Understanding how conservation benefits the watershed

By Pedro Gutierrez, IFC student assistant

Students at IIHR—Hydroscience & Engineering and the Iowa Flood Center come from all over the world to study water resources. Graduate Research Assistant Anthony Vecchi joined the Iowa Flood Center team after growing up in Duluth, Minn., enjoying the outdoors and the recreational opportunities at Lake Superior. His interest in the lake sparked his curiosity about how to protect water resources by keeping them clean, preventing them from flooding, and making them sustainable.

Anthony was familiar with the agricultural landscape of Iowa before coming to the University of Iowa. However, it wasn’t until he began studying hydraulics and water quality that he anthonybegan to understand the connection between the landscape and concerns about flooding and water-quality in the state. Anthony’s interest in these topics propelled him to join a project studying the benefits of various conservation practices such as cover crops to reduce streamflows and nutrients leaving the watershed.

Anthony has developed a physically-based hydrologic model of the Cedar Creek Watershed near Fairfield, Iowa, to perform the study. He is using MIKE-SHE, a physically-based surface-subsurface hydrologic modeling software developed by the Danish Hydraulic Institute (DHI). Anthony collects inputs for the model from publicly available data and by looking at characteristics of the watershed, such as surface roughness and infiltration properties. The model will allow Anthony to simulate the effects of placing various conservation practices throughout the Cedar Creek Watershed over a long period of time. He can then compare that data to what currently exists in the watershed. The information will then be available to farmers and watershed stakeholders to help them make more informed decisions on where to focus their conservation efforts.

The Iowa Nutrient Research Center (INRC) at Iowa State University is funding this project. The Iowa Board of Regents established the INRC in response to legislation passed in 2013. The center pursues science-based approaches to help Iowans achieve Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy goals.

Learn more about graduate education at IIHR—Hydroscience & Engineering and the Iowa Flood Center at http://www.iihr.uiowa.edu/education/graduate-program/.