Iowa Watershed Approach Information System

The Iowa Watershed Approach Information System (IWAIS) is an interactive data visualization platform designed to support and inform decisions related to strategic best management practice (BMP) implementation and the development of community flood resilience.

IWAIS is specifically designed for the watersheds and communities participating in the Iowa Watershed Approach (http://www.iowawatershedapproach.org) project funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. This platform helps the IWA achieve its goals focused on reducing flood risk, improving water quality, increasing flood resilience, and engaging stakeholders through outreach and education.

IWAIS displays information on three major components: social vulnerability, flood damage estimates, and BMP mapping. This information allows users to make connections between urban and rural—upstream and downstream—watershed activities. IWAIS supports efforts to increase flood resilience within a community or at the watershed scale, to mitigate future damages, and to enhance flood preparedness, response, and recovery.

Social Vulnerability

Social vulnerability index (SVI) maps are available for all IWA watersheds as a useful tool to identify areas with high levels of social vulnerability (or lower resilience), particularly at the intersections of flood risk. The SVI is a combined metric of 12 indicators (African American, language barrier, renters, unemployed, poverty, children, elderly, Hispanic, low education, female-headed household, disabled, and no vehicle access) as a percent of the population at the census tract level. The U.S. Census Bureau makes these indicator data available.

Flood Damage Estimates

Flood damage estimates for businesses, residential properties, and other buildings at the intersection of flood risk are available for select Iowa communities. The damage estimates are a direct loss based on the structure, including its contents and interior, and illustrate the potential impact of flood inundation. The Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Department (HSEMD) provides the data (produced using FEMA’s Hazus modeling software) to the Iowa Flood Center. Hazus produces damage scenarios based on an average annualized loss and probabilistic results from floods.

BMP Mapping

Researchers use data produced using the Iowa Best Management Practices (Iowa BMP) Mapping Project and Agricultural Conservation Planning Framework (ACPF) to establish baseline conditions in each of the IWA watersheds and to assist with planning and practice implementation efforts. BMP results available on IWAIS include ponds, water and sediment control basins (WASCOBS), and grassed waterways.

The Iowa BMP Mapping Project gathers baseline information on existing BMPs in IWA watersheds and across the state. This valuable tool can be used for watershed modeling, planning, and future tracking of conservation practices. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Iowa State University are leading the Iowa BMP mapping project. Information for the state can be downloaded at https://www.gis.iastate.edu/gisf/projects/conservation-practices.

In addition, the Agricultural Conservation Planning Framework (ACPF) tool developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture can be used to identify hypothetical BMPs that could be implemented in IWA watersheds. More details about the ACPF can be accessed at http://northcentralwater.org/acpf/.

IWAIS can help watershed groups prioritize potential BMPs to mitigate flooding, improve water quality, and increase flood resilience. IIHR—Hydroscience and Engineering and Iowa Flood Center researchers at the University of Iowa developed this tool. Much of the information displayed is harvested from the IFC’s Iowa Flood Information System (http://ifis.iowafloodcenter.org/) and IIHR’s Iowa Water-Quality Information System (https://iwqis.iowawis.org/).