August 21, 2014

Report says state water pollution strategy not strong enough

A report from the Iowa Policy Project (IPP) is critical of the state’s current strategies to fight water pollution. IPP founder David Osterberg says the 2013 Nutrient Reduction Strategy (NRS) relies heavily on voluntary conservation practices and does not require water quality monitoring to determine if nutrient pollution is actually being reduced.

“We’re putting a lot of money out the door in these little watersheds to see whether people around the watershed can really get farmers to start acting and really start reducing pollution, but there’s no requirement that there’s any monitoring that goes on, so we’re not really going to know how well they’re working,” Osterberg said. Iowa’s NRS has a goal of reducing nitrogen and phosphorus discharges by 45 percent – but Osterberg notes there’s no target date to achieve these goals.

In the IPP report, Osterberg outlines six changes to would bolster the NRS. “People have to understand that folks want water quality to be improved and we shouldn’t just use this Nutrient Reduction Strategy as kind of a way of not doing anything,” Osterberg said. “We pretend we’re getting after it, but since we don’t do these six things that we recommend, we’re really not getting at it very well.”

Osterberg co-authored the report with Aaron Kline, a University of Iowa graduate student.

Here are the changes to NRS policy suggested in the IPP report:

· Assuring sufficient funding, contrary to recent vetoes by Governor Terry Branstad of funding approved by the Iowa Legislature.

· Adopting nutrient criteria standards for all Iowa waters, which would follow federal EPA guidelines for reducing nutrient loads.

· Initiating water-quality monitoring to determine whether the 45 percent goal is being met.

· Asking each farm to implement at least two conservation practices.

· Making all understand that more regulation will follow if this voluntary strategy does not work.

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