Iowa DNR

Water Quality Assessments

Impaired Waters List

Wapsipinicon River IA 01-WPS-342

from Pine Cr. (S28 T88N R8W Buchanan Co.) to confluence with Harter Cr. at Independence in NW 1/4 S34 T89N R9W Buchanan Co.

Assessment Cycle
Result Period
2002 - 2004
Class A Class B(WW) HQR
Assessment Methodology
Assessment Type
Integrated Report
Category 5a
Legacy ADBCode
IA 01-WPS-0020_3
Overall Use Support
Aquatic Life Use Support
Fish Consumption
Primary Contact Recreation
Assessment Comments

Assessment is based on results of (1) IDNR/UHL ambient monitoring from 2002-04, (2) EPA/IDNR fish tissue (RAFT) monitoring SE of Independence in 2000, and (3) biological monitoring conducted in 2002 by IDNR Fisheries Bureau: FIBI = 65 (good), and (4) results of a fish kill investigation in 2005.

Basis for Assessment

SUMMARY:  Class A (primary contact recreation) use is assessed (monitored) as “partially supported” due to high levels of indicator bacteria (E.  coli).   The Class B(WW) aquatic life uses are assessed (evaluated) as "partially supported" based on occurrence of a fish kill in 2005.   Fish consumption uses remain assessed (monitored) as "fully supported" based on results of U.S.  EPA/IDNR fish contaminant monitoring in 2000.   The sources of data for this assessment include (1) results of IDNR/UHL ambient water quality monitoring downstream of Independence (station 10100002), (2) results of biological monitoring by IDNR Fisheries in 2002, (3) results of EPA/IDNR fish tissue (RAFT) monitoring in 2000 approximately 1 mile southeast of Independence, and (4) results of a fish kill investigation in August 2005.

EXPLANATION:  The Class A (primary contact recreation) use are assessed as “partially supported” due to high levels of indicator bacteria in this river segment.   Due to recent changes in Iowa’s Water Quality Standards, Iowa’s 2006 assessment methodology for indicator bacteria has changed.   Prior to 2003, the Iowa WQ Standards contained a high-flow exemption for the Class A criterion for indicator bacteria (fecal coliforms) designed to protect primary contact recreation uses:  the water quality criterion for fecal coliform bacteria (200 orgs/100 ml) did not apply "when the waters [were] materially affected by surface runoff."  Due to a change in the Standards in July 2003, E.  coli is now the indicator bacterium, and the high flow exemption was eliminated and replaced with language stating that the Class A criteria for E.  coli apply when Class A1, A2, or A3 uses “can reasonably be expected to occur.”  Because the IDNR Technical Advisory Committee on WQ Standards could not agree on what flow conditions would define periods when uses would not be reasonably expected to occur, all monitoring data generated for E.  coli during the assessment period, regardless of flow conditions during sample collection, will be considered for determining support of Class A uses for purposes of the 2006 Section 305(b) assessments and Section 303(d) listings.  

The geometric mean level of indicator bacteria (E.  coli) in the 13 samples collected from the IDNR/UHL ambient station during the recreational seasons of 2003 and 2004 (101 orgs/100ml) is below the Iowa Class A water quality criterion of 126 orgs/100ml.   Four of the 13 samples (31%), however, exceeded Iowa’s single-sample maximum value of 235 orgs/100 ml.   According to U.S.  EPA guidelines for Section 305(b) reporting, if levels of E.  coli exceed the single-sample maximum value in more than 10% of the samples, the primary contact recreation uses should be assessed as “partially supported” (see pgs 3-33 to 3-35of U.S.  EPA 1997b).   According to IDNR’s assessment/listing methodology, these results suggest that significantly greater than 10% of the samples exceed IDNR’s single-sample maximum value, thus suggesting that the Class A uses should be assessed as “partially supported/impaired”.  

The results of IDNR/UHL ambient water quality monitoring from 2003 and 2004 suggest "full support" of the Class B(WW) uses due to the lack of violations of state water quality criteria for pH, dissolved oxygen, and ammonia-nitrogen in the approximately 18 samples during the 2003-2004 period.   In addition, no violations of Class B(WW) chronic criteria occurred in the four samples analyzed for the pesticide chlorpyrifos during this period.   None of the six samples analyzed for toxic metals violated the respective Class B(WW) criteria.  

