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Water & Land Stewardship

New state government strategy on Iowa's most widespread water pollution problem misses the mark

More accountability, greater citizen input, and stronger solutions are needed

On November 19, 2012, after a two year effort, an interagency state government team released a 197-page strategy for reducing Iowa's contributions to hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico. The Iowa Environmental Council has has prepared a summary of our findings. The complete statement is available on the Council's blog, and the main points are summarized below:

  • The strategy’s approach for addressing agricultural sources of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution (also referred to as non-point source pollution) will fall short of creating significant, sustainable, statewide improvements in Iowa’s waters. The strategy's approach for engaging farmers is neither substantially different nor better from what is already happening in Iowa.
  • The strategy does not set specific goals for lower nitrogen and phosphorus pollution levels in local lakes and rivers. These goals are necessary to ensure the strategy solves water pollution problems facing rivers and lakes in Iowa as well as downstream.
  • The strategy contains useful research about what it will take to clean up Iowa’s waters.
  • The strategy proposes new mandatory standards for how cities treat their wastewater to reduce pollution levels. However, these improvements will likely not solve Iowa’s larger pollution problem unless they are accompanied by more effective participation by agriculture.

ANALYSIS ON THE STRATEGY FROM THE COUNCIL AND PARTNERS

With heavy spring rain, Iowa's lack of conservation preparedness becomes evident: Available evidence suggests Iowa's current use of conservation practices does not adequately protect Iowa's soil, water, and people from the effects of heavy rainfall events. Read more >>

Rosenberg: Water problem is 'self evident,' but will state officials act? In a new op-ed, Ralph Rosenberg, the Council's executive director, lays out the Council's position on the new state strategy. Read more >>

Murky Waters: This report from the Environmental Working Group details how water quality in Iowa has not noticably improved in the last decade, despite ongoing state efforts to control water pollution. Read the report>>

Partnership with farmers critical for future clean water success: Susan Heathcote, the Council's water program director, identifies possible components of a more successful relationship with farmers for cleaner water. Read more >>

In Iowa and nationwide, algae problem 'definitely growing': Learn more about harmful algae blooms which flourish when nitrogen and phosphorus levels in rivers and lakes are too high. Read more >>

Iowa Environmental Council executive director comments on release of Iowa state nutrient strategy: Read Ralph Rosenberg's initial reaction from the day the new nutrient strategy was released. Read more >>

Environmental groups sue EPA over Dead Zone pollution: The Iowa Environmental Council and other environmental groups have taken legal action to compel the federal Environmental Protection Agency to take a more active role protecting Iowa's waters and those in the Gulf of Mexico from nitrogen and phosphorus pollution. Read more >>