Water quality efforts highlighted in the Iowa Legislature

February 7, 2017

DES MOINES – Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, Iowa DNR Director Chuck Gipp and Iowa State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Associate Dean John Lawrence today highlighted coordination and scaling-up of water quality efforts in presentations before House and Senate Committees in the Iowa Legislature.

Northey also provided legislators an Iowa Water Quality Initiative scale-up plan that outlines the water quality efforts that will be prioritized as additional funding is available to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.  The scale-up plan can be found at https://iowaagriculture.gov/ under “Hot Topics” or at https://www.cleanwateriowa.org/news-latest.

“The Governor and legislators have been very supportive of the Water Quality Initiative to this point and remain committed of identifying a growing, ongoing source of funding to expand efforts.  This scale-up plan identifies how our Department will prioritize additional funding on scientifically proven practices around land use, edge-of-field practices, cover crops and nutrient management to achieve our water quality goals,” Northey said.

Lawrence outlined research accomplishments of the legislatively funded Iowa Nutrient Research Center at Iowa State University. “Over the past four years, we've had more than 40 research collaborations involving nearly 80 scientists across the three Regents universities and including IDALS, DNR and USDA,” he said.  “The work is helping us better understand nutrient movement across the landscape, be more precise with conservation practices and address barriers to the use of cover crops.”

Lawrence also shared ideas developed by Iowa State water quality researchers on how the state of Iowa might consider increasing the implementation of water quality and soil conservation practices.

Background on Iowa Water Quality Initiative
The Iowa Water Quality Initiative was established in 2013 to help implement the Nutrient Reduction Strategy, which is a science and technology based approach to achieving a 45 percent reduction in nitrogen and phosphorus losses to our waters.  The strategy brings together both point sources, such as municipal wastewater treatment plants and industrial facilities, and nonpoint sources, including farm fields and urban stormwater runoff, to address these issues.

The Initiative seeks to harness the collective ability of both private and public resources and organizations to deliver a clear and consistent message to stakeholders to reduce nutrient loss and improve water quality.

The initiative is seeing some exciting results. Last fall Northey announced that 1,800 farmers committed $3.8 million in cost share funds to install nutrient reduction practices.  The practices that were eligible for this funding are cover crops, no-till or strip till, or using a nitrification inhibitor when applying fall fertilizer. Participants include 980 farmers using a practice for the first time and more than 830 past users that are trying cover crops again and are receiving a reduced-rate of cost share.  Farmers using cost-share funding are providing an estimated $6 million in their own funding to adopt these water quality practices.

A total of 45 demonstration projects are currently located across the state to help implement and demonstrate water quality practices.  This includes 16 targeted watershed projects, 7 projects focused on expanding the use and innovative delivery of water quality practices and 22 urban water quality demonstration projects.  More than 150 organizations are participating in these projects.  These partners will provide $25.28 million dollars to go with the $16.09 million in state funding going to these projects.

More than $325 million in state and federal funds have been directed to programs with water quality benefits in Iowa last year. This total does not include the cost-share amount that farmers pay to match state and federal programs and funds spent to build practices built without government assistance.

More information about the initiative can be found at https://www.CleanWaterIowa.org.


Dustin Vande Hoef, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, 515-281-3375