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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.


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