Susan Heathcote, the Iowa Environmental Council’s water program director, has been chosen by her peers as a 2012 National River Hero in recognition of her career of successful advocacy for Iowa water quality improvement. Heathcote will receive the award during a ceremony Monday night at the national River Rally, an annual gathering of water advocates sponsored by the River Network and the Waterkeeper Alliance held this year in Portland, Oregon.
Iowa Environmental Council executive director Marian Riggs Gelb said the award is a fitting recognition of Heathcote’s work. “Iowa’s water quality challenges are significant and difficult to change, but Susan has succeeded again and again because she knows her fellow Iowans value clean water and expect public policy to reflect that fact,” Gelb said.
“At the same time, Susan works hard to consider opposing viewpoints and build consensus around solutions that are right for Iowa, and her willingness to do so has earned her the respect of her allies and opponents alike.”
Heathcote has worked for the Iowa Environmental Council for 16 years, spending most of that time overseeing the organization’s work on clean water issues. She has provided technical leadership for the Council on a number of issues, including agricultural nonpoint source pollution, livestock manure management, water quality monitoring, water quality standards, and restoration of impaired waters.
“Susan’s hard work and dedication have been at the core of many of the Council’s successes since the earliest days of the organization’s history,” Gelb said. These achievements include securing funds to close agricultural drainage wells, helping to found IOWATER, the state’s volunteer water monitoring program, and extending the protections of the federal Clean Water Act to thousands of additional miles of Iowa rivers and streams, among others.
“These victories are all meaningful individually, but when considered together, they show something bigger—how Iowans can come together and make progress toward protecting our natural resources. And that’s perhaps Susan’s biggest achievement—building a record of progress that inspires others to step forward and get involved,” Gelb said.
In addition, Heathcote’s expertise means she is frequently in demand for boards, expert panels, and other positions tasked with protecting water quality and natural resources in Iowa. In 2007, she was appointed by Governor Culver to serve a four year term on the Environmental Protection Commission, which oversees environmental programs at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. In July of 2011, Heathcote was invited to join a team of about 30 experts from across the US to serve as advisers for AGree, a bold new initiative created to develop solutions to improve agricultural productivity and environmental performance at the national and global levels.
Heathcote also volunteers her time locally. She served as coordinator of Polk County’s twice-annual water quality snapshot for 8 years, and is a founding board member of Iowa Rivers Revival, a nonprofit that advocates for the improvement and enjoyment of the state’s rivers.