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Water and Land Priorities

2019-2020 Water and Land Program Priorities

The goal of the Water and Land Stewardship Program is to preserve Iowa’s land resources and protect Iowa waters from pollution to ensure their safe use, enjoyment, and economic benefits. To do this, we must advocate for strong enforcement of the Clean Water Act via regulatory agencies and, when necessary, the courts; and strengthened laws and policies that support rapid implementation of sustainable land use practices to mitigate agricultural pollution (a primary cause of water pollution in Iowa). 

To that end, that Council will prioritize the following work in 2019-2020:

agricultural pollution

Agricultural Pollution

Runoff and leaching of sediment, fertilizer and manure from agricultural land is the largest source of water pollution in Iowa and is largely unregulated. Although the state developed Nutrient Reduction Strategy (NRS) as a framework for reducing nutrient (nitrogen & phosphorus) pollution in 2013, the NRS lacks timelines, benchmarks, transparent reporting on water quality improvements, and necessary funding for its implementation. [Note: the NRS does not address E. coli bacteria and other threats to Iowa’s water]. 

The Council supports:

  • Strengthening the voluntary Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy (NRS) to include:
    • a timeline for achieving the statewide 45% reduction goal,
    • establishment of local waterbody benchmarks/ goals (NNC)
    • restoration planning and required conservation practices that are tied to priority TMDLs and tailored to the landscape,
    • monitoring and transparent reporting of water quality data to track progress, and
    • further research to improve land use practices and technologies that benefit water quality.
  • Mandatory conservation planning and practices. Stakeholders, including farmers, could choose from a suite of practices tailored to their landscapes to achieve objectively measurable water quality goals.
  • Substantial increased funding to support widespread adoption of soil and water conservation practices to meet water quality goals.
  • Adequate sustainable funding for watershed planning, project coordination/implementation, and water monitoring and other assessment measures necessary to get the best return on taxpayer investment. Funding needs to be tied to accountability measures that ensure water quality goals are met. 
  • Empowering drainage districts to be part of the solution to improving water quality in Iowa.
  • Suspend expansion and new construction of concentrated animal feeding operations until more stringent regulations are passed that protect sensitive watersheds (such as the karst region of northeast Iowa, as well as watersheds above drinking water sources and public lakes), and until such time the Iowa Department of Natural Resources is adequately resourced to provide oversight and enforcement of permit compliance.  [The Council does not currently have funding to support this work].   

water quality standards and enforcement

Clean Water Act Enforcement      

The Council supports implementation and enforcement of the Clean Water Act through strong state water quality standards and issuance of permits that protect those standards.  Priorities include:

Priorities include:

  • Adoption of new numeric nutrient criteria (NNC) for lakes, rivers, and streams and interim enforcement of narrative criteria.
  • Development of watershed-based Total Daily Maximum Loads (TMDLs) and planning for restoration of impaired waters, including delineation of point and non-point source responsibilities.  
  • Preventing the state and federal government from weakening water quality standards and Clean Water Act rules.
  • Oversight and enforcement of regulatory permits, antidegradation requirements, and TMDLs.
  • Development of water quality standards for waterbodies that have not yet been designated/are not currently assessed. 

conservation funding

Conservation Funding

The Council supports funding for conservation practices and natural resource protection, including:

  • A protected, sustained and substantial funding mechanism for water quality tied to a watershed approach with measurement and accountability.
  • Funding for protection and restoration of Iowa’s natural landscapes, such as wetlands, that contribute to cleaner water.

  • Long-term funding for state and local staff necessary to effectively implement conservation and water quality efforts in the field.
  • Adequate funding for (and strong opposition to defunding) the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, and any entities providing publicly accessible research and data on water quality and sustainable land management in Iowa.

Public Participation

  • The Council supports robust opportunity for civil dialogue and public comment at meetings of state agencies, commissions, boards, legislative hearings and other public proceedings.
  • The Council also supports public access to data whose collection, analysis, and reporting was funded using public resources.