CARD awarded Iowa DNR funds for lakes survey

The Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) has been awarded a $130,750 grant by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to renew a study that previously helped shed light on the use of Iowa’s numerous recreational lakes.

In 2002, CARD, the Department of Economics and the Department of Evolutionary Ecology and Organismal Biology, and the Limnology Laboratory at Iowa State worked together create the Iowa Lakes Valuation Project ( The Limnology Laboratory had completed a five-year study that provided the DNR with a lake database that included biological analysis, watershed GIS, and water chemistry for 132 recreational lakes across the state. The Lakes Valuation Project took the information one step further by surveying Iowans to determine use and valuation information for the same set of lakes over a comparable time period. “Collecting information on how, where, and when Iowans make use of the state’s recreational lakes allows us to properly analyze and evaluate the return on investment for water quality improvement projects,” said Cathy Kling, Director of CARD.

In all, the survey was sent to 4,000 households to collect information on how frequently they visited one of the 132 recreational lakes including possible future trips, personal perception of water quality, and willingness to pay for improved water quality at the site. Of the households surveyed, 62 percent reported taking at least one trip to one of the 132 lakes in the previous year, with the overall average number of trips per year being closer to eight. When choosing a lake for recreation the largest number of respondents (32 percent) indicated that water quality was the most important deciding factor, with lake proximity being the second most common response. Respondents also indicated that when considering water quality, safety from bacterial contamination and health advisories was the most important factor, with water clarity coming in second.

With the most recent grant, CARD will send surveys to 6,000 households, including some households that responded to the original survey, to determine usage information such as the number of actual trips and anticipated trips of each respondent to one of the 132 lakes, as well as income, gender, education level, and number of children in the household. The surveys will also help collect data to determine demand for visits, analyze visitation patterns, and determine economic impact of lake water quality. “An updated survey will allow the DNR to target its restoration efforts to locations that are the most valuable for Iowans,” Kling said.

Surveys should be mailed to households by early 2015, with data analyzed and presented in a final report by late 2015.

(Released August 2014)