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Feb 1, 2023

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Photograph by Ty Smedes 

This Edition:

Why Aren’t Our Waters Cleaner? 

As the state’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy turns 10 years old, we need action, not more proposals

Fertilizer pollution (composed of the chemical nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus) has plagued Iowa’s waterways since long before the Iowa Environmental Council was formed in 1995.

● This pollution threatens Iowans’ health, harms animals and plant life in and near our waterways, severely limits swimming and boating in Iowa waters each summer, and forced a growing number of Iowa communities to struggle to provide safe drinking water for their customers.

● Fertilizer pollution is associated with an increased risk of cancer and can cause methemoglobinemia (“ blue baby syndrome”) in infants. It can also lead to algae blooms, which deplete oxygen in water when they grow and decay. In addition, our pollution hurts our friends and neighbors downstream. Each year, this cascade of pollution causes the “Dead Zone” in the Gulf of Mexico, an oxygen- deprived area of water that can’t support aquatic life.

In 1998, the EPA-led Gulf Hypoxia Task Force asked 12 states with the biggest impact on the Dead Zone — of which Iowa is the leading contributor — to write nutrient reduction strategies, or NRS, to reduce the fertilizer pollution each state sends to the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico.

Iowa adopted its Nutrient Reduction Strategy in 2013, and the Iowa Legislature formalized it in law as the state’s official solution to addressing fertilizer pollution in 2018. The approach relies exclusively on voluntary measures to address fertilizer pollution even though there is no research to show that a voluntary approach works.

The Iowa Environmental Council called for a stronger plan while the Nutrient Reduction Strategy was being written: one that included goals, numeric limits and benchmarks as specific measures of success. That is, IEC called for an actual strategy that could be monitored, measured and improved over time.

We called for a plan that didn’t measure success by how many people attended a program while someone talked about what to do, but spent the dollars on actual, physical practices that would improve Iowa’s waters. We told DNR and all those involved with the Nutrient Reduction Strategy that Iowans needed action — not a “strategy” in name only, without transparent plans and meaningful “measures of success.”

This has been one consistent message through each of our tenures as executive directors with the council. Unfortunately, the Nutrient Reduction Strategy has never measured up. The council applied Iowa values of accountability and transparency to arguing for these measures. The Legislature balked. The state of Iowa balked.

What can we say a decade later about progress on Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy?

We can look at numbers from Iowa’s statewide water quality information system, which provides nitrate levels in real time — and those numbers are even higher now than when the Nutrient Reduction Strategy was adopted.

We can’t say much about overall water quality, since new data on the Nutrient Reduction Strategy has not been released since 2019. We can’t say that we’re anywhere near reaching the goal of reducing pollution by 45% by 2035. We can’t say that the size of the Dead Zone is shrinking.

The voluntary approach of the Nutrient Reduction Strategy hasn’t worked. The state agencies responsible for the strategy need to revisit, update and significantly improve it so that it will actually achieve cleaner water. Iowa’s leaders need to find the political will to take stronger measures and enforce compliance, so that Iowa farmers and landowners can be true “stewards of the land” and provide not just crops and livestock but also safe, clean water for all those who rely on it for life.

Linda Appelgate served as the Iowa Environmental Council’s executive director from 1995 to 2000, Marian Riggs served from 2007 to 2012, and Ralph Rosenberg served from 2012 to 2017.

Copyright © 2023, The Des Moines Register. Use of this site signifies your agreement to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. 1/29/2023

Oakland institute—CO2 Pipeline

This is a serious comprehensive expose’ about a very expensive boondoggle. Please read. Mike Delaney

Chris Jones (The Unhappy Trout Angler)

Federal Farm Subsidies From Iowa Capital Dispatch

(Some few are very happy with our current non-sustainable food system.)

Billions in federal farm payments flow to a select group of producers, report shows



The top 15 states with the most total farm subsidies distributed from 1995 to 2021, ranked by payments, were:

  1. Texas ($44.5 billion)

  2. Iowa ($39. 6 billion)

  3. Illinois ($32.7 billion)

  4. Minnesota ($28.1 billion)

  5. Kansas ($27.7 billion)

  6. Nebraska ($27 billion)

  7. North Dakota ($26.6 billion)

  8. South Dakota ($21 billion)

  9. Missouri ($17.4 billion)

  10. Indiana ($16.5 billion)

  11. California ($16.3 billion)

  12. Arkansas ($15.9 billion)

  13. Ohio ($12.8 billion)

  14. Wisconsin ($11.7 billion)

  15. Oklahoma ($11.5 billion).

April 22 - Life in the Raccoon Photo Competition
Annual “Life in the Raccoon River” Conference at the Des Moines Area Community College Campus in Des Moines at 1144 7th in the new conference center

RRWA members:

We all are photographers now with our phones and digital cameras.  Professional photographer, Ty Smedes has agreed to select the best photos for the RRWA in a photo competition that will run from now until April 1st. Awards will be given at the  Life in the Raccoon River meeting at The DMACC Urban Campus on April 22.. Digital pictures only can be sent to Ty Smedes at  Put “RRWA Digital Photo Contest in the subject line. All photographs must be taken in the Raccoon River Watershed. Categories will include: recreation, plants, scenic, and wildlife. Each person can submit up to four photos. JPEG images only. Judging criteria—technique, composition, and interest. Please indicate where and when your photos were taken. Photographers agree to allow the RRWA to show their photos at the  meeting and display with credits on,

Dues: It's Time to Renew!

The RRWA is an all-volunteer non-profit with almost no overhead. While other organizations struggle to pay staff, office space, printing etc. the RRWA puts most of its resources into networking, education and research. The board has decided to eliminate new Lifetime memberships. However, our 75 lifetime memberships will continue to be honored. Please contact me ( or Michael Murphy to let us know that your want to continue to be a member and receive newsletters like this one. We would like to thank our Lifetime members for being wonderful supporters for many years and helping us to get where we are.


Consider the Research and Education fund. Contributions are tax deductible. According to Mike Murphy: "We have given out almost $30,000 in grants since 2010, for research conducted in the watershed by students and staff at Drake University, ISU, Buena Vista University, and others.  Subjects included chemical, bacterial, and biological (BMIs)  water quality; insects, including bees, Monarchs, Dragonfly/Damselfly, etc.; prairie surveys and the effects of land use and agricultural best practices on lifeforms. The RRWA has also invested in water monitoring equipment.


Send your check to the below address.  Our dues are not tax deductible, but donations to the RRWA Research and Education Fund are.  


Dues- (Please make check out to RRWA)

Donation levels are: Basic--$10, Family--$20, Organization--$50,

Business--$50, Supporting--$100, Patron--$500


RRWA Research and Education Fund- Tax Deductible.  Please make your check out to the INHF/RRWA (Any amount or bequest welcomed) Direct payment to INHF/RRWA research and education fund.



 CLICK HERE!  to become a member or to renew your RRWA membership!

Or: send your check to: Michael Murphy, 6507 Del Matro, Windsor Heights, 50324

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