state stream network and compare it to what’s going on statewide,” Seigley said.

     Kitty Creek tested reasonably well on Tuesday. The Monticello site earned medium scores for chloride and turbidity, and low (good) scores in all other categories. Kitty Creek is also looking fairly stable from test results a year ago.

     Before the test, Seigley said, “Today’s results will be interesting given how much rain the entire watershed got (June 22), so we’ll take that into account when looking at the results from today.”

     The rainfall, she said, could contribute to higher turbidity levels.

     “In May we had a really high score on something in one creek, but you have to look at it over time,” Scovel explained. “So those little pinpoints aren’t necessarily an indicator of a long-term problem.”

     In Jones County, volunteers collected water samples from four additional stream sites: Farm Creek, Mineral Creek, Silver Creek and Whitewater Creek.


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