Iowa BMP Mapping Project

The Iowa BMP (Best Management Practices) Mapping Project provides an accurate inventory of BMPs which are essential to establish baseline conditions and document implementation resulting from the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy. The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy is a guiding document which uses science and technology to assess and reduce nutrients in Iowa waters and the Gulf of Mexico. This project fulfills the priority of the INRS document by providing a meaningful record of the in-field and off-field conservation practices for reducing erosion and nutrient loss. While individual organizations and programs often keep track of the practices that they install or advocate, the State of Iowa has lacked a comprehensive database of practices in each watershed. Our research is dedicated to completing this database for the entire state.

Click to view Watershed Status Map


To identify structural management practices on the landscape, aerial imagery and LiDAR-derived products such as hillshade and slope are used. The images below show examples of how hillshade and slope are helpful for identifying terraces. The imagery provides a three dimensional view of the ground to supplement the natural color and infrared aerial photography (2-D).imagery-examples

Each semester since the spring of 2015, student interns have been digitizing six specific management practices in watersheds across the state. Over 1,400 watersheds have been completed. Completed data is available for download at: This project has continued because of strong collaboration among different funding partners, including AmericaView and state government agencies as well as private industry. 

In 2017, IowaView received a minigrant from AmericaView to create comprehensive documentation about the project in the form of a handbook and several tutorials for those interested in using the process to develop a similar inventory for their state.   If you have questions or would like more information about this project, please contact Robin McNeely or Amy Logan

We will be making the Iowa Best Management Practices Mapping Handbook and tutorials available here in the near future.  

Tutorial 1 – Digitizing Conservation Practices Tutorial – This tutorial is a basic guide for creating the six conservation practices in the baseline conservation inventory dataset.

Tutorial 2 – Historical Occurrence Evaluation Tutorial – This tutorial provides instructions on how to perform historical evaluations as well as updates using the baseline conservation inventory dataset.

Tutorial 3 – Identifying and Mapping Tile Drainage Tutorial – This tutorial explains the methods used to identify and map tile drainage using high resolution imagery.


A example of BMPs mapped in a watershed