Results show Maquoketa, Kitty Creek as healthy bodies of water

The Maquoketa River WMA tested Kitty Creek, a feeder stream to the Maquoketa River, back in late June. Results of that sample test proved that Kitty Creek is relatively healthy compared to the state average. (Photo by Pete Temple)
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     In late June, volunteers and members of the Maquoketa River Watershed Management Authority were in Monticello to take water samples from Kitty Creek, which flows into the Maquoketa River. Thirty-six different feeder streams of the Maquoketa were tested that day as part of the WMA’s water monitoring project.

     On Nov. 10, the WMA shared those test results with their members, which include Jones County and the City of Monticello.

     Results were shared from the first two years of the project: 2019 and 2020. Samples from the creeks are collected three times a year from each of the 36 sites across the watershed. Those samples are tested for:

     • Nitrate

     • Dissolved Reactive Phosphorous

     • Chloride

     • Sulfate

     • E. coli bacteria

     • Turbidity (the clarity of water to allow light to filter through)

     Dave Mack, committee chair with the WMA Water Monitoring Committee and district conservationist with NRCS, said the Watershed Management Authority is still collecting data on the 36 sites, despite being two years in.

     “We need a few years’ worth of data to see any trends,” said Mack.

     The samples that were taken from Kitty Creek, as well as the other 35 feeder streams, are simply a snapshot of the water from that day and time, warned Mack.

     The results of what was shown to be within Kitty Creek, and the Maquoketa River for that matter, are compared to the statewide average of other rivers and streams.

     “The Maquoketa River is doing really well for the most part,” noted Mack.

     In terms of nitrates in the Maquoketa, there does appear to be more than the state average.

     “Too much nitrogen causes more plant growth within the water,” explained Mack. For drinking water standards, there is a certain level of nitrogen that is acceptable by standards.

     The level of phosphorous in the river is also higher than the average. Like nitrogen, this can also cause excess plant growth and algae blooms.

     The Maquoketa exhibited less chloride than the average, as well as sulfate. The turbidity was also lower, which is a good thing.

     There was a higher presence of E. coli, which can be traced to fecal matter of livestock and wildlife.

     “We’re not necessarily saying the Maquoketa River and its streams are bad,” said Mack. “The purpose of the water monitoring is to study the whole watershed and reduce the level of bacteria.”

     In addition to Kitty Creek, the WMA also took samples from Silver Creek, north of Monticello and west of Highway 38. Mack said both streams appear to be healthy, which means those are symptoms of a healthy watershed.

     “There are some good conservation practices taking place,” he praised.

     Kitty Creek is shown to have the fourth lowest amount of E. coli.

     “That’s really good,” said Mack.

     For nitrates, Kitty Creek is among the lower half of the 36 sites tested.

     The creek is also at the bottom, second lowest, for phosphorous levels.

     “Kitty Creek is one of our best streams in 2020,” noted Mack.

     The Maquoketa River Watershed Management Authority, NRCS, and Jones Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) all operate with the mission of reducing soil erosion and to improve water quality. Mack said each county that is a member of the WMA has its own local NRCS and SWCD. Farmers and landowners along the Maquoketa River, and people interested in water quality can get involved in helping efforts to keep streams and rivers healthy and clean.

     “That’s what this is all about,” he said.

     You can find out more about the Maquoketa River WMA by visiting their Facebook page or


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