Research shows the way to fix Iowa’s eutrophication problem

7 January 2013

The US state of Iowa featured a lot in these posts during 2012.  Many Iowan lakes are enriched with nutrients, a lot of which comes from agriculture – not just suspected of coming from agriculture, actually shown to be.  So, how to deal with a big portion of the problem is clear – throw effort at the polluted agric runoff and get it down to acceptable levels.  OK, it may not be that simple as a press report today suggests:

First, unlike the approach used for cities, the strategy continues to rely on all-voluntary farm conservation programs, which have fallen short of protecting our waters in the past. Even though research clearly shows significantly increasing farmer participation in conservation programs is critical for success of the plan, the document does not set timetables or goals to ensure that this will happen.

Second, the strategy fails to list either short-term or long-term goals for water quality improvements for Iowa’s rivers and lakes. Without setting clear goals for clean water in Iowa at the outset, it will be difficult for Iowans to assess whether the strategy has been successful.

Third, while the strategy contains important research on farmland conservation practices by an Iowa State University-led team, additional work is needed to explain how this research will be put to good use.

 These are all valid concerns – the answers for which – or at least all the methods needed to find the answers, are readily available.

 In another report, data collected since 2001 show that phosphorus levels in some Madison lakes are on the decline – by nearly 50% – which in eutrophication management terms is a massive reduction.  What is especially important here is that the data in this report span more than 30 years!
On the CyanoAlert front, New Zealand’s Waipoua River is the cause of an algal bloom warning today.   For current warnings on the toxic algae risk at popular rivers around the region, and for photos that show you what toxic algae looks like, visit the Greater Wellington Regional Council’s website: www.gw.govt.nz/toxic-algae.

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