The Des Moines River

The Des Moines River

The director of environmental programs for the Iowa Soybean Association says Iowa’s water quality issues have reached a “tipping point.”

“We have to have strong soils. We have to have cleaner water. Our jobs and economy in this state depend on those things,” says Roger Wolf of the Soybean Association.

A host of different ideas are percolating in the legislature for financing water quality projects. They range from redirecting the “check-off” dollars farmers send to commodity groups when selling grain and livestock to using some state gambling taxes on water quality rather than state government infrastructure. Wolf says cleaning up Iowa’s water should be a “shared responsibility” and Jan Glendening, The Natural Conservancy’s state director, agrees. She says it will take $4 billion to address the problem.

“We have had significant water quality issues and natural resource issues for years here in Iowa,” Glendening says, “and it’s something we need to invest in.”

On Friday, Iowa Environmental Council executive director Ralph Rosenberg floated the idea of collecting a “clean water fee” on every bottle of water sold in the state — to raise money for water quality projects.

“It’s urgent now. We don’t want to have a Flint,” Rosenberg says. “We want to be proud of our rivers and lakes. We want to be proud of our waters and that’s what’s urgent about it. And if it means we have to raise some taxes, then I think the public will support that as well.”

Rosenberg, Glendening and Wolf all appeared on Iowa Public Television this weekend to discuss the issue.