Water

Being mindful and proactive with respect to the way we consume, conserve and consider our water resources is a vital component of a sustainable campus and is of primary consideration and focus at Iowa State University. With five creeks flowing through campus and Lake LaVerne, everyone at ISU has an impact on our campus and community water quality through daily decisions related to how we use and protect our water resources.

Stormwater run-off (precipitation that falls to the ground and comes in contact with soils, greases, debris and other contaminants from areas such as roadways, parking lots and rooftops) is one of the leading causes of water quality challenges. Through its ability to carry debris and pollutants directly into water sources, it can impact and endanger the lives of humans, animals and plant life.

Managing stormwater run-off helps reduce and/or eliminate potential negative impacts. Mandated by Congress under the Clean Water Act, the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Stormwater Program is a comprehensive, two-phased national program for addressing the non-agricultural sources of stormwater discharges that adversely affect the quality of our nation's waters. The program uses the NPDES permitting mechanism to require the implementation of controls designed to prevent harmful pollutants from being washed by stormwater runoff into local water bodies.

The City of Ames and Iowa State are leaders in stormwater management, as Ames was the first town of more than 50,000 people in Iowa to receive a permit for expanded stormwater initiatives. Policies related to stormwater management and irrigation practices, managed by Environmental Health and Safety, are currently in place, and are reviewed and revised on an ongoing basis following Best Management Practices (BMPs). Some of these practices include, but are not limited to, hydroseeding, the installation of green roofs, bioswales, as well as the use of permeable pavers, throughout campus. ISU students also play a role in the management of stormwater, having the opportunity to test and monitor water quality for internships and coursework.

Considerations for demanding water, as well as ensuring water quality, are also in place and implemented throughout the campus community. These considerations range from rainwater reuse for building operations to specialized custodial dilution systems, and from landscaping with local ecotype plants to utilizing applications specifically focused on determining need, timing and intensity of irrigation.


"When I began this job in 1991, all the streams were compromised and could barely sustain life. In response, we began a stormwater management program and now we have fish in our streams. Of all the different projects I've seen on campus, the stormwater initiative is one where I can say water quality is better now than it was 20 years ago. That's a notable impact."

-Bill Diesslin, Environmental Health and Safety Associate Director