Don’t believe the scare tactics about Iowa’s water quality

Don’t believe the scare tactics about Iowa’s water quality
It’s almost Halloween and environmental activists are at it again: trying to scare Iowans about the quality of the water in our lakes, rivers and streams.

As they push for added regulation and more red tape for farmers, these groups play very fast and loose with the facts. They shout and scream that Iowa has some of the most polluted water in the country, and point their fingers accusingly at today’s farmers.

But like the ghosts and goblins hiding under your toddler’s bed, the activists’ statements are simply fiction; something they’ve made up to scare the public and push their agenda.

Just ask the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “It is simply not true,” Wayne Gieselman, DNR’s environmental protection chief, told the commissioners of the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission last week about the activists’ statements. “We’ve really got to get away from these press-grabbing statements about our water quality,” he said.

So what are the real facts about Iowa’s water quality?

The environmental activists often cite the “high” number of waters in the state that are designated as “impaired.” But DNR records show that Iowa, with 542 so-called impaired waters, is a long, long way from the top. Pennsylvania, for example, leads with nearly 6,600 impaired waterways.

Many of the states with fewer impaired waters than Iowa have only a little working farm land, such as Wyoming or Utah. Or they are states, like Arizona and Nevada, which just don’t have a lot of water, period.

Unlike the wide-open ranges in those states, Iowa lands are some of the hardest working anywhere, raising crops and livestock that are in demand all over the world. And with world food demand growing by leaps and bounds, we’re lucky to have states like Iowa, which has both productive land and farmers dedicated to raising food production while reducing their environmental impact.

The DNR’s Gieselman also noted that simply designating that a body of water is impaired is a long way from saying it’s polluted. Many Iowa waters on the list have only minor impairments and support all kinds of recreation, like fishing, canoeing and swimming.

Here’s some other facts: Iowa farmers have made tremendous progress through voluntary programs to reduce nutrient losses. Studies show that herbicides levels have declined in Iowa waterways, there are fewer detections of nutrients in wells and soil erosion in the state—a major factor in water quality—is down 33 percent in the last 20 years.

Iowa agriculture officials recently announced a proposal to do even more to trim nutrient losses from Iowa’s rich fields and to reduce the state’s contribution to the hypoxia zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

Click here to find out all the things that Iowa farmers are doing to protect and improve the state’s water quality.

Then, when activists try to trick you into believing Iowa has some of the nation’s worst water quality and lay the blame of farmers, make sure to treat them with the facts.

Written by Dirck Steimel, Dirck is the news services manager for Iowa Farm Bureau.