Forum to Discuss Karst, Water Quality and Livestock

posted on Friday, May 5, 2017 in Council News

May 5, 2017


Ann Y. Robinson
Agricultural Policy Specialist
Iowa Environmental Council, or 515-244-1194, ext. 211
Cell 515-250-8555


Emily Holley
Communications Director
Iowa Environmental Council
515-244-1194, ext. 210

Forum to discuss Karst, Water Quality & Livestock, May 30 in Decorah

An upcoming public forum will present issues related to “Karst, Water Quality & Livestock: Finding Balance for a Sensitive Geography.” The event, May 30, will take place at Luther College in Decorah, in Olin Hall.


Topics will include karst geology, research on water quality testing in karst areas of Wisconsin and Iowa, outstanding Iowa waters and their economic value, Iowa’s manure management rules, and a Wisconsin multi-stakeholder process to address pollution and health concerns in a karst area. The event will also share viewpoints from several livestock producers on balancing the need to make a profit while protecting water quality.

A planning group from several counties in northeast Iowa helped develop the agenda. The group has been meeting since spring of 2016 to consider constructive approaches to address the growing number of large livestock facilities coming into the karst areas of northeast Iowa, where shallow soils, fractured bedrock, sinkholes and other features pose unique threats to water quality.

The karst region is home to many livestock producers, most of whom have done a good job of water and land stewardship. Many parts of the region have a diverse economic base that includes tourism attracted by the area’s natural amenities such as a number of cold water streams designated as Outstanding Iowa Waters, along with popular parks and trails. Significant private and public investments over decades have been made to protect and improve the area’s water resources, which include many streams that now support naturally reproducing trout populations. 

“Leaders need to be well-informed about these issues,” says John Beard, a Winneshiek County Supervisor who will speak at the May 30 forum. “We greatly appreciate the importance of agriculture to our economy, along with all of our diverse businesses and residents. We need balanced policies that consider local conditions and resources as we work together for healthy and thriving communities for all.”  

Allamakee, Winneshiek and Floyd counties in northeast Iowa are among a growing number of Iowa counties that have passed resolutions and written letters calling for state officials to enact a temporary suspension of siting large animal feeding operations while the state reviews rules for these facilities and application of the tons of manure they generate. Two of the speakers at the May 30 forum will discuss the experience of Kewaunee County, Wisconsin, where pollution of drinking water led to a multi-stakeholder process and research projects resulting in steps to address pollution from a variety of sources, including livestock facilities and residential septic systems.

Space is limited at the May 30 forum in Decorah. Advance registration required by May 22. A $25 fee includes lunch with locally sourced foods. Check-in at the event begins at 8:30 a.m., with the program from 9:00 a.m. - 5:15 p.m.  Find more information or register here.

Event sponsors are the Iowa Environmental Council and Mississippi River Network (MRN), with additional support from the Iowa Groundwater Association, Luther College Center for Sustainable Communities, Bob and Donna Bernard-Trout Unlimited Members. The Allamakee County Protectors – Education Campaign, Practical Farmers of Iowa and Trout Unlimited.