Get your popcorn handy! And prepare for the epic battle between town mouse and country mouse! The water quality problem in Iowa has finally come to a breaking point in the form of a lawsuit to be filed between the Des Moines Water Works and Sac, Calhoun and Buena Vista counties in northwest Iowa.
My top things to look for:
1. Farm interests and political allies suddenly disclaim science.
Take this article for example where an ag law specialist from Iowa State University claims the science isn’t settled on how much nitrates can be attributed to farmers. I hope that is just bad editing. That’s a question of accountability not whether the science is sound. How nitrates wash into our groundwater is not a mystery, and data does not trump knowledge. Yes, the nitrates don’t float downstream wearing a nametag, but one can easily measure how much nitrates can be attributed to one tile drainage pipe. By starting to measure with counties at the top of the Racoon River watershed, that should help to counter the argument that farmers cannot be held accountable for nitrates coming from upstream. These three counties are where the problem starts.
2. “Voluntary reduction efforts need more time to work.”
Everything needs more time to work. Regulatory efforts in the Chesapeake Bay don’t seem to have helped much either, so this claim is a mixed bag. And it betrays the very real urgency that municipalities confront week to week. Voluntary efforts could work – if they were funded at the scale needed to match the problem. And they are not. Last legislative session was probably the closest it was ever going to get with support from the legislature for REAP and a Secretary of Ag that farmers like and trust and our governor
dropped the ball pulled the ball on us ala Lucy & Charlie Brown. The only option left is through the courts. And you have to start somewhere because you should have started 10 years ago.
3. Cerebral quotes from Bill Stowe that thinly veil his rage.
He’s a very smart, disciplined guy but every now and then… This time next year he’ll be regarded as the Lorax crossed with Orson Welles.
4. Mother Nature? Never met her…
How could you dare call that drainage pipe a point-source of pollution? They’re only natural! Bears put them there in the Ice Age. They were very territorial so we kept them in place. You can try to regulate them but you’ll have to answer to the bears.
That’s the whole argument so far. Ok, maybe it’s more complicated than that (plus you have to throw in something about “the Iowa way”), but why deny the obvious – that we have altered our natural terrain drastically to make a living farming. And we do not do nearly enough to restore any semblance of balance and everybody pays for that. For the political allies of farmers conservation doesn’t seem to be something they value unless it is for preserving hunting ground. When was the last time you saw a Republican politician enjoying the outdoors hiking and trail riding in a state park? Nope, they are always hunting in some donor’s private grounds.
Yes Iowa would be a lot better if people in urban areas could connect with rural areas through recreation on public ground, but that requires clean safe water. And we’re back full circle.