Water temperatures are experiencing a record high


Sunrise Colours
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | September 14, 2022

Recently, the Northern Atlantic and northern Pacific oceans have been experiencing abnormally warm temperatures. Marine life is now experiencing heat waves similar to those on land.  

As the earth warms and climate change becomes more prevalent, the ocean absorbs the heat. With the rise in greenhouse gases comes the warming of land due to hotter temperatures. This heat becomes stored by the ocean. According to a recent study authored by John Abraham, a professor of thermal sciences at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, “The pace of warming has increased about 500 percent since the late 1980s.” 

Dillon Amaya, a research scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Physical Sciences Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, said that temperatures have risen as much as 9 degrees F. Amaya said, “It’s been very extreme — some of the hottest temperatures we’ve seen on record — and they’ve hung around for several months.” 

The warming of ocean waters can lead to rising water levels and large impacts on marine life like a population rise in invasive species and other effects on marine ecosystems.  

A rapid melting glacier could cause sea levels to rise


Thwaites Glacier, West Antarctica
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | September 7, 2022

The “doomsday” glacier is projected to melt faster than predicted. The melting of Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier is expected to cause a sudden rise in sea levels. 

Anna Wåhlin, a co-author of the study and a professor of physical oceanography at Sweden’s Gothenburg University, told NBC News, “Thwaites ticks several boxes of a glacier that might be experiencing a faster retreat in the future: It is retreating back into a deeper basin, it is in contact with warm ocean currents, it has a very large catchment area that stores large amounts of ice.” 

This glacier, one of Antarctica’s largest, is about the size of the state of Florida. Due to warming temperatures and recent observations, scientists predicted that it could collapse within the next 10 years.  

Experts are unsure of what the outcome of the collapse will hold. However, it is believed that the sea levels will rise about two feet.  

Swim warning lifted at Spirit Lake beach


Spirit Lake, Iowa
Via: Flickr

Last week, Crandall’s Beach in Spirit Lake, Iowa, reported excessive amounts of bacteria, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Officials noted the area as “swimming not recommended.” The warning was caused by a large amount of blue-green algae toxins that contained traces of E. Coli bacteria.  

Due to the recent rains and new test results, officials have lifted the warning. The rain likely caused the bacteria to flush out into the lake, making the beaches safe for swimming. The DNR (Department of Natural Resources) tests the lakes once every seven days during the summer months as levels of bacteria easily shift in a matter of days.  

Currently, Emerson Bay Beach has issued a warning against beachgoers swimming in the water. The beach is located in West Okoboji, Iowa, just a few miles from Spirit Lake. This beach is among six other beaches in the state that also contain elevated levels of bacteria.  

Rainfall has caused crop conditions to become more balanced


Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | August 24, 2022

After excessive rainfall last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that crop conditions in Iowa have stabilized.  

State Climatologist Justin Glisan reported that Iowa received 23% more rain than usual. Northwest Iowa, which had been in a drought, received substantial amounts of these rainfalls.  

The rain caused a significant reversal in numbers from last week’s report. According to last Monday’s USDA report, more than 60% of Iowa’s corn is excellent. Soybeans report went down one percent with now just over 60% of the crop as excellent.  

The state’s Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig said, “While showers and thunderstorms brought heavier totals across the drought region, we need several months of above-average precipitation to relieve the most intense drought conditions.”  

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the state has seen drought conditions becoming more severe in the past months. The state’s Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig said, “While showers and thunderstorms brought heavier totals across the drought region, we need several months of above-average precipitation to relieve the most intense drought conditions.” 

Excessive Bacteria and Toxins at Spirit Lake Beach


Via Flickr

Josie Taylor | August 23, 2022

The water at a Spirit Lake beach recently had the highest concentrations of bacteria detected so far this year at any state beach in Iowa, along with an unhealthy amount of blue-green algae toxins, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

That means the DNR’s weekly test revealed more than 24,000 viable bacteria in less than a half cup of the lake water. The tests are unable to quantify the number of bacteria above that level.

In Iowa lakes that are prone to unhealthy concentrations of bacteria, a single test that detects 235 viable bacteria can prompt the DNR’s “swimming not recommended” warning. 

Bacteria concentrations in Iowa’s lakes can shift dramatically over the course of days, which is why the DNR samples state beaches once each week during warmer months when people are most likely to come in contact with the water. 

Spirit Lake has a fairly significant blue-green algae bloom right now near the beach that stretches into the lake for perhaps 50 yards. That’s the source of the toxin warning at the beach.

Des Moines Water Utilities Join “Forever Chemicals” Lawsuit


Josie Taylor | July 27, 2022

Trustees of two Des Moines metro area drinking water producers have voted to join hundreds of civil claims against manufacturers of firefighting foams that contain PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals,” which have contaminated Iowa water.

