Measurement Confirms Largest Dead Zone on Record

posted on Thursday, August 3, 2017 in Water and Land News


Emily Holley
Communications Director
Iowa Environmental Council
515-664-3405 (Cell)
515-244-1194, 210 (Office)

Measurement Confirms Largest Dead Zone on Record

August 3, 2017 Des Moines – The annual Dead Zone measurement has been released and a lamentable record has been set. The 2017 Dead Zone off the coast of Louisiana is the largest since 1985, when the measurements began.

Yesterday, researchers revealed the Dead Zone is nearly 9,000 square miles, or roughly the size of New Jersey. The oxygen-deprived area–devoid of any marine life–is primarily caused by nitrogen and phosphorus pollution that flows to the Gulf via the Mississippi River from as far north as Minnesota. The pollution spurs massive algae blooms, and as they decay, they use up the oxygen the sea life needs to survive.

“Even though Iowa is located more than 700 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, Iowa has been identified as the second highest contributor of nitrogen pollution and third highest contributor of phosphorus pollution causing the annual Dead Zone,” said Susan Heathcote, Water Program Director for the Iowa Environmental Council. 

"To reduce the Dead Zone size, all states need to be accountable to meet their share of the pollution reduction goal,” said Heathcote. “In Iowa, agriculture runoff is the largest source of this pollution. To do our part, we must significantly increase soil and water conservation practices on Iowa farms to keep soil and fertilizer on the land and out of the water, while also reducing pollution from urban and industrial sources. Making these changes will improve water quality here at home in Iowa, as well as all along the Mississippi River to the Gulf.”

Members of the Mississippi River Collaborative – including the Iowa Environmental Council – have been pressuring EPA and the states in the Mississippi River Basin to set numeric standards for nitrogen and phosphorus pollution to help restore clean water in the Gulf of Mexico and throughout the Mississippi River Basin.

Mississippi River Collaborative's November 2016 report, “Decades of Delay,” revealed that no state adjacent to the Mississippi River has been effective in reducing nitrogen and phosphorus pollution.


The Iowa Environmental Council is an alliance of diverse organizations and individuals working together to protect Iowa's natural environment. Since 1995, the Council has worked toward creating a safe, healthy environment and sustainable future for Iowa, focusing on clean water, land stewardship and clean energy.

About The Author

Emily joined the Council in November of 2016. As the Council's Communications & Outreach Director, Emily works with all departments to craft the Council's messaging strategies and manages the website. She also works to extend the Council's outreach to all Iowans. 

Emily was raised in Newton, Iowa. She earned a B.A. from Luther College with majors in Political Science and Sociology. In 2015, Emily earned an M.P.A. from Drake University. Prior to joining the Council, Emily ran the historic End Alz Iowa Caucus campaign for the Alzheimer's Association. In her spare time, Emily advocates for individuals living with chronic pain, plays the viola and bakes pies.