A diverse task force organized by the Greater Des Moines Partnership is another good ex­­ample of how most Iowans are collaborating to find solutions to Iowa’s water quality issues, Craig Hill, president of the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF), said last week.

“The formation of Iowa’s Soil and Water Future Task Force is another positive step as stakeholders collaborate to promote environmental stewardship and continued conservation improvement,” Hill said. “Farm Bureau members have advocated for increased water quality and soil conservation funding at the statehouse for many years. As Iowa lawmakers start the 2016 legislative session, our members look forward to assessing all proposals that help continue the proven water quality progress we are seeing in the state.”  

The water quality task force, Hill said, is also a sharp contrast with the actions of the Des Moines Water Works (DMWW). The DMWW has sued drainage districts in three northwestern Iowa counties and the water supplier’s CEO Bill Stowe is calling for added regulations on farmers.

Those calls for a one-size-fits-all regulation would harm farmers and do little to improve water quality, Hill said.

“Water quality and conservation are not simple, single dimensional concerns,” the IFBF president said. “They are very complex and need to be worked through by a wide range of people working together, not by a single judge or a regulator in Washington or Des Moines.”

The Greater Des Moines Part­nership Task Force, which includes IFBF District 4 Director Doug Gronau, recently established a wide range of recommendations to encourage conservation efforts and improve water quality. Some of those recommendations include:

• Establishing a revolving loan fund that could leverage public funding with private sector dollars to provide farmers with low interest loans to install conservation practices.
• Developing consistent monitoring and measurement protocol that can help farmers and water system officials formulate strategies to reduce nutrient loss from fields to improve water quality.
• Targeting water quality efforts to watersheds that have the greatest need and will have the largest impact on the state’s overall water quality.

Finding common ground

Steve Bruere, president of the Peoples Company and co-chair of the Iowa Soil and Water Future Task Force, noted that the task force has been a wide-ranging effort to find common ground on water quality. “This has been a total statewide effort that has helped us identify common ground solutions on how we can help the agriculture economy further prosper and ensure that we have quality water for generations to come,” he said.

The other co-chair of the water quality task force, attorney Larry James, said that investing in Iowa’s soil and water infrastructure makes sense for everyone in the state.  

“Our task force has laid out a solid starting point for our state to work together toward solving our water quality challenges, and we believe this will open the door to even more discussion,” he said.

The entire report can be found at http://www.capitalcrossroadsvision.com/iowas-water-future/.