Smart Watersheds

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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's New


Learn more about the Squaw Creek Watershed Management Plan


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.

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


 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.








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

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

2013SRNPW Staff

Major Watersheds in Ames Include: 

South Skunk River
Squaw Creek
Clear Creek
Onion Creek
Worle Creek
College Creek
Overall Watershed Map

NEW Squaw Creek Watershed Management Authority

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.

Watershed Projects to Improve and Protect Local Streams

College Creek Watershed

NEW 2015 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.



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 Poster


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. 



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 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.



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.


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.


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.


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. 



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.


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.


Community Center Biorention Cell (2009): A biorention 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.


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.


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.



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.


What 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.


Learn More - What You Can Do to Help

  • Do not dump anything down the storm drain
  • Construct a rain garden in your yard
  • Pick up pet waste
  • Do not use phosphorus fertilizers
  • Sweep any fertilizer residue and grass clippings off of sidewalks, driveways and streets
  • Restore the soil quality in your yard
  • Plant deep-rooted native plants
  • Try native grass turf in your yard
  • Capture rooftop rain in a rain barrel and use that for watering your gardens
  • Wash your car on your lawn or take it to a commercial car wash
  • Get involved in a local watershed group



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