In late summer, I would swim and stream-walk a small section of the Raccoon River. While sedimented for decades now, the water was clear in the shallows. For a few years now, the water is pea-green from edge-to-edge. For decades and worse now, this water has strongly contributed to a vast hypoxia zone in the Gulf.

In the 1980s, I wrote about the wisdom of the river, focusing on the Des Moines River as a living, very open metaphor for the essential streaming dynamic of the universe that is within us as well in the streaming of our body metabolism and thought.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Iowa Water Stats Of Interest

Walnut Creek

[These statistics are drawn from various sources and are to be found in various IowaWater posts to date:
The stats illustrate a very clear environmental disaster that is increasing rather than decreasing that is directly related to Iowa agricultural practices.
What the stats do not clarify is the solution.  Conservation practices have been applied for decades and the problem with water quality is worse.
Mitigation efforts that would be initiated by increased public funding do not not really alter the primary sources of pollution due to field tiling that ACTS AS A CONDUIT THAT speeds up the release of chemical and sediment release, even those mitigation techniques that try to re-channel water through bio-reactors and saturated buffers and wetlands.  This is due also to resistance to installation of mitigation as well as resistance to direct source testing (i.e., right out of specific fields) and farming to the edges of land and farming in flood-prone areas to maximize crop production.]

loss of 99.9 % of Iowa’s prairies, 98% of Iowa wetlands, 80% of woodlands and more than a 100 species of wildlife since white settlement

Who will pay for water treatment? Who is causing the problem?  Why should the local water user be taxed for costs AND also pay a statewide 3/8th penny sales tax, when the source of pollution gets off for free [no specific regulation or taxes] AND will get subsidies for mitigation AND will increase chemical use causing even higher annual and long-term, multi-decade damage? $1.5 million to reduce, not eliminate, nitrate levels in Des Moines Water serving 500,000 central Iowa residents--1/6th of Iowa population using 10.1 billion gallons of water annually (based on 3 year average); DMWW spent $4.1 million in the early 90s to build the world’s largest ion exchange nitrate removal facility and it will need an even larger facility by 2020 that could cost up to $183.5 millionAmerican City Business Journal: Des Moines area anticipated to grow to nearly a million by 2040 (with nearly all rural population centers anticipated to continue to lose population); Regulation for water treatment to not return nitrates to water post-removal and high cost to water users not to farmers/landowners who have not regulations--over the next 5 years DSM Water Works will have to spend over $80 million to process REMOVED nitrates to dispose of these chemical rather than return to the water and $19 million to reduce phosphorus; Iowa has 260 cities and towns that area considers highly susceptible to excessive nitrates and other pollutants--about 30% of the state’s 880 municipal water systems..  Unlike Des Moines, many of these cities and towns have no facilities to remove nitrates.

Lake pollution/National: U.S EPA report: 4 0f 10 lakes suffer nationally from too much nitrogen and phosphorous; EPA National Lakes Assessment of 1,038 lakes: microcystin--agal toxin--in 39% of lakes, but below current level of concern as well as low levels of the herbicide atrazine in 30% of lakes

Iowa Lakes and streams: 78,990 acres of lakes/reservoirs out of 202,000 acres of lake and  6,372 miles of 72,000 miles of stream are documented to have pollution and sediment problems; half of Iowa rivers, steams and lakes that have been assessed are considered IMPAIRED

Iowa DOT:  100 year flood of 20th Century is now equivalent to 25 year flood, due to both water runoff and more intense weather due to greenhouse gases increases

Ethanol in EPA Renewable Fuel Standards increased in 11/2016 to 14.8 billion gallons nationally for 2017, 300 million gallons more than 2016, encouraging corn production increase, thus, increasing chemical increases: fertilizer, herbicides, pesticides, fungicides.

23 to 30 million Iowa farm acres of corn and soy; for 2016, corn and soy harvest is projected to exceed 3.2 billion bushels

need 12 to 17 million acres of cover crops to meet NRS [EPA Nutrient Reduction Strategy] (has about 500,000 acres.  This is a “strategy,” not a plan, has no measurements/requirements: calls for building 7,000 conservation reserve wetlands (now has about 70), 120,000 saturated buffers and bio-reactors (has about 60), and this is with good effort.  Also, remember that this is required on a permanent basis for the level of current pollution to meet a 45% improvement, not a 100% clean water, and that it will compete with possible gains by planing corn/soy vs. govt. handout and need to be a permanent, not temporary, change that will not address increases in ag production.  There are no measures/ accountability.

proposed 3/8 penny taxes are solely funded by taxpayers; what is the legislated farmer/landowner ag corporate funding cost plan/expectation?

no taxes on fertilizers with increased use anticipated, as well as increased factory farm operations anticipated.

Myth of “feeding the world” or “being the breadbasket of the world”: 86% of the value of U.S. ag exports went to countries with low numbers of hungry people; only 1/2 of 1 percent went to 19 undernourished countries

Industrial Ag: in 2014, Iowa lost about 8,100 farms as in the previous 15 years  

Currently 8,000 factory farms in Iowa with next to no regulation despite sell-documented environmental impacts.

Amounts of fertilizer applied in Iowa: 8 trillion pounds or 4 million tons nitrogen applied per year or 216 lbs. per acre; 480 million pounds or 240,000 tons phosphates or 13 lbs. per acre (5% nitrogen end up in streams and 4% phos.); nitrogen application costing $74.40 acre if corn following corn or $54.40 acre if corn following soy, phosphate $24.30-31.05 acre; herbicide $38.10 acre, insecticide $18.80 acre

Amounts of pesticides applied in Iowa:  In 2014 Iowa farmers applied 95% herbicides on corn acres, totally more than 30 million pounds of material; fungicides on 19% of corn acres, insecticides on 13%.  In 2015, soybeans applied herbicides on 93% of acres, 25% insecticides, and a18% fungicides.

$4.4 billion spend on conservation in Iowa just through federal dollars in the pst 20 years and problems are more severe; In 2015, $120 million through federal, state and private resources for conservation

300,000 Iowans have private wells, where 90% are never tested for contaminants

Gulf hypoxia data: 41% of nitrogen pollution from farm fertilizer vs. 7% from urban; The “nitrogen load from Iowa ia equivalent to 20% of long-term load carried by Mississippi to Gulf

National human health costs from nitrogen pollution: Farm Nitrogen pollution damage estimated at $157 annually [Ann Weir Schechinger Ag Mag, June 9, 2015); Environmental Research Letter [journal] 2/17/2015 estimates the environmental health problem caused by nitrogen pollution at 2X the value of $76.7 billion total value of corn; some of the harsh problems associated with elevated nitrate in water include, blue baby syndrome, birth defects (spina bifida/oral cleft defects), bladder/thyroid cancer, but nitrate exposure can also come from some vegetables, processed meats, cigarette smoke, and certain “nitrosatable” or nitrogen-based compounds in drugs.

Drainage tiles in fields: Drainage tiles have cut in half the average time it takes nitrates to enter Iowa waterways.  That flow is even more dramatically accelerated in heavily tiled areas.  The tiles in particular short-circuit a lot of the natural processing that would go on as groundwater would slowly move through the system.  That means the water misses the cleansing that would naturally occur through trees, shrubs and grasses in riparian buffers along streams. Or it could percolate through soil, potentially to the aquifer. Without it, experts say, it leads to higher concentration of nitrates in the river and waterways.

98% of Iowans are not employed in agriculture; almost 91 cents of every dollar comes from businesses other than agriculture; an industry that generates 10% of GDP contributes to 90% of water quality issues

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