Livestock may be reason for Lake Red Rock pollution

Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | July 23, 2021

University of Iowa scientists are suggesting Lake Red Rock’s pollution is from livestock.

Des Moines Water Works saw a spike of E. coli bacteria in water in recent weeks, which is likely to be from the upstream Lake Red Rock. A spokesperson for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Chelsea Tyler, told KCCI that the outbreak was caused by geese in the area. However, Director of the University of Iowa’s Center for Health Effects of Environmental Contamination David Cwiertny said this is unlikely.

In an interview with Iowa Capital Dispatch, Cwiertny said the number of geese in Des Moines does not correlate to them being the main source of the E. coli in the water. Iowa livestock is more likely to be the culprit.

Research Engineer at the university, Chris Jones, agreed with Cwiertny. He said there are more than 25 million hogs, which are individually larger than the 100,000 geese in the state.

Within the past few weeks, Des Moines Water Works has seen an increase in fecal bacteria levels in the Des Moines River. The river runs into Lake Red Rock.

Issues in Iowa’s waterways are often blamed on geese, the Dispatch reported. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources have also said geese are at fault for pollution issues in lakes and other waterways in the past few years.

Iowa Ideas 2021 conference to focus on water quality

Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | June 4, 2021

The Cedar Rapids Gazette is hosting an in-depth week on water quality later this month as a part of the Gazette’s Iowa Ideas 2021 virtual conference.

The events begin at noon on June 21 with a keynote session with Larry Weber, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Iowa. The week will include various panels on the value of water, eco-tourism, the upgrades some Iowa communities need to remove nitrates and pollutants from drinking water, and various other pressing issues. The week closes with a look at the 388-mile Cedar River and water quality efforts surrounding the waterway on Friday, June 25.

Twelve panelists will participate in the week of activities, looking to inform Iowans on water quality issues around the state and beyond its borders. Iowa Ideas is an initiative that aims to explore and discuss big issues that could shape the state’s future. The water quality week follows a higher education focused week in the spring.  

The Iowa Ideas week this month will feature conversation about controlling water pollution and runoffs, where ideas about how to protect water in the state will be shared. Panels and discussions begin at noon Monday through Friday with different guests daily. Free registration is open for the event on the Iowa Ideas website.

Four Iowa water quality improvement projects will soon be scaling up


Four projects have received renewed funding to continue expanding their water quality protection efforts, which serve as demonstrations for farmers interested in implementing the practices. (flickr/Victor U)

Katelyn Weisbrod | June 28, 2017

Four Iowa projects aimed at preserving water quality will receive renewed funding, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey announced Monday.

The projects, set in Wapello, Plymouth, Henry, and Montgomery counties, began in 2014 and were set to expire this year, but will receive $1.8 million total from the Iowa Water Quality Initiative to increase the scale of their efforts, and improve evaluation techniques.

The projects serve as demonstrations for water quality improvement practices, all in an effort to advance the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy. The strategy was put forth to achieve a 45-percent reduction of agricultural nutrient runoff draining to the Mississippi River and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico.

The showcased practices include cover crops, installed wetlands, terraced slopes, land retirement, and other techniques.

“These projects are hitting their stride in terms of engaging farmers, getting practices on the ground and coordinating with partners and stakeholders,” Northey said in a press release. “We have always understood that it would take a long-term commitment to improvement in these watersheds and I’m excited to continue to learn from these projects as we work to scale-up and expand water quality efforts across the state.”


Iowa DNR suspects farm crop duster is responsible for Medapolis fishkill

(Florida Fish and Wildlife/Flickr)

Jenna Ladd | August 3, 2016

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources suspects that crop duster farm chemicals are responsible for killing thousands of fish in a southeast Iowa creek late last week.

A local resident near Mediapolis discovered the dead fish last Friday, July 29th and notified authorities. When investigators arrived they found a five-to-six mile stretch of the Cedar Fork Creek to be littered with slain freshwater species of all kinds including bass, catfish, crayfish, sunfish and chubs. Short sections of Flint Creek were also affected.

DNR quickly ruled out fertilizer or manure spill as potential causes. Ryan Stouder, environmental specialist with the organization says he’s confident that crop duster farm chemicals are the culprit,“The Department of Ag pesticide investigator is pretty confident it is, just off the visual signs of mineral oil in the water.” Investigators are unsure if the contamination was the result of unintentional drift or an emergency aerial dump. Water samples were collected from the scene in order to determine specific chemicals present. If a source can be identified, DNR will take appropriate enforcement measures.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture joined DNR in further investigation on August 2nd.

On the radio: Iowa’s water pollution problem takes toll on marine life

An Iowa River tributary in Iowa City. Photo by Jim Malewitz

Listen to this week’s radio segment on Iowa’s polluted waters.

To some Iowans, they’re just oblong shells that won’t be missed. But to biologists, the death of two species of Iowa mussels is a sign that our state’s waters have never been filthier. Continue reading

New report paints dire picture of eroding soil on Iowa’s cropland

Video courtesy of Environmental Working Group

Erosion in Iowa is likely worse than previous estimates.

We already knew part the story: swept away by wind and heavy rains, Iowa’s rich soil is disappearing at an alarming rate, stripping the land of its fertility and polluting the state’s waters.

We just didn’t know how serious the problem has become.

Government estimates had put Iowa’s yearly erosion rate at about 5 tons of soil per acre, and more recent data from Iowa State’s Daily Erosion Project pegged that rate much higher – up to 12 times as high in some areas of the state.

But even these estimates may be low, according to Losing Ground, a new report from the Environmental Working Group,  a Washington D.C-based nonprofit. Continue reading

Car wash season brings soapy threat to water quality

Photo by Dimitri dF, Flickr

When most Iowans hear about runoff, they think about the fertilizers and herbicides that run from farmland and into streams after rains. They don’t think about the dangers that a leisurely car wash can pose to water quality.

This spring, the state’s Environmental Stewardship Committee is asking organizers to limit the amount soap and other chemicals runs down storm sewers and into Iowa’s rivers and streams. Continue reading

Grinnell College to host water quality symposium

Iowa River tributary in Iowa City. Photo by Jim Malewitz.

On April 6-7, Grinnell College’s Center for Prairie Studies will co-sponsor a symposium analyzing “Iowa’s Troubled Waters: the Challenges of Quality and Quantity.”

The symposium, also hosted by the college’s Luce Program in Nations and the Global Environment, will explore the topic of Iowa’s waters, which face record levels of pollution.

“The global concerns for water—too much, too little, potable, polluted—are all right here in Iowa,” said Jon Andelson, director of the Center for Prairie Studies. “Iowa’s relationship with water has become increasingly troubled of late by growing groundwater contamination and unusually heavy rains. We’ve gathered Iowa experts to consider these challenges and potential solutions.” 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

DNR to host summer workshops in water quality monitoring

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

This summer, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources will hold workshops across the state for Iowans who would like to learn how to measure the quality of their local waters – an important skill for those concerned about Iowa’s highly polluted lakes, rivers and streamsContinue reading