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Agricultural runoff
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Author:  Uni18 [ Wed Apr 25, 2018 7:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Agricultural runoff

Hi all, I have written a small research/advocacy paper about agricultural runoff in Iowa for one of my college classes. Feel free to post any suggestions or start discussion about this issue.

Growing up in Iowa and being the son of a farmer, I know agriculture plays a major part in the lives of the people who live here. Agriculture alone provides 1 out of every 5 jobs and brings in $112 billion dollars annually for the state’s economy (“Iowa Ag Economic Study”, 2014). However, agricultural pesticide and fertilizer runoff have led to the state’s rivers and lakes becoming increasingly polluted. According to the EPA agricultural runoff is the leading culprit behind impaired water quality in the United States (Swanson, 2013). To lessen this pollution, the state of Iowa needs to implement laws requiring farmers to have buffer strips along waterways.
Agricultural runoff occurs when excess water carrying nutrients and fertilizers from fields is washed into the neighboring streams. Once these chemicals and nutrients enter the water they cause an increase in aquatic plant life which lessens the water oxygen supply. The Gulf of Mexico “Dead Zone” is a prime example. Located at the mouth of the Mississippi River lies an area the size of New Jersey where sea life is almost nonexistent due to nutrient pollution. (Bruckner, 2017). NOAA has reported that the lack of oxygen have forced many fish species to move resulting in an estimated $82 million dollars in annual fishing losses (Brown, 2017).
These polluted waterways are also affecting the health of humans. The Raccoon River in Iowa provides the city of Des Moines with water and is highly polluted with nitrates. In 2015 the average nitrate levels measured at 11.12 part per million. The EPA legal limit for drinking water is 10 ppm. Once treated the river’s drinking water averaged 5.16 ppm with samples ranging from .08 ppm all the way up to 9.21 ppm. However, the National Cancer Institute has reported that drinking water with 5 ppm of nitrates and above has been linked to increased chances of cancer (Rundquist, 2018). Residents who rely on private wells are at an even greater risk. A study done by the nonprofit organization Iowa Watch in 2016 studied 28 different private wells across Iowa. The sample results were disturbing as nitrate levels as high as 168 ppm were found and 11 of the 28 wells had levels above 45 ppm (Shotwell, 2016).
Thankfully, there are preventative measures that can be done to help reduce the amount of agricultural runoff. The major option I am advocating for is the increased implementation of buffer strips along waterways. This strip of land would be planted with a non-harvestable plant and would soak up excess water greatly reducing runoff. Minnesota was one of the first states to pass a law requiring land owners to maintain such buffer strips. The strips are supposed to range from 16-50 feet wide along fields that are bordered by waterways (Baumgarten, 2017). The opposition to the law argue that it violates the constitution and is essentially a land grab. Nonetheless, over 75% of counties in Minnesota have been compliant of the new law. By implementing this in Iowa we could greatly mitigate the amount of runoff.
The next step is for Iowa to implement similar laws to that of Minnesota requiring buffer strips along water ways. Recently Iowa passed a $282 million dollar water quality bill which is aimed at improving water quality across the over the next 12 years. However, this bill is not doing enough as it sprinkles money across the state and does not force action from farmers. It is time for Iowa landowners to be expected to employ and maintain buffer strips to help prevent pollution. It should be a part of their responsibility as a landowner to not pollute waterways that run along or flow through their lands.

Author:  Iowanic [ Thu Apr 26, 2018 8:26 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Agricultural runoff

Howdy from a fellow Iowan! \:D/

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