Water Quality

Joyce Russell/IPR

More than 200 activists converged on the state capitol today, urging more funding for water quality, conservation, and outdoor recreation across the state.  

A Republican-sponsored bill in the House would raise the state sales tax for the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund which was approved by the voters as a constitutional amendment in 2010.  

The bill also creates a water quality revolving fund by diverting dollars currently spent elsewhere in the state budget.

Carl Wycoff/flickr

Gov. Terry Branstad’s plan to spend nearly $850 million over the course of 12 years to clean Iowa’s waterways narrowly advanced in the Iowa Senate today, in spite of opposition from lawmakers of both parties.    

Iowa is under pressure from the federal government to remove nutrients from the water which are contributing to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. But at a subcommittee hearing for the Iowa Senate’s Committee for Natural Resources and Environment, the chair downplayed the seriousness of the problem.

Clay Masters / IPR

  A federal judge has dismissed The Des Moines Water Works lawsuit against three counties, claiming their agricultural drainage districts have been sending nitrate pollution into the rivers the water utility uses for drinking water. The lawsuit has been a hot button issue across Iowa and country because if the utility had been successful it could have regulated farming.

Clay Masters / IPR

A federal judge has dismissed The Des Moines Water Works lawsuit against three counties, claiming their agricultural drainage districts have been sending nitrate pollution into the rivers the water utility uses for drinking water. The lawsuit has been a hot button issue across Iowa and country because if the utility had been successful it could have regulated farming.

cedar river
Braden Kopf / Vimeo

An effort to improve water quality and decrease flood risks on the Cedar River will “ramp up” this year.

Cedar Rapids Utilities Director Steve Hershner made the announcement Tuesday at a water quality discussion.

The quality of Cedar Rapids' drinking water is influenced by nutrient levels in the Cedar River.

Clay Masters / IPR

Water utilities clashed with their cities at a public hearing at the capitol Monday over a bill that would dismantle the Des Moines Water Works board and create a regional utility. Critics of the bill say it is about stopping a controversial lawsuit that targets large-scale agriculture.

Kristofor Husted/Harvest Public Media file photo

President Donald Trump issued an executive order Tuesday directing the Environmental Protection Agency to revise a controversial environmental rule opposed by many Midwest farm groups.

Trump ordered new EPA administrator Scott Pruitt to formally revise the Obama Administration’s 2015 Clean Water Rule, also known as the Waters of the U.S. Rule, which was meant to explain which rivers, streams and creeks are subject to regulation by the EPA.

Clay Masters / IPR

A bill in the Iowa legislature would break up the Des Moines Water Works board and replace it with a regional water authority. Those who support the bill say it will update a 100-year-old system for delivering water to the growing metro and its suburbs. Critics say the bill is really about stopping a controversial lawsuit from the Des Moines Water Works targeting large scale agriculture.

Michael Leland/IPR

An Iowa Supreme Court ruling has found that 10 drainage districts northwest of Des Moines are not liable for potentially millions of dollars in damages. Des Moines's water utility brought the case in a novel attempt to sue other government entities for monetary damages.

Des Moines Water Works says farm runoff into the Raccoon River from drainage districts in Sac, Calhoun

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

A federal court has sided with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in a case that environmental groups had hoped would hasten water clean-up efforts.

 

The Gulf Restoration Network and environmental groups from states that border the Mississippi River argued the EPA needs to enforce numerical standards for water quality. In other words, the agency should establish maximum allowable levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, and then have a means to penalize states that exceed those amounts.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

A coalition of state environmental groups called the Mississippi River Collaborative is pressuring the federal Environmental Protection Agency to do more to clean up waterways in the Mississippi River Watershed.

In a report released today, the group calls upon the EPA to take concrete action to force improvements in water quality.

Dean Borg, Iowa Public Radio

The frequency of severe flooding events in Iowa is increasing. Data from Iowa State University shows that 100-year flood plain maps really map 25-year flood plains, and in cities like Cedar Rapids, large rainfall events have increased by 56 percent.  

Kamyar Enshayan, director of the University of Northern Iowa Center for Energy and Environmental Education, says that’s in part due to land use.

Kristofor Husted/Harvest Public Media

Farming in the fertile Midwest is tied to an environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. But scientists are studying new ways to lessen the Midwest's environmental impact and improve water quality.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecasts the so-called "dead zone," an area of sea without enough oxygen to support most marine life, to grow larger than the size of Connecticut, or roughly 6,000 square miles.  

Peggy Lowe/Harvest Public Media

Standing on a platform above the eastern bank of the Missouri River at the Kansas City, Missouri, Water Services intake plant is like being on the deck of a large ship.

Electric turbines create a vibration along the blue railing, where David Greene, laboratory manager for Kansas City Water Services, looks out across the river. Water the color of chocolate milk is sucked up and forced through screens below, picking up all the debris the river carries downstream.  

Amy Mayer/IPR

On a gray day, just as the rain begins to fall, Roger Zylstra stops his red GMC Sierra pick-up truck on the side of the road and hops down into a ditch in Jasper County, Iowa. It takes two such stops before he unearths amid the tall weeds and grasses what he’s looking for.

"Here is one of the tiles," he says, pointing to a pipe about six or eight inches in diameter. Water trickles from it into a culvert that runs under the road after flowing through a network of underground drainage lines below his farm field. "That's where it outlets."

