Water Quality Funding Increases, Water Quality Doesn't

Sep 11, 2015

Despite the fact that the legislature has increased state funding for water quality initiatives by millions of dollars since the 1980s, we haven't seen substantial improvements since then.

That’s according to Keith Schilling, who researches water for the Iowa Geological Survey.

“I recently looked at 50 rivers’ nitrate levels. Only six had changed since 1980, and those increased in nitrate concentration,” he says.

Despite slightly increasing nitrate levels, he says phosphorous levels in our water are decreasing, signaling that farmers are doing a better job of stopping soil erosion. 

During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Schilling. Mark Rassmussen, Director of the Leopold Center, and Wayne Gieselman, retired farmer and administrator for the Iowa DNR, also join the conversation. Gieselman was working with water quality programs in Iowa in the 1970s and says that while there’s still a lot of work to do, we’ve come a long way since then.   

“In Iowa, we certainly have a lot of discharge that comes from agricultural entities,” Gieselman explains. “In the 1970s, we had a huge problem with point-source pollution. Then in the late 1980s and early 1990s we started taking a look at non-point source pollution.”