A fight is brewing over proposed water quality rules. The state’s Environmental Protection Commission has drafted new clean water rules to make more Iowa waterways more “swimmable” and “fishable.” But legislators may try to flush the rules.

Senate Co-Leader Stewart Iverson, a Republican from Clarion, says the rules may force cities to update their water treatment systems that handle run-off or sewage. “I’ve gotten contacted by some of the communities that have some real concerns,” Iverson says. Iverson says Iowa’s waterways can’t be cleaned up overnight. He also suggests that millions of dollars will be spent upgrading city-owned water treatment facilities, and water quality statewide won’t improve dramatically.

Iverson also suggests some polluted waterways shouldn’t be targeted for clean-up. “There are a lot of what I call dredge ditches and things out there where they were never really designed for ‘fishable’ and ‘swimmable,'” Iverson says. “They were designed to drain the land that’s out there, but there’s actually some cities that have water go in there and of course farmers’ tiles run into those dredge ditches.”

But Iowa environmentalists were at the statehouse Wednesday to ask legislators to let the rules stand. Tom Hadden, chairman of the Iowa Environmental Council, says Iowa is one of the last states to comply with the federal Clean Water Act. “The State of Iowa for too many years has faced a much lower level of water quality than we should expect in our streams and rivers,” Hadden says.

Hadden says he grew up thinking Iowa waterways were “naturally brown.” He says Iowa’s streams used to “run clean” and it will just take a new mindset to reach the new water quality goals. Hadden rejects the suggestion from Iverson that it will cost millions to reach those goals. “It’s not good to be scaring people out of doing what is right,” he says.