From our office, a real-time glimpse at adaptation to Iowa’s changing weather


Over the past few days, we’ve gotten a live-action look at climate change adaptation from the comfort of our offices. As some of us gaze out the windows of Iowa Advanced Technology Labs on the UI campus, we can see a crew working hard to build a flood wall along the Iowa River.

As Iowa sees more extreme weather, including heavy rains, we know that the river will spill its banks again.

Joe Bolkcom, CGRER’s Outreach and Community Education Director, took a few shots from inside and outside of his office. The pictures are especially poignant today, as UI officials are expected to announce a new cost estimate from the 2008 floods that will exceed $743 million.

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And speaking of climate change, check out this great interactive feature from the New York Times: As Glaciers Melt, Science Seeks Data on Rising Seas.

Iowans approve referendum on conservation


Iowa conservationists went to bed at least a little happy last night (the night owls among them, at least). Largely overshadowed by the fierce gubernatorial and congressional races and a controversial judicial retention vote, was a landslide victory for conservation efforts.

Over 62 percent of Iowans voted yesterday to approve a constitutional amendment to create a fund for land and water-quality conservation.

Known as Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy Amendment, it was just the third change to the state constitution in the past 16 years.

The measure would designate three-eighths of one percent of a sales tax increase to a trust fund dedicated to conservation.  This would generate about $150 million a year.

A  Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel columnist lauds the vote and would like to see Wisconsin adopt a similar approach.

Read more about the amendment on IowaWatch.org. Or check out the Des Moines Register for reactions.

Also, view a detailed table of election results from the New York Times.

How Clean are Iowa’s Waters?


The answer to the question posed above is “not very” at best, and “filthy” at worst. Much of Iowa’s water pollution comes from farm runoff like fertilizers and herbicides.

Check out this harrowing map of data compiled by the New York Times as part of its thorough series “Toxic Waters.” It pinpoints facilities in Iowa that have racked up violations of the Clean Water Act. In Muscatine, two facilities have over 100 violations since 2004. Those plants haven’t been inspected since 2005 and 2006 respectively. Check out the different state map to compare Iowa’ records to other states, like Nebraska and South Dakota.

More on Iowa’s dirty water:

Later on this blog, we’ll have some in-depth information about UI alum Lou Licht, who is using poplar trees to zap clean pollution from water, air and land.

Here are some Licht-related links as a little preview: