Iowa’s Impaired Waters List Jumps to 750
April 14, 2017
Today, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) released its bi-annual impaired waters report required by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The report found that out of 1,378 waterbodies tested over half are impaired. The list jumped from 736 impaired waterbodies in 2014 to 750 impaired waterbodies in 2016.
Since the Nutrient Reduction Strategy (NRS) was created, Iowa has not seen a reduction in the number of impaired waterbodies. The report demonstrates that Iowa’s NRS is a colossal failure and that the factory farm industry is a major contributor to Iowa’s water pollution crisis.
Iowa’s NRS has a goal of reducing Nitrate and Phosphorus pollution entering the Mississippi River by 45% with no deadline marking success or failure, and farmers are asked to voluntarily implement practices that reduce pollution. But members of Iowa CCI say a voluntary program that doesn’t address the expanding factory farm industry and has no meaningful monitoring, accountability, or enforcement is destined to fail.
In 2012, Iowa had 30,622,700 acres of farmland, but less than 2% of that land had in-field or edge-of-field nutrient management practices, according to the 2015-2016 Annual NRS Report. $112 million was spent in 2015 and $122 million was spent in 2016 to implement the strategy. This shows that investing in a voluntary strategy does not produce results.
“At this rate, we’ll never have water that we can swim in, drink from, or fish in. Voluntary does not work. No industry has ever successfully regulated itself. Big Ag corporations will always put corporate profits and yields above our water quality,” said Barb Kalbach, a CCI member and 4th generation family farmer from Dexter. “The only way we’ll begin to clean up Iowa’s water is if the legislature passes meaningful, enforceable rules and regulations and make polluters pay the cost.”
The impaired waters report states the top three causes of impairments in Iowa’s rivers and streams are bacteria, biological, and fish kills, which point to factory farm manure as a major polluter in Iowa.
Iowa has over 9,000 factory farms that produce more than 22 billion gallons of manure annually. According to an Iowa Policy Project report, there are only 15.75 FTE inspectors in the state, meaning the factory farm industry operates unregulated in nearly all aspects.
“This industry is out of control. It’s obvious that our legislature is working for the industry because we continue to see false solutions that kick the can down the road using public funds to cleanup corporate ag’s water pollution,” said Kalbach.
CCI members call on the Iowa Legislature and Governor to 1) pass mandatory, meaningful regulations, 2) force Big Ag corporations to pay for the cost of clean-up, and 3) pass a moratorium on new/expanding factory farms in Iowa.