Des Moines, IA – Over two thousand bills were introduced in the House and Senate this legislative session. From fireworks and cannabis, to turtle harvesting and bottle redemption -- this session has been filled with issues. 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.
HF 203, a bill introduced by Rep. Sharon Steckman (D-Mason City) was an illustrative piece of legislation that could have vast impacts on our water quality. HF 203 called for a moratorium on new and expanded factory farms until the impacts of the industry have been assessed. By halting the expansion of this polluting industry, Iowa could have taken a step towards healthy, clean waterways. As it is, Rep. Dean Fisher (R-Tama), the chair of the 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.
Emma Schmit of Food & Water Watch said, “Clean water is a human right. It is well past time we take meaningful action to address the water crisis we have in Iowa. With over 750 impaired waterways, we don’t have time to wait. It is a shame that Rep. Fisher would rather answer to Farm Bureau than his constituents. Thousands of Iowans signed petitions, made calls, sent emails, and lobbied for a factory farm moratorium to protect our water this year. Sweeping the issues, and the concerns of Iowans, under the rug will not solve our water quality crisis.”
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 threatens 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.
Adam Mason of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement said, “We know factory farms and industrial agriculture are one of 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 an unsustainable system. It’s time to put people before profits and make substantive changes to how we address our water quality. We need mandatory protections, not a voluntary approach to clean water.”
The factory farm industry and its unchecked expansion is wreaking havoc on water systems across Iowa. 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 Citizens for Community Improvement works to empower and unite grassroots people of all ethnic backgrounds to take control of their communities; involve them in identifying problems and needs and in taking action to address them; and be a vehicle for social, economic, and environmental justice.
Food & Water Watch champions healthy food and clean water for all. We stand up to corporations that put profits before people, and advocate for a democracy that improves people’s lives and protects our environment
Emma Schmit, [email protected], 712-830-3748
Adam Mason, [email protected], 515-282-0484