Has unanswered questions about Iowa water quality

To the editor:

In the March 10 Messenger, the editorial “Iowa Water Quality Affects Us All cited the latest annual report of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy. I read the article hoping to learn what progress has been made in the last five years. Mike Naig states “This report shows progress in each of the areas measured. We are encouraged by the efforts of the public and private sectors to implement conservation practices across the state. And are working to build on this success going forward.”

I read the report and it states what is being done and the amount of money being spent. But it doesn’t tell us anything about what progress is being made to reduce pollution in our water ways except page 9 shows from the baseline period of 1980-1996 to 2006-2010 Nitrogen tons of non-point and point sources have increased 5.3 percent and phosphorus have increased 18.5 percent. I don’t consider that progress with all the money being spent in this program. There are no other measures of how well we are doing in the report. Why not?

While the nutrient reduction plan and actions are absolutely needed, its biggest fault is that there are no measures in place to see if the money spent and practices implemented are making a difference.

A 2018 study by the Engineering Department of the University of Iowa looked at the Nitrogen load in tons per acre that are entering the Mississippi and Missouri watersheds from Iowa. It shows from 2000 to 2016 Iowa’s share of nitrogen has increased compared to the other states emptying into these two major rivers. It further states the Nitrogen load during this period have increased 419 percent.

The goal of the Nutrient Reduction Strategy Plan was to reduce pollutants into our water systems by 40 percent over five years. Here are the things that should annually be reported to us, the taxpayers of Iowa:

• changes of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution

• changes of tons per acres of soil eroding

• if there is no progress what changes need to be made to reduce them

• practices are now entirely voluntary; do we need mandatory practices, and/or increase the incentives to get the desired results

The report is sorely lacking what we need to know.

Larry J Neppl