Record nitrate levels have been found in both the Raccoon River, which begins in northern Buena Vista County, and the Des Moines River, which flows through the Fort Dodge area. The findings represent "a clarion call" for tackling nutrient pollution in Iowa, the Environmental Law & Policy Center said in a reaction statement this week.
"Nutrient pollution from excessive nitrogen and phosphorous has significant Iowa consequences such as the increased cost and effort that the Des Moines Water Works must incur to ensure the safety of the water we drink, and toxic algae blooms in our lakes that keep us away from the waters we love," said Environmental Law & Policy Center's Iowa staff attorney, Josh Mandelbaum.
"It is not acceptable to have nitrate levels that are nearing or exceeding twice the allowable federal drinking water standard."
The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and the Department of Natural Resources released Iowa's Nutrient Reduction Strategy late in 2012. While the strategy focused on reducing Iowa's nitrogen and phosphorous contributions to the Gulf of Mexico, it lacked detail, accountability and a roadmap to bring Iowa into compliance with the Clean Water Act and protect Iowans from the consequences of nutrient pollution, according to Mandelbaum.
"Nutrient pollution has been an ongoing problem in our state, and repackaging the same approaches we've used for years as a new strategy won't get the job done. We need standards designed for Iowa waterways to protect our health and our water resources. We need farm stewardship plans to implement conservation practices across the landscape and make meaningful progress.
"The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy should be revised to include a plan to implement standards designed for Iowa waters and farm stewardship plans to get conservation practices in place across the landscape," the attorney added. "If department leaders don't make these changes to protect Iowans, then the legislature should."