Meskwaki Project

PERIOD OF PROJECT: 2006 - 2014
PROJECT CHIEF: Greg Littin - Email Greg Littin
STUDY AREA: Tama County
COOPERATING AGENCIES: Sac and Fox tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa (Meskwaki Natural Resources). Additional assistance has been provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia.


The Sac and Fox of the Mississippi in Iowa (Meskwaki Nation) desire to establish water quality standards to safeguard the integrity of surface-water resources within the settlement for the health and welfare of the tribal community. The Iowa River drains over 1,800 square miles of croplands and industrial livestock facilities up-gradient of the settlement. In addition to providing fish and game that normally inhabit the riverine environment, tribal members use the river for primary contact recreation where accidental ingesting of the water poses a potential threat to their health.


The objectives of this project are to:

  1. Provide technical assistance to personnel of the Meskwaki Nation in monitoring the water quality and aquatic health of the Iowa River and tributaries within and contiguous to the settlement;
  2. Assist Meskwaki Nation in developing a groundwater monitoring network in support of their well-head protection program;
  3. Monitor surface-water discharge on the Iowa River at Hwy E49; and
  4. Provide training and oversight in the collection, processing, and interpretation of water-related data.


Water-quality samples were collected at three sites on the Iowa River, two sites on Onion Creek, and one site each on Cattail, Raven, and Bennett Creeks from April 2006 through July 2007 and again from September 2010 to September 2011. Biological and habitat assessments were conducted at all three sites on the Iowa River and at two sites on Onion Creek. Analysis of physical properties, major ions, nutrients, trace compounds, bacteria, and total suspended solids in water, and trace metals and organic compounds in streambed sediment provided information about the effects of anthropogenic (human related) activities on the water quality of settlement streams. Analysis of biological samples, including fish community, benthic macroinvertebrates, and periphyton samples, as well as physical habitat characteristics, provided information on the effects of water quality on the condition of the aquatic environment.

Individual biological metrics were derived from the data collected during the community surveys. These metrics were used to calculate Indexes of Biological Integrity (IBIs). The calculated values from the IBIs provided a numerical value that was used to provide an assessment of the biological condition at each biological sampling site. Fish-tissue samples, both fillet and liver, were collected to provide an assessment of current fish health and the potential effects on human health related to the contaminants present in fish tissue.

A third round of water-quality, biological, and habitat assessments were conducted between August 2012 and September 2013. These data, along with the previously collected data, help provide a basis for establishing future tribal water quality standards.

A 24-well monitoring network has been constructed throughout the source water area. Monitoring of water-level and water-quality data began in 2013 that can be used for future groundwater modeling efforts.


  1. Conduct a flood inundation mapping of the Iowa River within the Meskwaki Settlement.
  2. Submit proposal to assess the effects of climate and land-use changes on water quality and source-water availability.