Iowa wastes its water

The Gazette Opinion Staff
Published: January 13 2013 | 12:01 am - Updated: 28 March 2014 | 9:56 am in
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By Mark Edwards

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I waded through the “voluntary” Iowa Water Quality Nutrient Reduction Strategy offered by the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship (IDALS), the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Iowa State University (ISU) and the Farm Bureau.

I have file cabinets full of Iowa’s water quality issues dating back for decades. I retired in 2010 from the Iowa DNR after 30 years of service and have inside knowledge of the budget-deprived, politically dominated department and the crippled mission of “conserving and enhancing our natural resources.”

I have lived by the Des Moines River for 40 years and could desperately describe the continuing loss of wildlife and water quality. Last year, it was dangerous to wade in because of the slippery “green slime” produced by deadly doses of nitrogen. I could cry out about the continuing population crash of the fish, clams, frogs, birds and plants. I could detail the people-plagued atrocities in costs to our finances, minds and bodies such as drinking-water chemicals, recreational opportunities, health, livelihoods, morals, property values and offenses to our senses.

These voluntary water-quality strategies will do little to slow the expanding debt of pollution. They will leave us with lifetimes of still trying to clean up the mess from Iowa to the Gulf.

I question the lack of real education, wisdom or concern we have for our homeland. I could go on for days but I feel it would be a waste of my time and yours. We have already paddled over the cliff of conservation.

Two-thirds of Iowa’s 36 million acres are drowned in chemicals for just two annual plants — corn and soybeans — with diversity dwindling all around us. Iowa imports 86 percent of what we do eat and this food travels an average of 1,500 miles to get here. Yet 93 percent of Iowa has been permanently altered for agricultural purposes and 5 percent is developed in cities and roads.

We could talk of “sustainability,” which is a joke as we have lost about half of our topsoil over the last 50 years with all our conservation practices in place and have the worse water quality ever.

I feel poisoned, angry and dying to escape this shallow, short-term thinking. The deadly decision of voluntary compliance as floated by the “strategy” is killing our world! Must we rely on the federal government and the Environmental Protection Agency to force our faithless Iowa government to finally enforce the now “40 year-old” federal Clean Water Act?

Can’t we as the people of Iowa believe in clean water?

l Mark S. Edwards of Boone has worked for the Iowa Conservation Commission and is retired from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources where his work included initiating the DNR trails program. Comments: markedwards60@gmail.com

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