State officials have drafted a preliminary list classifying 622 Iowa waterways as “impaired” during 2018. That’s a two percent increase from the previous year’s list. Roger Bruner supervises the water monitoring staff in the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and he spoke with reporters this morning.
“An impairment can be thought of lik you doing to the doctors and finding out you have elevated cholesterol,” Bruner said. “It doesn’t mean you’re going to die, but it does mean you should be aware of it and work towards improving that.”
Being classified as an impaired waterway doesn’t mean fishing and swimming are banned in the area, according to Bruner.
“So impairments do not and aren’t designed to provide a magnitude, just that there’s a water segment that we can work to try and improve,” Bruner said.
Heightened bacteria levels are the most common reason waterways are classified as impaired.
“Yet people still recreate and fish without impact,” Bruner said. “Sometimes impairments are portrayed as highly polluted water. That’s generally just not the case…Magnitude is not part of this assessment. Most of our impairments are relatively minor. We do have our challenges on some of them, though, and I don’t want to minimize that.”
Critics like Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement say the state could and should do more to address water pollution by limiting the amount of chemicals farmers may apply to cropland. The group has a lawsuit over water quality pending in the courts. States are required by the federal Clean Water Act to do a yearly evaluation of water quality in rivers, streams and lakes.