Des Moines Water Works and West Des Moines Water Works are pursuing the litigation to help offset anticipated future costs to remove the chemicals from their treated water. Tests of both systems’ drinking water in recent months have revealed concentrations of PFAS chemicals that exceed federal health advisories.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to set enforceable limits on the chemicals that could force water utilities to remove them as part of their treatment processes. Recent tests of the treated water that might again reveal PFAS contamination are pending.

Firefighting foam is a potential source of contamination in West Des Moines, and it’s the subject of the multi-state lawsuit that the two metro utilities recently voted to join. These utilities were approached by law firms that are helping litigate it.

The foam is believed to have contaminated groundwater near military bases, airports and other sites.

Swimming is not Recommended at 11 State Beaches


Terry Trueblood Lake in Iowa City

Josie Taylor | July 19, 2022

Swimming is not recommended at 11 state park beaches in Iowa because of high bacterial levels, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

One beach closed completely this year as a precaution after a swimmer was infected by a ”brain eating amoeba”.

Officials at Iowa’s Department of Natural Resources collect weekly samples of the state-owned swimming beaches each summer to determine if the public is at risk of contracting waterborne diseases if they go into the water. DNR works with many health and management agencies to alert the public about unsafe water.

This is not the first year this has happened. In 2021, 24 of the 38 DNR-monitored beaches recorded swim advisories over the summer. There were a total of 88 E. coli advisories and 23 microcystin advisories across the affected beaches. 

E. Coli Founda t Terry Trueblood Lake in Iowa City


Photo taken by Josie Taylor on June 6, 2022

Josie Taylor | June 29, 2022

High levels of bacteria were found in the water at the Terry Trueblood Recreation Area. The City of Iowa City has warned against swimming in the lake because of this. 

The city has done regular water tests at the lake, called Sand Lake, in previous summers, but this is the first time there has been a no-swim advisory due to high levels of E. coli bacteria. E. coli can carry parasites or other pathogens that sicken swimmers. It can come from geese, humans or agricultural runoff. 

Paddle boarding and other activities that do not require going in the water will still be allowed at the lake. 

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources does weekly water tests at 39 state park beaches between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day. The agency reported 106 swim advisories for E. coli or microcystins last summer.Iowa City has posted signs at Sand Lake advising against swimming. The advisory will be in effect until water quality improves, the city said. Updates will be posted on the city’s Parks & Recreation website.

All Detectable PFAS Chemicals in Iowa Exceed Heath Advisory


Via Flickr

Josie Taylor | June 21, 2022

The treated drinking water of a northeast Iowa city had nearly 3,000 times the safe amount of PFAS chemicals when it was tested in February, according to new federal advisories announced last Wednesday. 

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has been sampling water in dozens of cities in the past year to help determine the pervasiveness of PFAS or “forever chemicals.”

They have been used for decades to make non-stick and waterproof products, firefighting foams and other items. Recent studies have shown that they can accumulate in people’s bodies over time and can cause numerous ailments, including cancers, liver damage, diminished immune systems and infant and childhood development delays, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In 2009, the EPA set a safety threshold of 70 parts per trillion for the two most-prominent PFAS. On Wednesday, it lowered the health advisory of one of them to .004 parts per trillion and the other to .02 parts per trillion. Current testing technology is unable to detect concentrations that small.

The DNR’s testing can detect concentrations as small as 1.9 parts per trillion. That means that one of the PFAS would have to be 475 times the safety threshold before it is even detected.

Des Moines Water Works Using Nitrate Removal System for the First Time in Five Years


Via Flickr

Josie Taylor | June 14, 2022

Des Moines Water Works has had to begin operating its nitrate-removal system for the first time in five years after finding elevated nitrate concentrations in their water. The level of nitrate in the utility’s water supply fluctuates, and is attributable to excess nutrients on upstream farmland running off the land and entering Iowa’s rivers, lakes and streams.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Safe Drinking Water Standard for nitrate is 10 milligrams per liter, and the nitrate levels in the rivers and groundwater used by the Des Moines Water Works have recently peaked at more than nine milligrams per liter.

The Water Works’ nitrate removal facility initially began operating in March 1992, but was last used in 2017. Drier conditions the past few years have limited the flow of nutrients into Iowa’s waterways, which has led to lower levels of nitrate in raw source water. 

Use of the nitrate-removal system is significant because of what it means in terms of water quality and because of the expense. It can cost up to $10,000 a day to operate the nitrate-removal system, the Des Moines Water Works says.

The Des Moines Water Works is Iowa’s largest drinking water utility and provides drinking water to one-fifth of the state’s population.