Lawmakers in Des Moines working on the state budget should remember that 63 percent of Iowans approved of a constitutional amendment creating a new fund for natural resources and water quality in the state. And now there is new evidence that that funding is needed.
In our March 1st report, Drops in the Bucket: The Erosion of Iowa Water Quality Funding, we show that overall water quality funding in the state has dwindled over the past decade and it would take at least $5 million in next year’s budget just to get us back to an average funding level for the past decade. This begs the question of whether those average levels were adequate or not.
The 10 water quality programs we looked at most saw significant declines of around 30 percent when adjusted for inflation. These programs provide a good snapshot of overall water quality funding in the state.
Numbers can sometimes be deceiving and in some cases look better than they really are. The water monitoring program of the DNR, for instance, has maintained nominal funding of about $2.9 million for nine straight years. Because of shifting money within the department, however, the monitoring program is not able to monitor things like groundwater quality, or test for pesticides and pharmaceuticals like it used to.
Money is not the only factor in improving Iowa water quality, but it is a necessary part of any effort. Iowa’s water quality can be improved. For evidence, just look at trout streams in northeast Iowa, which have made dramatic improvements since the mid-1980s, with six or seven times more streams having naturally reproducing trout now.
Improvements like that won’t happen without funding and the state’s current investment in water quality is not going to be adequate to make a significant improvement across the state. If these trends continue where will be in another 10 years? At what point do we say, “Enough is enough,” and start making the investment in our natural resources?
Posted by Will Hoyer, Research Associate
Read new IPP report by Will Hoyer, Brian McDonough and David Osterberg