Village of Winthrop-Buffalo Creek Subwatershed

Village of Winthrop-Buffalo Creek is located in Buchanan county along the eastern edge of the Wapsipinicon River watershed. As the name suggests, this subwatershed includes the northeast portion of the City of Winthrop.

Subwatershed Stats

  • HUC #: 070801020903
  • Watershed Acres: 21,238
  • Total Length of Stream: 16.75 miles
  • Stream and Watershed Designations: 9.7 miles of A2 B(WW-2) class stream (Read about the designations)
  • Number of CAFOs (2018): 10
  • Percent Subwatershed in Cover Crops (2017): 0.45%

Background Info

Land Cover (2016)

The map and pie chart below illustrate land use in the Village of Winthrop-Buffalo Creek Watershed. Land cover information for the entire Upper Wapsi River Watershed, as well as information on historical cover, land ownership, and livestock production, can be found on the Land Cover/Land Use page.

Geological Snapshot

This subwatershed is located in the Iowan Surface landform Region. The physical characteristics of this landform region contain numerous clues to Iowa’s glacial history. The Iowan Surface also contains some Karst features, such as sinkholes, influence hydrology and provide unique challenges with implementation of detention structures like ponds and WASCOBs.

Water Quality Sampling Data

The Upper Wapsipinicon River WMA monthly takes a monthly water sample snapshot at locations across the watershed. More information about water sampling in the Upper Wapsi River Watershed and results for Nitrate, Phosphorus, Total Suspended Solids, E. Coli Bacteria, Chloride, and Sulfate are all available.

Iowa DNR Water Sampling Results

Past and Ongoing Watershed Projects

The Upper Buffalo Creek Water Quality Project

  • Project Period: 2010-2014
  • Lead Entity and Partners: Buchanan SWCD funded by Iowa’s Watershed Improvement Review Board, IDALS, USDA, NRCS, FSA
  • Major Accomplishments: Through this project, landowners and farmers implemented 68 grass waterways which lowered the sediment delivery to Buffalo creek. Many acres of cover crops, critical planting areas, filter strips, native plantings, contour buffer strips and upgraded animal waste storage facilities were implemented.
  • Project Summary: Practices implemented through the Upper Buffalo Creek Water Quality project reduced sediment delivery by an estimated 4,400 tons per year (About a 20% reduction). Phosphorus levels were also reduced by an estimated 5,700 pounds per year. These reductions greatly improved the creek substrate and improved habitat for native mussel species. The Iowa DNR Statewide Mussel Survey showed that the total mussel population and number of mussel species has rebounded significantly in Buffalo Creek by 2013 as a result of the Upper Buffalo Creek Water Quality project. According to the Iowa DNR Statewide Mussel Survey, four of the live mussel species found are on Iowa’s threatened animal species list. As a result from this project five segments of Buffalo creek, representing 58 miles, were removed from the Iowa impaired waters list in 2014.
  • Report:

The Middle Buffalo Creek Water Quality Project

  • Project Period: 2015
  • Lead Entity and Partners: Buchanan SWCD funded by Iowa’s Watershed Improvement Review Board and IDALS
  • Major Accomplishments: Installed an additional 12 conservation practices in addition to the Upper Buffalo Creek project.
  • Project Summary: This project provided cost-share funds for water quality project improvement practices. The Buchanan County SWCD partnered with the City of Coggon who was utilizing funds from the State Revolving Fund Water Resources Restoration Sponsored Project. However difficulties arose when SRF funds fell through. Therefore, the project ended after just one year of implementation. During one year the project was able to implement 27 acres of grass waterways, which lead to a sediment reduction of 1,100 tons per year and a phosphorus reduction of 1,300 pounds per year. During this project the Project Coordinator conducted outreach to landowners in Middle Buffalo Creek watersheds including a news release and information booth at the Buchanan County Fair.
  • Final Report:


Village of Winthrop-Buffalo Creek was last surveyed for fish species in 2010 by the Iowa DNR. The Fish Index of Biotic Integrity (FIBI) results showed Nugents Creek-Buffalo Creek containing 27 common and rare warm water fish species such as Green Sunfish, Central Stoneroller,Creek Chub and Common Shiner. Check out the Iowa DNR BioNet website to see the full results of the FIBI and others relating to river and stream biological monitoring.


