Water is a finite resource. It is a necessity for the life of all individuals and all living things. We have a responsibility to share this resource today and act as good stewards for future generations.

When water is polluted, it’s our neighbors and communities that suffer. Surface water contamination limits economic activity. Groundwater degradation requires costly treatment systems, infrastructure that is too expensive for many small and mid-sized communities.

We depend on water to sustain our way of life. Crop producers rely on irrigation to remain profitable. Energy producers require surface water to maintain generation facilities. Communities count on rivers, lakes, and streams to attract visitors and support local business.

There are important challenges ahead. Increased levels of point source and nonpoint source pollution put our waterways at risk. Changing weather patterns lead to unpredictable precipitation, forcing many of us to adapt. Hydrologic fracturing, excessive and inefficient irrigation, and increased sedimentation all must be addressed.  

Water connects us all. The hydrologic cycle ensures this. Because we all benefit, we each have a role to play in its protection. 

Water Notes


Iowa’s Role in Cleaning up the Gulf

Excessive nutrient pollution in oceans and rivers can cause dense growth of plants and algae that, when decaying, deplete oxygen needed to sustain aquatic life. The technical phrase for this is eutrophication resulting in hypoxia. This condition creates the Dead Zone where the Mississippi River meets the Gulf of Mexico.

In fall 1997, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) convened a Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force (known commonly as the Hypoxia Task Force) that included the 12 states in the Mississippi River Watershed.

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Flowing Forward: Planning Iowa’s Water Quality Future

Iowa holds a rare landscape lush in high yielding, rainfed agriculture, but the bounty comes at a price. The state’s water quality threatens public health and outdoor recreation with excessive nitrate, phosphorus, bacteria, sediment, and other pollutants in surface waters. The modern agriculture landscape has altered the movement of water within the state’s watershed and reduced the land’s natural resiliency. Over the five years since Iowa created the Nutrient Reduction Strategy and began its Water Quality Initiative, improvements on the landscape have made a positive impact, but water quality continues to decline.

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Iowa's flood history gives rise to water quality action

Recent and continued flooding along the Missouri River and throughout Iowa has revived discussion around water quality. Iowa’s history shows that natural disasters can be unifying moments on divisive issues. Following the 2008 floods in eastern Iowa, the Legislature took an interest in preventing flood damage.

While Iowans are dealing with immediate questions from this emergency, legislators are asking what the state can do. A few organizations are offering their own suggestions, including the following three ideas.

Flowing Forward: Iowa’s role in cleaning up the Gulf

The state of Iowa has a lot of water. In fact, the state contains more than two dozen rivers, including the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. For many years, state leaders have grappled with the question of how to improve the quality of Iowa’s waterways. Meanwhile, lakes have been listed as “impaired” by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and rivers have elevated levels of nutrients, like nitrogen and phosphorus, flowing downstream. But, the impacts of poor water quality in the state have expansive consequences which have caused issues as far south as the Gulf of Mexico.

Public support to raise sales tax remains high

Nine years ago, voters approved a statewide ballot referendum to amend the Iowa Constitution to create the Natural Resource and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund. Support remains strong for paying for the trust fund with a sales tax increase. A recent Des Moines Register poll indicated 65 percent of Iowans support a full cent sales tax increase to pay for a combination of water quality projects and mental health services.