Brian Seifferlein/Harvest Public Media

Living in the Platte River Valley in central Nebraska means understanding that the water in your well may contain high levels of nitrates and may not be safe to drink.

"When our first son was born in 1980, we actually put a distiller in for our drinking water here in the house," says Ken Seim, who lives in the Platte Valley near the town of Chapman, Nebraska. "And at that time our water level was 12 parts per million."

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Contaminated drinking water isn't just a problem for Flint, Michigan. Many towns and cities across the Midwest and Great Plains face pollution seeping into their water supplies. A big part of the problem: farming and ranching.

AMY MAYER/IPR FILE PHOTO

The City of Des Moines’s water utility is trying to sue 10 drainage districts in northwest Iowa in federal court, accusing the districts of polluting the Raccoon River. But first, Des Moines Water Works must convince the state Supreme Court that drainage districts can be held liable.

The drainage districts assert that for over a century, the Iowa Supreme Court has held that they can’t be sued for a civil wrong due to their limited authority. Attorney Michael Reck told the court during oral arguments Wednesday that it should stand by its previous rulings.

Clay Masters / IPR

There’s been a lot of talk in Iowa about water quality. From failed attempts by the legislature and the governor to come up with new funding, to the state’s largest water utility suing three rural boards of supervisors in northwest Iowa. That area of the state is part of a region called the “prairie pothole”. It stretches from Canada, down through the Dakotas, northern Montana and western Minnesota as well.

In North Dakota, much of this habitat is still intact and conservationists are concerned about the health implications of a landscape looking more like Iowa.

Rick Fredericksen/IPR file photo

A new study supports planting perennial grasses on current cropland as a way to reduce nutrient loss from farm fields.

 

Majicdolphin / Flickr

What happened in Flint, Michigan is only one of several high profile incidents of public health crises arising from drinking water contamination. In fact, according to Siddhartha Roy, who was part of the team that discovered high lead levels in Flint, “There are millions of lead pipes,” and “we have them in virtually every city in the U.S.”

Rob McLennan / Flickr

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is expecting another summer boating season full of toxic, blue green algae blooms. There were a record number of beach closures in 2015 in Iowa, and the DNR is expecting this year to be the same or worse. 

The blooms release microcystin, which is a toxin released by cyanobacteria. The toxin can kill pets and cause rashes and flu like symptoms in humans.

As the weather heats up this week, Mary Skopec, beach monitoring coordinator for the Iowa DNR, says that we’ll likely start to see algal blooms that lead to beach closures.

Paul Hudson/Flickr

The Iowa Utilities Board is holding public comment meetings starting today, regarding a proposed water rate increase that would affect roughly 63,000 customers in eastern Iowa.

Iowa-American Water Company wants to increase rates by approximately 13.7 percent. The Davenport-based water utility says it needs additional funds primarily to cover infrastructure updates and to supplement declining costumer use.

It estimates the average monthly residential bill will increase by $5.10 and the average monthly commercial bill to increase by $30.21.

Clay Masters/IPR

This week IPR News is taking a look at water quality in the state.

Iowa Lawmakers, farmers and environmentalists continue to debate the best way to curb water quality issues, following an unsuccessful attempt to fund more projects this legislative session.

Clay Masters / IPR

This week IPR News is taking a look at water quality in the state.

A state cost share program designed to help Iowa farmers install nutrient reduction practices on their farm is entering its fourth year.  Lawmakers and the governor struggled this legislative session to come up with a way to spend more money on water quality in the state. In the last three years, the state has awarded $12 million on 45 different projects.

Clay Masters / IPR

This week IPR News is taking a look at water quality in the state.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad and the top Democrat in the Iowa Senate exchanged harsh words Monday over the legislature's failure to approve a plan for water quality improvements before adjourning last week.    

Governor Branstad's proposal to tap school infrastructure dollars to raise billions of dollars for water quality fell flat.  

On a bipartisan vote, the House passed a bill to divert money from other state programs but the bill was not debated in the Senate.  

Branstad says Majority Leader Mike Gronstal wasn't serious about doing something about water quality this year.

Des Moines Water Works Blog

The Des Moines Water Works lawsuit against three northwest Iowa counties over nitrates in the water sparked debate in the Iowa House today.   

A rural lawmaker wants to expand representation on the Water Works Board of Trustees.

He says that’s in part because of the lawsuit alleging drainage districts in Sac, Calhoun, and Buena Vista counties are responsible for high nitrate levels in the Raccoon River.

Rep. Jared Klein (R-Keota) wants urban and rural areas surrounding Des Moines to have a seat at the table if the Water Works raises its rates. 

Ocean Biology Processing Group at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center / Flickr, Creative Commons

First established in 1970, Earth Day is celebrated worldwide on April 22nd every year to celebrate and support the protection of the environment. Has it worked?

Ralph Rosenberg, Executive Director of the Iowa Environmental Council, says Earth Day has evolved from raising awareness, to sparking action, to returning results.

"There's an urgency now," says Rosenberg. "People have seen some progress in 46 years, but we do need to see awareness and action year-round."

John Pemble/IPR

After high hopes for action at the statehouse this year on water quality, it appears that lawmakers will soon be adjourning without reaching consensus on how to pay for the cleanup of Iowa rivers and streams. 

So far the Republican House and Democratic Senate have not been able to agree on a funding plan for water quality improvements.

The governor, the House, and the Senate each had competing funding mechanisms for cleaning up the water.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal (D-Council Bluffs) says the three interested parties are like ships passing in the night.

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