Drastic change needed for clean water – CR Gazette 1-17-24

            I have worked in the wastewater industry for 35 years. I have written about modern industrial agriculture for 40 years and the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy, and its forerunner the Iowa Plan, for the last 15 years. I appreciate the Gazette’s two part water quality article. But, it was confusing even to someone like me, and wasn’t really clear on what the Nutrient Reduction Strategy has actually accomplished.

            When I started writing about industrial agriculture there were some 880,000 miles of tile lines draining Iowa’s 24 million acres of cropland. There are now some 2 million miles of tile lines. Think of tile lines as sewer pipes, in this case allowing pollution to run directly into our surface waters.

            There are two pieces of science from the University of Iowa’s IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering Department, where Chris Jones used to work, that will give you a clear and simple understanding of where Iowa is on clean water. One piece is that since the introduction of the Iowa Plan and the Nutrient Reduction Strategy, the water pollution from modern industrial agriculture in Iowa has actually doubled. The other piece of science is that all of the conservation that has taken place to counter that pollution, and all of the conservation that may happen in the future, will not begin to catch up to industrial ag’s continuing increase in pollution.

            In other words, unless something drastically changes in this modern industrial row crop, feedlot and CAFO agriculture, like what crops we grow and how we raise animals, Iowa will always have polluted water.

            Politics seem to be where these problems must be addressed. It is up to Iowa voters whether or not they will ever have clean water again. Of course voting is problematic nowadays too, since lying seems to be free speech in America and we can’t actually believe what many politicians are saying in order to make up our minds who to vote for.

Bob Watson