Other Faculty and Staff Publications

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Historically, Iowa’s lakes have been plagued with numerous water quality problems including excessive siltation, nutrients, pesticides, and bacterial contamination. Iowa places a heavy reliance on voluntary efforts to address these problems, largely in the form of best management practices (BMPs). Studies have shown that BMPs can improve lake water quality and, in turn, increase recreational activity and visitor spending. In recognition of the potential economic, recreational, and social benefits of improved lake water quality, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) secured significant legislative funding in 2006 to initiate a state-wide lake restoration program (LRP).

LRP case studies are presented in this report to:

  • Identify and promote BMPs used to improve lake water quality and spur LRP investment;
  • Illustrate the positive impact of improved water quality on recreational activity, environmental sustainability, and local economies;
  • Inspire long-term, wide-scale stakeholder participation and support for BMP projects aimed at enhancing lake aesthetics, water quality conditions, and lake amenities; and
  • Illustrate how the LRP initiative presents a tremendous return-on-investment opportunity for proactive stakeholders to significantly improve lake recreational amenities and aesthetics.

A questionnaire-based survey, targeting state park programs located adjacent to impaired lakes was used to gain input on recreational activity, water quality issues, barriers to BMP implementation; educational efforts; and stakeholder involvement. The survey was emailed to 27 state park managers and 20 of the surveys were returned. Survey results indicated there was moderate to high visitation at the parks and the main usage was for fishing followed by recreational boating and then swimming. Over half (60%) of the parks experienced water quality advisories because of algae blooms and bacteria levels. More than half of the respondents rated lake water clarity below “moderate” and indicated the trend in water quality has essentially remained the same for the past three years. Survey responses suggest stakeholder involvement is weak or lacking. Most managers rated stakeholder involvement as less than “good,” a rating linked to poorer water quality ratings. In cases where stakeholders were more involved, the lake was assigned a higher water quality rating.


Iowa Waste Reduction Center


First published by the Sustainable Tourism and Environmental Program (STEP), University of Northern Iowa in 2011.

Original Publication Date



UNI ScholarWorks, University of Northern Iowa, Rod Library


©2011 Biran Gedlinske, Wade Kooiman, and Katie Olsen

Date Digital




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