Results of biological monitoring conducted in 2002 by the IDNR Fisheries Bureau suggest that the Class B(WW) aquatic life use should be assessed (evaluated) as "fully supported".   A series of biological metrics which reflect stream water quality and habitat integrity were calculated from the Fisheries sampling data.   The biological metrics are based on the numbers and types of fish species that were collected in the stream sampling reach.   The biological metrics were combined to make a fish community index of biotic integrity (FIBI).   The index ranks the biological integrity of a stream sampling reach on a rising scale from 0 (minimum) to 100 (maximum).   The 2002 evaluated FIBI was 65 (good).   The aquatic life use support was assessed (evaluated) as fully supporting (=FS), based on a comparison of the FIBI score with biological impairment criteria (BIC) established for previous Section 305(b) reports.  The biological impairment criteria were determined from a statistical analysis of data collected at stream ecoregion reference sites from 1994-2004.   The riffle site FIBI BIC for this ecoregion is 65.

The occurrence of a fish kill in this river segment late August, 2005, however, suggests that the Class B(WW) uses of this river segment should be assessed (evaluated) as impaired.   IDNR Fisheries staff investigated the kill.   Seventeen dead channel catfish ranging in length from 12 to more than 20 inches were found immediately downriver from the Independence Dam; only channel catfish appeared to have been affected by the kill.   The kill was attributed to stress associated with high water temperatures and was not caused by a pollutant.   According to IDNR’s assessment and listing methodology, a single fish kill attributed to non-pollutant sources within the most recent three-year period suggests that the aquatic life uses should be assessed (evaluated) as “partially supported”.   Due to lack of a pollutant source, this type of kill is not appropriate for Section 303(d) listing but is appropriate for Subcategory 2b of Iowa's Integrated Report.

Fish consumption uses were assessed (monitored) as “fully supported” based on results of U.S.EPA/IDNR fish contaminant (RAFT) monitoring downstream from Independence in 2000.   The composite samples of fillets from channel catfish and smallmouth bass had low levels of contaminants.   The existence of, or potential for, a fish consumption advisory is the basis for Section 305(b) assessments of the degree to which Iowa’s lakes and rivers support their fish consumption uses.   Prior to 2006, IDNR used action levels published by the U.S Food and Drug Administration to determine whether consumption advisories should be issued for fish caught as part of recreational fishing in Iowa.   In an effort to make Iowa’s consumption more compatible with the various protocols used by adjacent states, the Iowa Department of Public Health, in cooperation with Iowa DNR, developed a risk-based advisory protocol.   This protocol went into effect in January 2006 (see for more information on Iowa’s revised fish consumption advisory protocol).   Because the revised (2006) protocol is more restrictive than the previous protocol based on FDA action levels; fish contaminant data that previously suggested “full support” may now suggest either a threat to, or impairment of, fish consumption uses.   This scenario, however, does not apply to the fish contaminant data generated from the 2000 RAFT sampling conducted in this segment of the Wapsipinicon River:  the levels of contaminants do not exceed any of the new (2006) advisory trigger levels, thus suggesting no justification for issuance of a consumption advisory for this waterbody.

Monitoring and Methods
Assessment Key Dates
8/31/2005 Fishkill
12/7/2004 Fixed Monitoring End Date
7/1/2003 Fixed Monitoring Start Date
1/1/2002 Biological Monitoring
7/31/2000 Fish Tissue Monitoring
260 Fish tissue analysis
330 Fish surveys
315 Regional reference site approach
230 Fixed station physical/chemical (conventional plus toxic pollutants)
420 Water column surveys (e.g. fecal coliform)
140 Incidence of spills and/or fish kills
Monitoring Levels
Biological 3
Habitat 0
Physical Chemistry 3
Toxic 3
Pathogen Indicators 3
Other Health Indicators 0
Other Aquatic Life Indicators 0
# of Bio Sites 1
BioIntegrity Good
Causes and Sources of Impairment
Causes Use Support Cause Magnitude Sources Source Magnitude
Pathogens Primary Contact Recreation Slight
  • Source Unknown
  • Slight