Report outlines economic benefits of clean water in Iowa

Trees are reflected in a clear Iowa pond. (Richard Hermann/flickr)
Jenna Ladd | February 21, 2018

A recent report from Iowa State University argues that removing nutrient pollution from Iowa’s water would provide economic benefits for the state.

Economists with ISU’s Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) first summarize the cost of nutrient pollution in Iowa’s waterways. They write that forty-nine public water systems treat water for nitrate pollution either by using nitrate removal equipment or blending the water; these systems serve more than 10 percent of Iowa citizens. The report estimates that Iowa’s public water systems have paid $1.8 million to treat nitrate in the water since 2000.

Smaller communities and rural areas are disproportionately affected by the economic consequences of polluted water. Many small town public water systems do not have the resources to purchase costly nitrate removal equipment and as a result, may not be able to meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s water quality regulations. Private wells go largely unregulated, so consumers are responsible for picking up the water treatment costs. Findings suggest that as many as a quarter of Iowa’s wells have unsafe nitrate levels in them.

The report also comments on the lost revenue from water recreation income for the state. The number of beaches and waterways under advisory or closed each summer because of harmful algae blooms, which are fed by nitrate, continues to grow. Economists estimate that improving water quality in Iowa’s lakes by meeting Nutrient Reduction Strategy goals would increase recreational benefits for all Iowans by $30 million per year.

Iowa Legislators recently passed a bill that will allocate $282 million to water quality improvement projects in the state over the next 12 years. Critics recognize, however, that scientists with the Nutrient Reduction Strategy have estimated that it will cost billions of dollars to adequately remove nutrient runoff from waterways in Iowa.

To read CARD’s full report, click here.

States resist federal move to expand offshore drilling

A 100 foot flame flares above the BP Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010. (Jim McKinley/flickr)
Jenna Ladd | January 18, 2018

More states are lining up to be exempt from the Trump administration’s plan to expand offshore oil drilling in the United States.

The administration released a proposal earlier in January to make nearly all U.S. coasts available for drilling over the next five years. Last week, the U.S. Interior Department’s Ryan Zinke granted Florida’s coasts exempt from the deal after a short meeting with Gov. Rick Perry, citing concern for the state’s tourist economy. Shortly after, requests to be excluded from the proposal from other coastal states rolled in. Governors and state officials from Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina and Delaware have asked for meetings with Zinke to discuss the plan’s threat to tourism industries.

Governor John Carney of Delaware posted a Tweet last week, “Tourism and recreation along the Delaware coastline account for billions in economic activity each year, and support tens of thousands of jobs.”

The only states in support of the plan are Alaska and Maine.

Aside from repelling tourists, offshore drilling has serious implications for ocean life and human health. One drilling platform typically releases 90,000 metric tons of drilling fluids and metal cuttings into the sea. Drilling fluids, or drilling muds, which lubricate wells and cool drill pipes, contain toxic chemicals that harm aquatic life. When oil is pumped, water from underground surfaces along with it. Called “produced water,” it contains anywhere from 30 to 40 parts per million of oil. For example, each year in Alaska’ Cook Inlet, 2 billion gallons of produced water contaminates the area with 70,000 gallons of oil.

This new plans marks another rollback of Obama’s environmental legacy, which prohibited offshore drilling in 94 percent of U.S.’s coastal waters.

Drake to host workshop on sustainability

Drake University will host its 5th annual Innovation and Leadership Conference this Friday, Jan. 14 at the College of Business and Public Administration in Aliber Hall.

The conference theme, “Food Policy, Social Justice, Hunger and Sunstainability – A Cross-National Perspective,” will feature discussions about the inter-relations between food production, energy consumption, environmental sustainability, healthy eating, and today’s global food systems.  Agricultural and social policies will be looked at as well.

There is a $30 registration fee and check in begins at 8:30 a.m.  For more information, check out the college’s website.

From the archives: UI students return from Copenhagen well-informed, optimistic

COP15 logoIn just her third year at the University of Iowa, Bethany Patten never dreamed she would be able to truthfully add “attended an international climate conference” to her resume. But now she can.

While most UI students likely sought respite from lectures, writing assignments and most anything academic during their long month of winter break, Patten – an International Studies and Economics double major – was among eight UI students who did just the opposite, immersing herself in the complicated scientific, political and economic discourse of COP15 – the much-anticipated UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.

While attendees did have the brief chance to take in normal sites and sounds of the green, “City of Spires,” their stay in Copenhagen was far from leisurely.

“I didn’t see the sun in Copenhagen for four days,” said Senior Abbie Gruwell, who studies Political Science and International Business and interns at the UI’s newly-created Office of Sustainability. “Every day was different.”

As did most of the UI students, Gruwell spent the bulk of her two weeks at the conference attending symposia and listening to lectures from field experts on a variety of topics.

This central eating area of the Bella Center was surrounded by a huge exhibit area and conference rooms for NGO programs, an exhibit and office area for nations and NGOs, two plenary session rooms, negotiating rooms, and special areas for the press.

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