No impairments at this time.

Precipitation and Soil Erosion

The Daily Erosion Project estimates soil erosion and water runoff occurring on hill slopes in Iowa and surrounding states. Compare Village of Winthrop-Buffalo Creek subwatershed with other watersheds in the Upper Wapsi or with watersheds across the Upper Midwest at

Analysis of Existing Agricultural Practices

Cover Crop Analysis

Although landowners utilize cover crops on their own and through conservation programs, cover crop usage has never been tracked spatially. Northeast Iowa RC&D completed a GIS analysis to estimate total acres and geographical location of cover crops using 2017 satellite and aerial imagery. Total percentage of the entire subwatershed treated using cover crops as well as the percent crop acres treated using cover crops were calculated.

In 2017, there were 95.6 acres of cover crops covering 0.55% of crop acres in the Village of Winthrop-Buffalo Creek subwatershed as compared to 3.1% for the State of Iowa (2017-2018 Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy Annual Progress Report and 2017 USDA/NASS Field Crop Totals).

Best Management Practice (BMP) Mapping Project Summary

A GIS analysis was conducted by Iowa State University (ISU) as a part of the Iowa BMP Mapping Project. According to ISU, “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 primary focus of this project [was] to create the 2010 baseline inventory dataset, covering a period from 2007-2010 by digitizing conservation practices using aerial imagery and LiDAR derivative data.” The project specifically identified existing BMP structures that could be viewed on aerial imagery, including ponds, water and sediment control basins (WASCOBs), terraces, grass waterways, and contour buffer strips. The Iowa Best Management Practice (BMP) Mapping Project identified no pond structures and 10 WASCOBs in the Village of Winthrop-Buffalo Creek subwatershed. Village of Winthrop-Buffalo Creek also contains many miles of existing grass waterways and fields with contour buffer strips, which provide deep-rooted vegetation within agriculture fields to help infiltrate and hold water.

Interactive & Static Maps of Existing BMP Practices


Contour Buffer Strips
Grass Waterways
Pond Dams

Additional Ag Conservation Practice Options

Iowa Flood Center: Agricultural Planning Framework Toolbox Results

The Agricultural Conservation Planning Framework (ACPF) is a concept for agricultural watershed management supported by high-resolution data and an ArcGIS toolbox, which are used to identify site-specific opportunities to install conservation practices across small watersheds. This non-prescriptive approach provides a menu of conservation options to facilitate conservation discussions on farms and in community halls. The framework is used in conjunction with local knowledge of water and soil resource concerns, landscape features, and producer conservation preferences to provide a better understanding of the options available in developing a watershed conservation plan.

In 2018, the Iowa Flood Center utilized the ACPF toolbox software to map ideas for conservation practices in the Upper Wapsi River subwatersheds. A map and a summary of results for Village of Winthrop-Buffalo Creek follow:

  • 54.6% of the watershed could be treated with ponds, WASCOBs, grassed waterways, and contour buffer strips. This would slow or infiltrate water from 11,600 acres of the Village of Winthrop-Buffalo Creek subwatershed.
  • 22 potential ponds and 33 potential WASCOB structures could be implemented in the subwatershed.
  • Some of the potential structures identified using the ACPF tool have already been implemented and can be seen in the results of the BMP Mapping Project and through Buchanan County SWCD and NRCS reports.


