The fight to limit nutrient pollution in Iowa’s lakes

red wooden lounge chair on brown boardwalk near body of water during daytime
Iowa lakes serve as staple recreational sites, but they may soon disappear | Photo by Pixabay on

Natalia Welzenbach-Marcu | February 26th, 2019

Most Iowan families have spent a summer afternoon or two with packed lunches and swimsuits at the lake. It’s as much a warm-weather tradition as grilling out or going to the county fair. Iowa has a lot of lakes, many of them recreational. Visits to Iowa lakes generate a lot of money for the state, and keeping these environments clean is important, both environmentally and economically.

Unfortunately, harmful algae blooms are driving these lakes under, so to speak. Beaches often have to be closed for cleanup because of these blooms, and the levels of nitrogen and phosphorous from these blooms are significantly contributing to the dead zone of the Gulf of Mexico.

Sources of the pollution include pesticides, fertilizers and other chemicals used in agriculture and livestock management. City wastewater treatments can contribute to the blooms as well.

In an attempt to combat these increasing levels of pollution, the Iowa Environmental Council and the Environmental law and Policy Center filed a petition back in November to limit the amount of nutrient pollutants used in agriculture and in other water-oriented activities, with the end goal to reduce these pollutants in Iowa’s lakes and prevent further damage.

On Tuesday, the proposal was rejected.

These groups are still fighting to establish a more regulated way to handle pollutants, fearing the consequences if they don’t–the possibility of our recreational lakes slowly disappearing under a layer of algae blooms.


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