Bioreactor Location Status Map

Greene County
Photos | Article

First Bioreactor in Iowa Gets a Recharge

Hamilton County

Hancock County

Webster County


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Primary Partners: In the spring of 2008, Iowa Soybean Association’s Environmental Programs staff developed the ACWA Bioreactor Demonstration Project on behalf of Agriculture’s Clean Water Alliance (ACWA), which partnered with Sand County Foundation to provide funding.

ACWA, an association of 13 ag retailers in the Raccoon and Des Moines Watersheds, has funded an extensive water monitoring network in these watersheds, beginning with the Raccoon almost a decade ago. ISA Environmental Programs staff installs and maintains this network and, along with Des Moines Water Works, conducts and reports laboratory analysis of the water samples. The purpose of this joint work is to improve understanding, through science and data, of the land-water interface, especially agriculture’s role relating to excessive nutrients in the river system, and to identify solutions that can improve water quality while maintaining farmers’ productivity and profits.

Sand County Foundation has partnered with ISA Environmental Programs on numerous initiatives to advance watershed health in the Upper Mississippi River Sub-basin.

Purpose: Assess the effectiveness of bioreactors as a means of reducing nitrate from subsurface drainage systems.

Plan: Beginning in the summer of 2008 and slated for completion of the installation phase in the Fall of 2009, this demonstration plan included the following objectives:

  1. Install 4-6 bioreactors in multiple counties within the Raccoon and Des Moines River Watersheds (both in the Des Moines Lobe, a heavily tile-drained landform).
  2. Instrument all of the demonstration bioreactors with monitoring equipment.
  3. For a minimum of three years, conduct weekly monitoring of water entering and exiting the bioreactors, analyzing for nitrate, nitrite, chloride, sulfate, ortho-phosphate, pH, dissolved oxygen, and total organic carbon to evaluate effectiveness in achieving water quality goals.
  4. Work with Iowa NRCS to develop and interim standard for this practice.
  5. Gain experience and refine knowledge about optimal design and management of the bioreactors.
  6. Hold field days in conjunction with each installation to introduce this practice to local producers, crop advisors, agencies, and the public.
  7. Evaluate producer interest, acceptance, and ease of practice adoption.
  8. Make information available online and through broadcast and print media outlets.

Progress: Bioreactor installations planned for this project, along with the producer, installation dates, collaborators, and links to photographs, monitoring data, articles, and press releases, are listed in the side bar at the top of this page. Control structures for all installations have been purchased from Agridrain, with John Jordison, of Agridrain, donating onsite installation services. Iowa State University Ag and Biosystems Engineering researchers have provided design consultation for the installations.