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Smart Watersheds For Clean Rivers and Streams Logo


 A jogger running on a wooden path near water holding a trash bag

A street view of downtown with the text "Adopt-a-Street" written across it.

  • Join the Ames Adopt-A-Stream/Watershed Stewards Program.
  • Pick up your pet’s waste.
  •  Complimentary dog bags are available from the City by calling the Public Works office at 515-239-5160
  •  Yard Care:
  • Wash your car on your lawn or take it to a commercial car wash. Watch this video: Car Wash

Do you live along a stream or pond?  Review this guide for water protection tips

Get involved in a local watershed group:

Bird Friendly Community Resources:



City of Ames 2014 Woodland Management Plan

American Bird Conservancy





Why are Clean Rivers, Streams and Lakes Important?  All stormwater in Ames moves across the land surface and discharges to a low point in the landscape. For most of Ames, that is a local stream.

The area that is drained is called a watershed. We all live in a watershed and how we manage our yards and parking lots has an impact on our stream and lake water quality.

What is the Ames Smart Watershed Program? The Public Works Department coordinates a stormwater program in cooperation with other City departments and local partners. This program emphasizes stormwater and watershed education and outreach, watershed projects that include installation of practices to improve water quality in Ames, municipal pollution prevention and promotion of stormwater best management practices. It also engages the community to make changes in behavior that will improve water quality.A young child playing at an interactive station at Science Night

The educational program focuses on the following areas:

    • Residential Campaign: Sustainable lawn care, pollution prevention, storm drain stenciling, stormwater best management practices

    • School Program:  Educational resources and presentations to local schools 

  •  Builders and Contractors: Construction site pollution prevention and post-construction stormwater management
  • Did you know that the following are pollutants in stormwater?
  • Bacteria from pet, animal, and waterfowl wastes, and improperly functioning septic systems.
  • Nutrients from excessive and improper use of fertilizers.
  • Hydrocarbons and other chemical pollutants from motor vehicle fluids and improper disposal of paints, oils, and antifreeze.
  • Pesticide residues from excessive and improper use of lawn chemicals.
  • Thermal pollution of stormwater discharges from heated impervious surfaces such as roads, driveways and parking lots.

Watersheds in Ames: Overall Watershed Map

What are the Water Quality Concerns?  When it rains in most areas of Ames, the stormwater is collected in street drains that discharge directly to our local streams. Stormwater moves across surfaces such as streets and lawns and carries any pollutants along with it directly to our local streams.

Past Efforts to Encourage Clean Rivers and Streams:

Public Works staff met with stream Geofluvial-morphological Engineer Dave Derrick in March, 2014 to assess Skunk River and Squaw Creek.

Group of people near a creek.








Active streambank erosion was observed on the Skunk River during the site visit.

Active steambank erosion on the Skunk River

Public Works staff join ISU Skunk River Navy on Skunk River Stream cleanup on September 21.

Public Works staff and ISU Skunk River Navy members cleaning The Skunk Riverin 2013

Watershed Projects to Improve and Protect Local Streams

College Creek Watershed

College Creek Buffer Management Plan

College Creek Stream Buffer (2009):  A native prairie plant and tree buffer was planted along the edges of College Creek near Wilder to stabilize the stream and enhance habitat. A small buffalo grass buffer was added in 2011 as a joint effort with Public Works, Parks and Recreation, ISU School of Natural Resources, and EPA Region VII.

Aerial view of Daley Park Urban Riparian Buffer


College Creek Streambank Restoration Project (2010): Streambank restoration was done on College Creek between Thackeray Drive and South Dakota. Highlights include slope regrading, rip rap, fish habitat, and native vegetation in select areas. These practices will improve the quality of College Creek. The project was funded in part by the City of Ames and the Watershed Improvement Review Board (WIRB) funds.

College Creek restoration poster listing the restoration work that has been completed.


Emerson Drive Stormwater Gallery (2008): Filter strips and rain gardens were installed in the residential area on Emerson Drive. Partners include: Public Works, Parks and Recreation, ISU Landscape Architecture School, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Watershed Improvement Review Board, U.S. EPA Region VII. 

Emmerson Drive landscaping filter strip


Skunk River Watershed

Bioretention Cells on 24th Street (2015):  A series of bioretention cells were installed along 24th Street capture and treat stormwater before it is discharged to the river.  These cells are fitted with a new pretreatment system, Rain Guardian, that removes sediment and debris.

 Bioretention well on 24th Street in 2015.


Bioretention Cells at the City of Ames Operations Facility on Edison Street (2011): A series of three bioretention cells were constructed by City staff at the Operations facility with funding provided by I-JOBS through the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. They were competed in September 2011 and treat runoff from the Operations Facility parking lot.

 Bioretention cells on Edison Street in 2011.Bioretention cells on Edison Street in 2012.


Billy Sunday Road (2010): The first porous asphalt sidewalk in Ames was installed to improve site drainage and stormwater management. This project was funded by the City of Ames.

Porous asphalt sidewalk at Billy Sunday Road in 2010

Resource Recovery Infiltration Basin (2010): The City installed a modified detention basin in the new parking lot directly east of the Resource Recovery Plant to capture and treat run-off.

Modified detention basin at Resource Recovery in 2010

Ada Hayden Watershed Calhoun Park Bioretention Cell (2009): A bioretention cell was installed by the Parks and Recreation Department and utilized native vegetation. This cell captures and treats parking lot run-off.


Ada Hayden Native Landscaped Areas (2007/08): Two large areas near the parking lots on the north side of the property were installed with native landscaping to treat the stormwater runoff from the parking lots. Partners include: Parks and Recreation, Public Works, Prairie Rivers RC&D.

Native landscaping at Ada Hayden in 2007/2008

Squaw Creek Watershed

Bioretention Cells Brookside Drive (2015):  A number of bioretention cells were installed along Brookside drive to capture and treat stormwater runoff from lawns and streets. 

 A bioretention cell at Brookside Drive in 2015


Rain Garden/Bioretention Cell at City Hall (2011): This was constructed by City staff with funding provided by I-JOBS through the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

Rain garden and bioretention cell at City Hall in 2011

Furman Aquatic Center Biocell (2010): Several series of bioretention cells were installed by the Parks and Recreation Department at the new Aquatic Center to capture and treat parking lot run-off. Recycled glass from Resource Recovery was used in place of sand in the engineered soil mix. The cells are planted to native prairie vegetation.

A biocell at Furman Aquatic Center in 2010

Community Center Bioretention Cell (2009): A bioretention cell was installed in the parking lot on the west side of the Ames Community Center. It is planted with native plants and treats stormwater run-off the City Hall parking lot.

Bioretention cell at the Community Center in 2009

Native Landscaping (2007/08): A garden area was planted with native prairie vegetation on the north side of the Community Center. The native plants provide aesthetic beauty, and the deep roots improve soil quality and allow for infiltration of stormwater.

Native landscaping at the Community Center in 2007/2008

Blackwood St. Pervious Concrete: Blackwood Street was paved with pervious concrete that allows rain water to drain to a subsurface stone layer where it is treated before discharge to Squaw Creek.

Pervious Concrete at Blackwood Street


Numerous Rain Gardens

Residential Rain Gardens (2009): Several residential rain gardens were installed in residential areas and funded in part by the City of Ames Rain Garden Rebate

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