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Water Quality

Iowa’s lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands provide drinking water and resources to produce food and support business and industry, as well as the basis for outdoor recreation, fish and wildlife habitat.

water pollutionThey are a source of life, commerce, enjoyment and opportunity for countless Iowans. Unfortunately, Iowa’s current water quality leaves much to be desired and increased action to protect and preserve these indispensable resources is needed. 

There are two types of water pollution: point-source pollution and nonpoint-source pollution.

Point-source pollution comes from a single, direct source, such as a factory or wastewater treatment plant that is discharged to waterways through a pipe.

Nonpoint-source pollution – runoff of soil, fertilizer and manure from agricultural land in particular – is the most significant source of water pollution in Iowa, and is largely unregulated. This runoff pollution harms rivers and lakes by reducing water clarity, filling in lakes and  carrying nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus that cause excessive algae blooms that threaten drinking water, wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation. Nonpoint-source pollution also includes pollution from chemicals or nitrates that leach into waterways and groundwater through below-ground movement .

The Iowa Environmental Council works to reduce point-source and nonpoint-source water pollution in both rural and urban areas.

The Council advocates for policies that reduce water pollution and are science-based, sustainable and effective. We are committed to:

  • Strengthening the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy to include a timeline for achieving the statewide 45% nitrogen and phosphorus pollution reduction goal, local pollution reduction goals, consistent water quality monitoring with benchmarks to measure progress, and sustainable funding for implementation
  • Increasing funding for farm conservation programs, including assistance with the conservation planning at the farm level to support widespread adoption of conservation practices on agricultural land
  • Securing adequate funding for initial watershed planning, project coordination and implementation, water monitoring and assessment necessary to effectively target conservation practices to priority areas and meet goals
  • Improving wastewater treatment to reduce existing pollution and eliminate unnecessary new pollution through proper implementation and enforcement of point source pollution discharge permits

View water quality monitoring information

Join us in advocating for clean lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands.