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Iowa community nationally honored for watershed work

Article cover photo
Cedar Rapids Utilities Director Steve Hershner and Mike Kuntz, Cedar Rapids Utilities environmental manager, display the 2019 U.S. Water Prize award at the One Water Summit, held recently in Austin, Texas. The city is one of six recipients of the national award presented at the annual conference hosted by the U.S. Water Alliance. (Photo: Carol Brown/Iowa Soybean Association)

By Carol Brown, ISU environmental communications specialist

The City of Cedar Rapids was recognized nationally last week because of its efforts to improve water quality in the Middle Cedar watershed.

The U.S. Water Alliance presented the city with the 2019 U.S. Water Prize at its annual One Water Summit held last week in Austin, Texas. The annual conference saw record attendance, with nearly 1,000 people descending on Austin from across the United States.

The One Water Summit brings together a cross section of people who work for public utilities, wastewater and flood management, agriculture, the arts and more. It serves as a venue to work on solutions for improved water equity, safe drinking water, and innovative water plans sustainable for urban and rural usage across the country.

Cedar Rapids Utilities Director Steve Hershner accepted the award. He acknowledged Mike Kuntz, Cedar Rapids Utilities environmental manager, for his role in the Middle Cedar Partnership Project (MCPP).

“I believe there is no higher honor than the U.S. Water Prize,” Hershner said during his acceptance speech. “One Water ties our community’s industry and agriculture together. This is truly an Iowa award.”

Hershner, too, was recognized for his role in the project.

“Steve really likes soil health, which can’t be said of many utilities directors,” said Radhika Fox, CEO of the U.S. Water Alliance, while presenting the award.

Hershner thanked the dozen partners involved with the MCPP, including the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA), which has been involved with the project since its beginning in 2015.

The MCPP connects the City of Cedar Rapids and the water utility with upstream farmers and landowners to increase farming conservation practices that reduce nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations in the Cedar River. With more conservation practices in place upstream, water quality is improved downstream before it reaches the residents of Cedar Rapids.

The MCPP helps incentivize the use of cover crops, installations of bioreactors and saturated buffers as well as targeted nutrient management that all reduce nutrient concentrations in rivers and streams. As part of the MCPP, the City also helps guide watershed improvement plans and educates farmers and other stakeholders on the need for holistic water management.

“ISA is proud to be a part of the MCPP and to celebrate this award with Cedar Rapids. At the same time, we recognize there is still much work to be done in the Cedar River watershed and we look forward to future work with farmers, cities and other partners,” said Adam Kiel, operations manager with the ISA Environmental Programs and Services. Kiel is the ISA contact person for the MCPP project.

The U.S. Water Prize was given in six categories to honorees who inspire others to create a more sustainable water future for all. For more information on the honorees and the U.S. Water Prize, visit the website.

Contact Carol Brown at

For media inquiries, please contact Katie James, ISA Public Relations Manager at or Aaron Putze, ISA Communications Director at

For permission to republish articles or to request high-res photos contact Aaron Putze at Iowa Soybean Association | 1255 SW Prairie Trail Pkwy | Ankeny | IA | 50023 | US

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