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‘Out to the Lakes’ video available

Is there a water quality problem in Iowa? This question is posed to Iowans in the latest video produced by Iowa Learning Farms. “Out to the Lakes” is a provocative and engaging documentary that encourages viewers to think about water quality and their personal relationship with their local lake or waterbody.

The video premiered Sept. 8 at the Conservation Districts of Iowa conference, the annual meeting for the state’s Soil and Water Conservation District commissioners. The film was highly popular with commissioners. They took extra copies of the DVD home with them and were eager to show it to others.

A connectedness to water

The film addresses water quality through the perspective of lakes and the waterbodies that feed them. The case study used in the film is Black Hawk Lake in west-central Iowa. Black Hawk Lake is used mainly for recreational activities including swimming, boating and fishing. On screen, several local residents share their experiences and concern for the water quality and the lake that has brought them so much personal joy.

Even though the film focuses on the happenings at a particular lake, the same sentiments can be applied to many lakes in Iowa and the Midwest. Like Black Hawk, lakes throughout the Midwest have been periodically closed due to high bacteria or algae levels. Some lakes are filling up with sediment coming off of nearby fields at rates higher than what should be naturally occurring.

Often, when asked about water quality, people think only of their drinking water. This is just one aspect of water quality. Because drinking water usually comes out of the tap in a good quality, it is generally taken for granted. Our connectedness to water has been lost. The challenge to the viewer of the film is to recognize water quality problems and to reconnect with their lake in order to help protect and improve water quality.

Locally, professionally created

ILF program manager Jacqueline Comito directed “Out to the Lakes.” She spent a lot of time on Black Hawk Lake throughout her life and was inspired by the lake to make this final video in the series “A Culture of Conservation.”

“This is the most ambitious film project we have done,” says Comito. “I heard someone say this film is ‘edgy.’ We heard quite a bit of laughter during the premiere, which is great, because humor is a powerful tool. But after it is over, we are left with a somber portrait of the state of our environment in Iowa. Until we understand what is happening in terms of our water quality, soil quality and climate variations, our lakes and water systems will continue to degrade.”

ILF staff member Ann Staudt served as music and art director, and Des Moines resident Jon Anderson produced the film. All the music is original, composed by Staudt and Todd Stevens, and performed by an Ames group Joyful Hearts. The film uses watercolors created by Iowa State University student Jessica Willemssen.

The film features Iowans, not actors, who care deeply about where they live and their local water quality. It also features environmental experts from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Iowa State University and the University of Iowa. The film offers insight to what Iowans know, or don’t know, about water and water quality. Several were interviewed, á la Jay Leno’s “Jaywalking,” on the campuses of ISU, University of Iowa and University of Northern Iowa.

Copies of “Out to the Lakes” are available at no charge by request. Contact Iowa Learning Farms by email ILF at or by mail at ILF, 219A Davidson Hall, ISU, Ames, IA 50011. Please include a mailing address in the request. For information about Iowa Learning Farms, visit

Brown is a communications specialist with Iowa Learning Farms.

This article published in the October, 2011 edition of WALLACES FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.