Number of Impaired Waters in Iowa Decreases for the First Time in 22 Years


Via Flickr

Nicole Welle | December 3, 2020

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) released the impaired waters list Tuesday, and the report showed that segments of 750 Iowa lakes and waterways contain pollution levels that fail to meet state requirements.

Almost 60% of Iowa’s lakes, rivers, streams and reservoirs assessed by the DNR over the last five years fell short of state requirements for one or more functions. These include fishing, supporting aquatic insects or recreational swimming and boating. Parts of the Des Moines River, which provides drinking water for 500,000 Iowa residents, and recreational areas like Lake MacBride are on the list, according to a Des Moines Register article.

This year’s list reveals the daunting reality that over half of the state’s waters are polluted, but it also provides some hope for the future. It showed that since 2018, the number of impaired waters in Iowa has decreased by 2.2%. It is not a huge decline, but it is the first time the number has gone down in 22 years. Bodies of water were taken off the list either because conditions improved or the DNR wrote plans to improve water quality.

Solving Iowa’s water pollution problem will require follow-through on those plans, and some environmentalists think waters should only be taken off the list after that happens. Cooperation from farmers will also be crucial since fertilizer and manure runoff is one of the state’s biggest contributors to water pollution. The state reported manure spills as the leading cause of the 97 reported fish kills this year, and farmers have so far been reluctant to take advantage of incentives to take part in conservation practices.

Gov. Kim Reynold’s proposed a tax raise earlier this year that would help fund water quality improvements, but the COVID-19 pandemic has suspended legislative action. Organizations like the Iowa Environmental Council continue to call for an increase in mandatory regulations since the current voluntary compliance system is not doing enough to improve Iowa’s poor water quality, and they hope that the state government will do more to address the issue in the future.

“Hog Wild: Factory Farms are Poisoning Iowa’s Drinking Water”


Photo courtesy of Farm Sanctuary; Flickr

Ted Genoways goes into an in-depth analysis concerning the issues of farm runoff polluting Iowa’s drinking water.

“Millions of pigs are crammed into overcrowded barns all across the state, being fattened for slaughter while breeding superbugs—all to feed China’s growing appetite for Spam”

Follow this link to read the full story via On Earth. 

On the Radio: Iowa water quality monitoring contract


Photo by Joe Wolf; Flickr

This week’s On the Radio segment covers the state’s contract with Iowa State University to monitor water quality in Iowa lakes. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript. 

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On the Radio: Nutrient Reduction Strategy


Photo by the United Soybean Board; Flickr

This week’s On the Radio segment covers nutrient reduction demonstration projects that are set to help famers better manage harmful farm runoff. Listen to the audio below or continue reading for the transcript.

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On the Radio: Funds for Water Quality Practices


Photo by eutrophication&hypoxia; Flickr

This week’s On the Radio segment covers a statewide, monetary incentive program that will help cut down on the pollution caused by field runoff. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

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Dry fall means increased risk of runoff damage


Photo by eutrophication&hypoxia, Flickr

Iowa’s unusually dry fall could lead to an increase in agricultural runoff. Because of the low stream flows across the state, any spill has increased effects – including a greater chance of fish kills and water quality issues.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources offers tips to reduce the risk of spills:

  • Watch pumps and hoses, monitoring closely for leaks and pressure losses.
  • Keep a spill kit handy with emergency equipment, phone numbers and tools.
  •  Think about how to move dirt quickly in case you need to create a small dam.
  • Make sure all manure is injected or incorporated into the field, or follow required separation distances from vulnerable areas like streams, wells and lakes.

Open feedlots are the most likely to have problems with runoff. Make sure lots are scraped and cleaned. It’s a good time for stockpiles to be land applied too.

On the Radio: Runoff contributes to largest dead zone in history


Photo by Steve Shupe, Flickr

 Listen to this week’s radio segment here.  It discusses the impact that Miswestern runoff has on the Gulf of Mexico.

Imagine an area of the ocean equal to 20 percent of Iowa that’s unlivable for most marine life. This will soon be a reality in the Gulf of Mexico as they prepare for the largest dead zone in history. Continue reading

EPA wants to work with states to address record water pollution


Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

An EPA memo to regional administrators paints a startling picture of the nation’s water quality, calling for more cooperation among states and federal agencies in dealing with the root of the cause – nitrogen and phosphorus pollution.

“Nitrogen and phosphorus pollution has the potential to become one of the costliest and most challenging environmental issues we face,” writes Nancy K. Stoner, EPA Assistant Administrator, in the memo. Continue reading

On the Radio: Iowa’s runoff creates Gulf Coast “Dead Zone”


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Listen to this week’s radio clip on Iowa’s infamous contribution to the Dead Zone, which continues to plague the Gulf Coast Region.

Dead fish, damaged industry and dirty drinking water – Iowa is making a huge impact in the Gulf Coast region.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

That’s because of farm runoff. It doesn’t just pollute our rivers and streams; it flows down the Mississippi River and helps form the Dead Zone, which has plagued the Northern Gulf of Mexico for decades. Continue reading