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Iowa Officials Report On Water Quality Progress

by Whitney Flach

Iowa is seeing progress in its efforts to improve water quality by reducing the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus entering waterways.

Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey, Chuck Gipp, director of the state Department of Natural Resources, and Iowa State University researcher John Lawrence, testified before legislative committees in the House and Senate on Tuesday.

Northey said cost-share efforts to promote cover crops, nutrient management, and land-use changes on Iowa farms are creating momentum.

Farm operators, are seeing benefits of the conservation practices.

“We do have a plan that’s working,” Northey said, but he added, “There are no simple solutions.”

Lawrence referred to a 2010 baseline in noting yearly reductions in 2016 of nitrogen totaled 1.5% and phosphorous of 2.2%, toward a goal of 45% reduction in Iowa waterways.

“It’s a generation type of thing, it’s not tomorrow,” Lawrence said after the meeting. “To cut something in half, it takes time.”

Northey also provided legislators an Iowa Water Quality Initiative scale-up plan, that outlines the water-quality efforts that will be prioritized as additional funding is available to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.