Murky Iowa Waters: An Environmental and Public Health Disaster?
PHOTO: A new report from the Environmental Working Group finds no improvement in Iowa stream and river water quality in ten years. Photo credit: NRCS
December 13, 2012
DES MOINES, Iowa - The Clean Water Act has been the law of the land in the United States for decades, but a new analysis finds that Iowa's water quality has not improved at all in the past 10 years.
The act has helped reduce urban and industrial pollution running into rivers and streams, says Craig Cox, senior vice president of the Environmental Working Group, but for the most part, farm operations are exempt.
"That flaw is that there's no real authority to address pollution from farmland, and as a result farm pollution is now the leading cause of water pollution in the United States."
The report, titled ”Murky Waters,” found that more than 60 percent of Iowa's rivers and streams are rated either "poor" or "very poor" - and that figure goes even higher during summer months when more people are apt to be out and about on the water.
Cox says the biggest issue in Iowa now is runoff overloading streams and rivers with fertilizer and manure.
"That pollution sets off a cascade of environmental and water-quality problems that cause trouble in both local streams and rivers, and ultimately down to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, probably the most famous result of this farm pollution."
Taking control of the issue, Cox says, requires a basic standard of care that farmers should be expected to meet, and most of the practices are ones that have been done traditionally.
"We're asking farmers to back away from stream banks, to heal up their gullies. We're asking farmers to try to control their livestock, instead of letting cattle roam freely in the stream. These are just basic measures that should be seen simply as good business practice."
The study is online at ewg.org/research/murky-waters.