Iowa’s 2019 legislative session wrapped up late last month. Over two thousand bills were introduced in the House and Senate, with issues ranging from fireworks and cannabis to turtle harvesting and the so-called “ag-gag” law. However, there is one critical issue not being discussed: water. Not a single meaningful piece of legislation to improve our water quality passed the funnel.
The debate on clean water was stopped before it began
HF 203, a bill introduced by Rep. Sharon Steckman (D-Mason City) calling for a moratorium on new and expanded factory farms, was an illustrative piece of legislation that could have had vast impacts on our water quality. By halting the expansion of this polluting industry, Iowa could have taken a step towards healthy, clean waterways. But, Rep. Dean Fisher (R-Tama), the chair of the House Environmental Protection Committee, refused to even allow the bill to be debated, much less pass it out of committee, so the legislation is dead until next session. The people and the water of Iowa will have to wait.
Clean water is a human right. It is well past time we took meaningful action to address the water crisis we have in Iowa. With over 750 impaired waterways, we don’t have time to wait. Iowa’s legislators had no problem sweeping the issue, and the concerns of their constituents, under the rug this session. We must ramp up our efforts, hold our elected officials accountable, and demand they implement mandatory efforts to clean up our water.
Iowa’s factory farms are putting clean water and human lives in danger
Agricultural pollution has damaged more than 1,000 miles of Iowa’s rivers and streams and over 59,000 acres of its lakes, ponds and wetlands.
High levels of nitrates from factory farm pollution threaten both aquatic species and the health of those who drink from the tap. Des Moines Water Works, the largest water utility in Iowa, consistently struggles to provide safe drinking water to Des Moines residents due to excessive amounts of nitrates from factory farms upstream.
Des Moines famously has one of the most expensive nitrate removal systems in the world, but it is far from the only place in Iowa with unsafe drinking water. In 2015, nitrate pollution, which has been linked to certain cancers, birth defects and other diseases, exceeded federal limits in 11 of the state’s public water supplies. More than 200 of Iowa’s community water systems struggle with high nitrate levels.
We know factory farms and industrial agriculture are among the main polluters of our waterways. We’re applying more manure than ever before -- manure that eventually finds its way into our water. It’s time to make substantive changes to how we address our water quality. We need mandatory protections, not a voluntary approach to clean water. The people of Iowa can no longer sit back and hope the legislature will implement real solutions; they have had years to do so, and have failed us every step of the way.
Republicans in the statehouse have no issue rushing through industry backed proposals such as another ag-gag law or debating property taxes until 3 o’clock in the morning. But, not one move was made to protect our water. That’s not right. Iowans have done everything in their power -- from attending legislative forums to citizen lobbying -- to convince legislators to take action on our polluted waterways. Once again, our interests have been ignored in the name of protecting the factory farm industry.
We need your help to make our government listen to us
The factory farm industry and its unchecked expansion is wreaking havoc on Iowa’s water. We need bold action to protect our greatest resource. That bold action did not come this legislative session. As a result, our water is the greatest loser during the 88th General Assembly.
Iowa's legislature isn't listening. So let's ask for a national ban on factory farms — sign our petition below! One way or another, our water must be protected.