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A Watershed Approach to Improving Iowa Water Quality?

Iowa's most recent (2016) draft list of impaired waters includes more than 600 bodies of water with a total of 818 problems with their quality or safety. (IDNR)
Iowa's most recent (2016) draft list of impaired waters includes more than 600 bodies of water with a total of 818 problems with their quality or safety. (IDNR)
December 20, 2017

DES MOINES, Iowa – Long-term funding for water quality is expected to be one of the first priorities for Iowa legislators when they return to the State Capitol in January.

Competing water quality bills in the House and Senate failed to pass both chambers this year, and Republican leaders say they think the Senate version is the most feasible choice for long-term funding.

But Kerri Johannsen, manager of government affairs for the Iowa Environmental Council, says it's troubling that the bill doesn't take a comprehensive approach to improving water quality by watershed.

"We do have concerns that if that bill moved forward, it would set up a system that would continue to spend taxpayer dollars in a way that scatters conservation practices across the land, and doesn't use science-based and common sense approach to spending those dollars," she states.

According to Johannsen, a watershed framework brings together urban and rural stakeholders to consider the challenges and needs of local communities, and develop collaborative solutions.

Johannsen contends any water quality legislation should also include rules for measuring and monitoring. She adds short-term smaller level assessments are crucial to ensure the investments being made are yielding the expected results.

"You might not know for 30 years if the investments that farmers, the government, businesses, all those folks are making in the watershed, whether they're having a difference,” she points out. “And so, monitoring and measurement is really key to know that we're moving in the right direction and having success."

Johannsen says it's great that state lawmakers want to prioritize clean water, and hopes they examine the best way to get those results.

"Clean water is so fundamental for the health of our state, and our communities and our citizens,” she stresses. “Having safe water is on the top of everybody's priority list. The problem's not going to go away, and policymakers are going to continue to feel the pressure to get something done."

More than 600 bodies of water are on Iowa's most recent draft list of impaired waters, meaning their water quality doesn't fully support human use or aquatic life.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IA