The Department of Natural Resources will add 135 new lakes and rivers to the state’s list of "impaired waters." DNR spokesman Kevin Baskins says the designation is a benchmark meaning the waterways aren’t meeting the uses they’re intended for. It could be swimming, fishing, or drinking water, he says. "We monitor these waters to determine whether they are meeting those uses, and we have some waters in Iowa that at this point are not," Baskins says.
There are 366 in all on the "impaired" list right now. Baskins says "our waters are not toxic, they’re dirty." He says you never think of plain old soil as a pollutant that impairs water, but when it washes into rivers it can not only make the water esthetically unpleasant by making it muddy and brown, but it covers up habitat, so we don’t see the diversity of aquatic life the water could have. He says it’s not necessarily a matter for concern that the latest report increases the list of impaired waterways by 36-percent. It means that we know more about some of the water bodies out there.
"This is more a reflection of having done more monitoring," Baskins says, "and being able to identify and characterize some additional waters that need some additional work in terms of improvement." To tackle the list, the agency begins by writing up a quality improvement plan for each affected body of water.
"We have the know-how to address some of the problems we have out there," Baskins says. "We just don’t always have the resources available to get it done." DNR Director Rich Leopold says Iowans consistently rank water quality issues as their biggest environmental concern.