Iowa’s deteriorating water quality is a lingering problem that never seems to make it to the front burner of political campaigns or elected leaders’ agendas in the State Capitol. The Des Moines Register’s editorial today asks — and answers — the fundamental questions:
Why is our water so dirty? The state’s agricultural businesses, including 7,000 animal feeding operations, is a significant reason. Why do they do so much damage to the environment? Elected officials let them.
It’s not like we don’t have options. We do. Public policy can make a difference in protecting the environment, through tough and effective regulations that recognize the air and water belong to all of us, and by helping folks do a better job with targeted incentives.
Unfortunately, as the Register suggests, elected officials in Iowa have passed up opportunities in both the regulatory and incentive arenas to enhance Iowa’s water quality. The Iowa Policy Project through the years has noted many of the issues and presented constructive policy options. Here is a selection of those reports:
- Agricultural Drainage and Wetlands: Can They Co-exist?
- Solution to Pollution: It Starts on the Farm (pdf)
- Scum in Iowa’s Water: Dealing with the Impact of Excess Nutrients (pdf)
- Permitting Pigs: Fixing Faults in Iowa’s CAFO Approval Process (pdf)
- Concentrating on Clean Water: The Challenge of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (pdf)
IPP also showed this year how environmental protection funding has waned in Iowa — even when voters specifically told lawmakers with a referendum in 2010 that environmental protection is an area where they want to see funding directed. As we found:
While legislators and other elected officials will always proclaim their commitment to clean water, they have not over the past decade demonstrated that commitment through the state budget. In fact, once inflation is taken into account, funding for many programs the state relies upon to monitor, protect and improve waterways has dropped by 25 percent or more. …
Over time, this slow erosion in the purchasing power of these programs is likely to contribute to deteriorating Iowa water quality, if it has not already done so. When funding is scaled to FY13 appropriations, the slow decline in spending on water programs becomes more evident.
Posted by David Osterberg, Executive Director