In 2016, then Governor Terry Branstad started a debate about water quality, mainly because that was when Iowans were dealing with a lawsuit filed by the Des Moines Water Works.
The suit targeted three northwest counties with drainage districts, and claimed farming practices were causing problems for the cities’ drinking water. For three years the Legislature has been discussing the water quality issue and has finally passed a bill and sent it to the Governor. This happened Tuesday morning when the House accepted the Senate’s water quality bill.
The Legislation now goes to Governor Kim Reynolds, who has said that she wanted water quality to be the first bill she signed since becoming Governor. I know she will sign the bill, and this will, for now stop the bickering and tensions that have been festering for years. Democrats and Republicans have gone at each other.
The House and Senate have sparred with each other. Before the lawsuit was dismissed, city and rural folks were going at it. Even during the last few months Republicans have not been in agreement as to what to do to clean up Iowa’s water. Even though we finally have a bill, it is not perfect, and all parties involved have vowed to continue working on the issue to make sure we accomplish what we have set out to do. I supported the bill.
The bill that passed will allocate about $282 million over the next 12 years for water quality projects. The money would come from a tax on metered water which now flows into the General Fund, and from the Infrastructure Fund which receives its funding from gambling revenues.
So, what is this all about? On Wednesday morning, Secretary of Agriculture, Bill Northey, presented to the budget committee that I chair. He thanked lawmakers for passing the water quality bill and released the following information and report on the Iowa Water Quality Infrastructure:
NORTHEY RELEASES IOWA WATER QUALITY INITIATIVE 2018 LEGISLATIVE REPORT
DES MOINES –Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey today highlighted the Iowa Water Quality Initiative 2018 Legislative Report during his presentation to the Transportation, Infrastructure, and Capitals Appropriations Subcommittee.
“It is exciting to continue to see significant growth in the water quality efforts underway all across our state in both rural and urban areas. This report is an attempt to compile and summarize many of those activities for Legislatures and the public,” Northey said.
The 8-page report highlights key progress on water quality efforts underway across the state, including:
- 56 existing demonstration projects located across the state to help implement and demonstrate water quality practices through the initiative.
- A record level of funding ($4.8 million) was obligated to match the $8.7 million farmer/landowner investment to install cover crops and other in-field practices to reduce nutrient loss.
- First-of-its-kind cover crop-crop insurance partnership was launched with USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) to expand and build upon cover crop usage in the state.
- Secured over $250,000 in contributions from private entities to advance WQI-based projects.
- New public-private partnership with two companies was created to help advance conservation planning in three targeted watersheds.
- A comprehensive accounting of activities underway to support the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy can be found at nutrientstrategy.iastate.edu/documents.
The report also updates tracking/accountability efforts underway, shares information about research being conducted by the Iowa Nutrient Research Center at Iowa State University, highlights the USDA Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) projects underway in Iowa, and highlights efforts to expand public-private collaboration to scale-up water quality efforts. The Iowa DNR also provided an update on the efforts of point sources that is included in the report.
The Department received $10.575 million for the current fiscal year for the Water Quality Initiative.
Background on Iowa Water Quality Initiative
The Iowa Water Quality Initiative was established in 2013 to help implement the Nutrient Reduction Strategy, which is a collaborative research based approach to achieving a 45 percent reduction in nitrogen and phosphorus losses to our waters. The strategy brings together both point sources, such as municipal wastewater treatment plants and industrial facilities, as well as nonpoint sources, including farm fields and urban storm-water runoff, to address these issues.
The initiative seeks to harness the collective ability of both private and public resources and organizations to deliver a clear and consistent message to stakeholders to reduce nutrient loss and improve water quality.
There are currently 56 existing demonstration projects located across the state to help implement and demonstrate water quality practices through the initiative. This includes 15 targeted watershed projects, 7 projects focused on expanding the use and innovative delivery of water quality practices and 34 urban water quality demonstration projects. More than 220 organizations are participating in these projects. These partners will provide $32.3 million dollars to go with over $21.7 million in state funding going to these projects.
More than $420 million in state and federal funds have been directed to programs with water quality benefits in Iowa last year. This total does not include the cost share amount that farmers pay to match state and federal programs or funds spent to create practices built without government assistance.
More information about the initiative can be found at www.CleanWaterIowa.org.
You may reach me at the Capitol during the week by phoning me at 515-281-3221, or my home is 712-434-5880. You may write me at the State Capitol, Des Moines, Iowa 50319. My home address is P. O. Box 398, Aurelia, Iowa 51005. If you have email, please contact me at [email protected].