I was watching the Channel 8 evening news June 19. The station broke for a commercial. It was an Iowa Farm Bureau “Iowa Minute.”
This episode told about Iowa farmers who use conservation practices to reduce sediment and soil runoff into streams in northeast Iowa. It gave the impression these practices are happening across the state.
The commercial also said the quality of water has improved for trout in northeast Iowa because the farms have conservation plans.
Yes, every farm must have a conservation plan but only if it participates in government subsidy programs. The commercial did not mention that little detail or the fact that northeast Iowa has different types of landforms and different farming practices from those used in central Iowa.
In northeast Iowa there are less row crops and more terraces, grass waterways and pasture land. All of these practices hold the soil in place.
I found it ironic that when the commercial was over, the news then turned to a story about the tap water consumed by residents in the city of Boone and by Xenia water customers in Boone County.
The citizens of Boone and in the Xenia service area were warned not to give tap water to infants or elderly people because the high level of nitrates in the drinking water made it unsafe to consume. They should use bottled water instead, the newsperson advised.
The high level of nitrates in drinking water is the same issue the city of Des Moines is facing. The difference is the Des Moines Waterworks has equipment to remove excessive nitrates from the water, but the city of Boone does not.
These nitrates are carried in the water that flows off the farm fields into Iowa’s streams. This chemical run-off can be reduced by a variety of conservation practices. The recent rains have shown that in many fields more conservation practices are needed.
At this time, Saturday morning, June 20, the nitrate level in the Raccoon River at Sac City is 22.5 milligrams per liter, more than twice the allowable limit for drinking water.
These chemicals flow downstream to Des Moines, where the cost to remove the nitrates is about $7,000 a day. This cost is shouldered by customers of the Des Moines Waterworks instead of by the crop-growing corporations upstream who are polluting the river in the first place.
Unfortunately for the people of Boone County, their options are even more limited.