Iowa researchers publish thorough policy recommendations to reduce agricultural runoff

The Raccoon River near Walnut Woods States Park in Des Moines, Iowa. (Christine Warner Hawks/Flickr)
The Raccoon River near Walnut Woods States Park in Des Moines, Iowa. (Christine Warner Hawks/Flickr)
KC McGinnis | April 5, 2016

Inspired by policy innovations in other Midwestern states, a team of Iowa researchers has built a comprehensive policy plan to address agricultural runoff in the state.

A report from The Iowa Policy Project titled Saving Resources: Manure and Water recognizes the important role fertilizer has in Iowa’s agriculture industry and the negative effects of under-regulation on water quality. These negative effects include nutrient runoff, an issue that continues to cause headaches for water treatment plants around the state and which can lead to dangerous toxic algal blooms. When these blooms surround water intakes at water sources as they did for the city of Toledo, Ohio in 2014, they can make tap water undrinkable for thousands, even after boiling.

The team of researchers led by Iowa Policy Project co-founder and University of Iowa Professor of Occupational and Environmental Health David Osterberg looked to how Ohio handled its own water crisis after the algal blooms caused it to declare a state of emergency. The state enjoyed bipartisan support of measures that have the potential to greatly reduce nutrient runoff if applied in Iowa. The report included those measures in its five policy recommendations for manure application in Iowa:
—  An outright ban on manure application in liquid form from medium and large animal production facilities when the ground is frozen or snow-covered.

—  An outright ban when the top two inches are saturated from precipitation or when weather is expected that will be detrimental to the environment and to the utilization of the manure.

—  Ample “boots on the ground” enforcement capabilities with long-term funding allocated to maintaining adequate staffing.

—  Immediate adoption of restrictions on all operations at 300 animal units (AU) or more for manure application during unfavorable soil conditions.

—  Progress toward placing application restrictions on all facilities above 100 AU in size.

“Iowa should be proactive on this issue,” said Nick Fetty, a University of Iowa graduate student and co-author of the report with Osterberg. “The reaction in the state of Ohio, after a large city lost its drinking water system because of pollution, led to stronger laws to limit both farm and urban runoff. Iowa does not need to wait for the same thing to happen here.”

To read the full report or for more information, click here:

One thought on “Iowa researchers publish thorough policy recommendations to reduce agricultural runoff

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s