Expanding Livestock Confinements are Increasing Nitrate Levels in Watersheds


Via Flickr

Maxwell Bernstein | March 24, 2021

Numerous and expanding hog concentrations in Northwest Iowa’s watersheds are increasing nitrate pollution in Iowa, according to The Storm Lake Times.

In a Storm Lake Times interview with Chris Jones, a research engineer with the Iowa Institute of Hydraulic Research in Iowa City, Jones said, “We know for a certainty right now, watersheds that have the highest density of livestock tend to be the ones with the highest nutrient levels in the streams, like the Raccoon for example…there are areas with more hog confinements than square miles.”

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, a nitrate level of 10 milligrams per liter is unsafe to consume, which The Floyd Watershed exceeds. The Floyd River Watershed includes Plymouth and Sioux counties. According to The Storm Lake Times, in 2006, the Floyd watershed contained 189 livestock confinements, and in March 2021, contained 488 livestock confinements.

The watershed with the fifth highest levels of concentration is The North Raccoon River Watershed. This watershed contains Buena Vista, Sac, Calhoun, and Greene Counties. In 2006, this watershed had 261 livestock confinements and now contains 619.

These include a 158% increase and 137% increase of livestock confinements in the Floyd River Watershed and The North Raccoon River Watershed.

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