Under proposed bill, farm advocates would monitor water quality

Photo by Jim Malewitz

At a time when Iowa’s waters are at their dirtiest, a group of House legislators wants to assign a partner of the state’s biggest polluters to monitor the cleanliness of its lakes, rivers and streams.

The vast preponderance of Iowa’s water pollution comes from the fertilizers and pesticides that run off of farmland.

But on Monday, a House subcommittee began discussing HSB 180 – a bill that would transfer enforcement duties of section 319 of the Clean Water Act from the Department of Natural Resources to the Department of Agriculture and Land and Stewardship (DALS), a department that lists “to provide leadership for all aspects of agriculture in Iowa,” as its primary goal.

Section 319 of the act deals explicitly with monitoring water nonpoint source pollution, also known as farm runoff.

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Iowa’s rising flood risk

The Iowa River. Photo by Jim Malewitz

Thanks to changes in Iowa’s weather patterns, landscape, cities and farms, some of the state’s most trusted flood prevention safeguards outmoded and inadequate, a review by The Des Moines Register shows.

That includes the state’s system of dams – including Saylorville upstream from Des Moines – which were designed to meet climate conditions and a lay of the land that some scientists say haven’t existed for decades.

That leaves Iowans, their homes and their businesses increasingly at risk for the sort of devastating floods that ravaged the state in 1993, 2008 and again last year, causing damage in the billions of dollars.

The Register report details much of what we have reported here – like that rainfall in Iowa has increased in frequency and intensity and that man-made changes to the landscape lead to increased runoff and streamflows.  Continue reading