DES MOINES – Gov. Terry Branstad’s administration unveiled a new website Monday aimed at showing people what they can do to improve water quality.
The site, www.cleanwateriowa.org, has information for people who live in rural and urban areas as well as those who work with farm, municipal or industrial operations.
“Today’s announcement will help both rural and urban landowners by providing a website with conservation resources and best practices,” Branstad said. “This will assist in the effort to reduce nitrate and phosphate runoff into our rivers, lakes and streams.”
Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey, who joined the governor and Department of Natural Resources Director Chuck Gipp Monday, said the website cost roughly $24,000 to build and is part of an overall strategy to improve water quality in the state.
Environmental groups have criticized the Branstad administration for turning a blind eye to water pollution and for excluding them from discussions over water quality policy at the same time it sought input from agribusiness interests.
The state recently struck a deal with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to inspect more livestock operations and better enforce penalties when manure spills flow into groundwater, rivers and streams. The deal came only after the EPA found the state’s efforts to enforce the U.S. Clean Water Act wanting.
Gipp said three of the seven additional inspectors being brought on as part of the agreement with the EPA have been hired with the remaining four coming on soon.
The state’s approach to nitrate reduction in water has been to encourage voluntary efforts, such as those highlighted on the new website.
Branstad said about 90 percent of the state’s 90,000 or so farmers participate in some type of nitrate reduction strategy.
“Ninety percent participation is a good indication of tremendous interest among farmers,” he said. “Now, we want to encourage the other 10 percent also to participate.”
Northey said 1,100 Iowa farmers applied for $3 million in state grants last year to help pay for water conservation and quality efforts on 120,000 acres of farmland.
He said it’s important to note that not all farms need the same level of intervention to combat nutrient runoff.
“You have some very flat farms out there that don’t require any kind of erosion control, others that have grass waterways in them,” he said. “There’s certainly some rolling land out there that certainly needs some practices.”