Contour Buffer Strips
Grass Waterways
Nutrient Removal Wetlands
Drainage Mgmt Areas

Hydrologic Assessment

The Upper Wapsipinicon Hydrologic Assessment modeled land cover changes throughout the watershed and its effect on the historic peak flows at six different index points. Index points are located at 1) East Fork Wapsipinicon River, 2) Wapsipinicon River near Tripoli (USGS Gauge), 3) Little Wapsipinicon River, 4) Wapsipinicon River at Independence (USGS Gauge), 5) Buffalo Creek, 6) Wapsipinicon River upstream from Anamosa. According to the Upper Wapsipinicon River Watershed Hydrologic Assessment, these points were chosen based on several criteria including the location of a USGS gauging station, areas of high-risk potential and/or proximity to a community, and to demonstrate the model results at different spatial scales."

The GHOST model used peak flows from 15 of the highest rainfall events from 2002 to 2016 as a baseline. The nearest index point to the Village of Winthrop-Buffalo Creek subwatershed is located at the mouth of Buffalo Creek. According to results in the Upper Wapsipinicon Hydrologic Assessment, if all ponds upstream of the index point, including Village of Winthrop-Buffalo Creek structures modeled by the ACPF tool were implemented, the index point at the mouth of Buffalo Creek would experience a 11% peak flow reduction. Other Upper Wapsipinicon River index points that have larger drainage areas (index points located on the Wapsipinicon River) modeled lower peak flow reductions compared to the Buffalo Creek index point. The Hydrologic Assessment also modeled other land cover scenarios like 100% native vegetation and 100% cover crop/no-till rotations that show significant flow reductions at this index point.

Summary of Recommendations



Goal: Overall Discharge reduction of 12 inches from peak river level at Independence in 2008

Detention Structures

  • Ponds,
  • Wetlands
  • Oxbow Restoration
  • On-road structures
  • 15,000 acre-feet of distributed storage for priority HUC12 watersheds
  • *Priority HUC 12s are upland subwatersheds above the community of Independence and excluding those in the Wapsi River Corridor
  • 18,000 acre-feet of distributed storage for the entire Upper Wapsi River Watershed

Soil Health

  • Cover Crops
  • No-till / Reduced Tillage
  • Multi-cropping / Regenerative cropping
  • 100% cover by one or more of the soil health or perennial cover practices on 4,028 acres of 'Critical' and 'Very High' Runoff Risk parcels as determined by the ACPF model.
  • 60% cover on parcels deemed as 'High" Runoff Risk' (10,275 acres x 60% = 6,165 perennial cover acres)
  • 40% cover by one or more of the soil health or perennial cover practices on the remaining acres. (9,355 acres x 40% = 3,742 perennial cover acres)

Perennial Cover

  • CRP
  • Tree and Shrub Establishment (TSI)
  • Contour Buffer Strips
  • Prairie Strips
  • Grass Waterways
  • Diverse Crop Rotations
  • Rotational Grazing

Water Quality Improvement

  • Manure Storage Systems
  • Bioreactors
  • Saturated Buffers
  • Drainage Water Management Systems
  • Livestock Stream Exclusion
  • Livestock Proximity


Implement Water quality improvement practices to reach the following goals:

  • Reduce Nitrates to below 6 mg/L in all surface and source waters.
  • Reduce Total Phosphorus below 0.2 mg/L
  • Meet standards for all designations/No impairments.
  • Reduce turbidity/Increase visibility in surface water during rainfall events to no less than 10 cm.
  • Continue stream monitoring.
  • Encourage well testing and analyze test results by subwatershed
  • Restore and maintain a viable population of smallmouth bass and northern pike along the entire Upper Wapsi River
  • Completed phase 2 source water assessment for all communities in the Upper Wapsi River Watershed

Flood Plain Management

  • Stream Bank Stabilization
  • Riparian Buffer Strips
  • Move vulnerable populations
  • Acquire easements
  • Instream habitat


  • Protect near stream habitat and river floodplains through easements.
  • Reduce impact to vulnerable populations and at-risk properties through buyouts, and development of affordable housing outside of the floodplain.
  • Increase native vegetation planting adjacent to streams and rivers by 50%. ­­
  • Protect critical Transportation infrastructure, with emphasis on emergency response routes.
  • Relocate critical response services and facilities out of the floodplain
  • Reduce CAFO/manure storage siting in floodplain areas