Van Ersvelde Farm Bioreactor

Poweshiek County, IA | Water


ISG partnered with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) and local landowner to reduce nitrate loss on the Van Ersvelde farm through the development of the first bioreactor in Poweshiek County.


The Van Ersvelde farm is located within the Little Bear Creek Watershed, which is registered on the Iowa Department of Natural Resource’s impaired waters list due to its inability to support aquatic life because of excess sediment and nutrients in the water.


ISG’s water resources experts collaborated with IDALS, Poweshiek County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), and local landowner to design and install a denitrifying bioreactor to reduce nitrate delivery to surface water. The 16 x 64-foot bioreactor was installed along 50-acres near an existing fence line and outlets directly to Little Bear Creek. Water was diverted into wood chips, where microorganisms converted nitrates into nitrogen gas, which is harmless to the air. The gas was then released into the atmosphere, while the filtered water flowed from the end of the chamber into downstream waters.

An added benefit of the project was the teaching opportunity it offered to other landowners about the benefits of Edge of Field (EOF) practices. Roger and Louise Van Ersveld hosted a field day on their farm where more than 50 attendees observed and learned about the bioreactor, and how these EOF practices are key to reducing nitrate loss from agricultural land; improving water quality for wildlife and future generations.

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