On May 29, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship issued an update on the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy — on its five-year anniversary.
The Nutrient Reduction Strategy is a science and technology-based framework to assess and reduce nutrient loss from both point sources (such as municipal and industrial wastewater treatment plants) and non-point sources (stormwater runoff from both urban and agricultural landscapes) in Iowa.
The strategy was finalized on May 29, 2013, and in the five years since there has been significant work by farmers, landowners, communities, businesses, stakeholders and partners to help improve water quality in Iowa.
The foundation of the Nutrient Reduction Strategy is that changes on the landscape are needed to meet the water quality goals outlined in the strategy.
Everyone has a role to play in this effort.
Farmers, businesses, communities, homeowners and industrial sites can all make changes to prevent nutrient runoff and protect our state's water quality.
Examples of progress include:
—$420 million in private and public sector funding for water quality efforts in 2017, an increase of $32 million compared to the previous year.
—More than 250 partner organizations are participating in the 65 water quality demonstration projects underway across the state. These partners will provide $37.7 million to go with the $23.4 million in state funding going to these projects.
—760,000 acres of cover crops were planted in Iowa in 2017, up 22 percent from the year before. That compares to less than 10,000 acres planted with cost share in 2009.
—Over the past five years, 8,000 farmers, including nearly 4,600 first-time users, signed up to use a water quality focused practice. These farmers invested more than $17 million to try cover crops, no-till, strip-till or a nitrification inhibitor on their land.
—The Iowa Nutrient Research Center at Iowa State University, created by the Legislature in 2013, has provided over $7 million to fund 60 competitive grants focused on evaluating the performance of current conservation practices and developing new approaches to reducing nutrient loss from agricultural landscapes. Center-supported research focuses on management practices, land-use practices, edge-of-field practices and other water quality areas.
—Of the 154 municipal wastewater plants and industrial facilities required to assess their nutrient removal capacity, 125 have been issued new permits. Of those, 83 have also submitted feasibility studies on potential technology improvements.
Twelve cities and seven industries have met the NRS point source reductions targets for nitrogen removal (66 percent removal). Five cities and three industries have met the NRS point source reduction targets for phosphorus removal (75 percent removal).
—43 municipal and industrial wastewater treatment plants have committed to construct upgrades to remove phosphorus and nitrogen.
—Water monitoring systems have improved by utilizing "real-time" sensor technology for nitrogen and turbidity that allows for a much more accurate and precise accounting of statewide nutrient loads.
More information about the strategy can be found at www.NutrientStrategy.iastate.edu. While we have a long ways to go when it comes to water quality, I am proud of the proactive work Iowans have done to clean and protect our water.