+ View Section Navigation

Water and Land Fact Sheets

The Iowa Environmental Council compiles and contributes to fact sheets on a variety of subjects related to clean water and land stewardship including agriculture, water pollution and conservation.

Nature-Based Flood Mitigation

Flooding increases water pollution, harms communities, has a deep economic cost and more. Natural infrastructure, as opposed to gray infrastructure, holds water in a safe area and reduces floodwater downstream. This fact sheet expands on the benefits associated with natural infrastructure and provides examples of implemented natural infrastructure projects in the Midwest.

Cost of CAFOs

Nitrates in Iowa's waterways can be traced back to concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). According to the IDNR, 260 communities face threatening levels of drinking water contamination. Nitrates have been linked to numerous health problems, ranging from flu-like symptoms to cancer, and are costly to remove from drinking water utilities.

PFAS (Forever Chemicals)

PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), otherwise known as “Forever Chemicals,” are synthetic chemicals that can resist heat, grease, and water. They have been linked to numerous health problems including reproductive issues, developmental delays in children, and increased risk of cancer.

Numeric Nutrient Criteria

IEC has long advocated for the state's adoption of numeric water quality standards for nitrogen and phosphorus, also known as numeric nutrient criteria (NNC). Clear, numeric standards are important for protecting Iowa's waterways from fertilizer pollution.

Economic Value of Water Quality 

Iowa's lakes generate significant income for their local communities. IEC compared Storm Lake and West Okoboji Lake to see their local and statewide impacts. 

Nutrient Pollution in Iowa's Water

Nitrogen and phosphorus are essential nutrients for plant growth. Farmers supplement these naturally occurring nutrients in their soils with both chemical and animal fertilizer to increase crop production. When these nutrient levels exceed plant needs, water carries the nitrogen (as nitrate) and phosphorus away, leading to water pollution.

The Iowa Approach to Water Quality

All Iowans value clean, safe water for drinking and recreation. Our state in the midst of a public health crisis on many fronts and it is past time to address polluted rivers, lakes, wells and groundwater. 

The Effects of Water Quality on Public Health

Pollutants in Iowa’s surface waters and groundwater affect the safety of drinking water and recreational waters. Some of the health effects can be immediate such as exposure to bacteria or cyanotoxins and other health effects, such as increased risk of cancer, are the result of exposure over a longer period of time.

Addressing Agricultural Pollution

Iowa faces numerous clean water challenges, but the state's most widespread, serious and vexing problem is agricultural pollution. The agricultural pollution problem is particularly challenging to solve because it comes from across Iowa's landscape where over 90 percent of the land area is in farms.

Flooding Costs and Natural Infrastructure Solutions

Natural infrastructure and land-use change can help protect Iowa communities from flooding and improve water quality. Flooding increases water pollution, harms communities, has a deep economic cost and more.