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Water quality gets a boost

By Staff | Nov 5, 2010

The transfer of agricultural nutrients into bodies of water far from Iowa’s fertile farmlands can have unfortunate environmental consequences. That’s a major reason why improving water quality is an important priority.

According to Dean Lemke, who heads the Water Resources Bureau of the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the department is pursuing a two-pronged strategy to reduce nutrient transfer from agricultural lands:

  • “Continue long-standing programs to encourage adoption of traditional conservation practices,” and
  • “Develop new, innovative technologies and programs targeted to reducing nutrient transport to water resources.”

A major step forward in the campaign to enhance water quality took place last month with the dedication of the first Iowa Integrated Drainage and Wetland Landscape Systems Initiative pilot site southeast of Pocahontas. This important project has had the enthusiastic support of Iowa Secretary Bill Northey, who participated in the dedication.

This initiative represents the marriage of a wetlands preservation undertaking and 21st-century subsurface drainage technology. This was emphasized in a statement released by the department:

“Through this initiative, a constructed wetland designed to improve water quality has been created as part of the modernization of existing subsurface drainage serving agricultural lands in Iowa.”

This innovative undertaking is the first project to incorporate a wetland as part of a modern system for subsurface drainage.

Just how effective the wetland is in “treating the subsurface drainage to remove pollutants, primarily nitrates” will be assessed by researchers from Iowa State University.

According to the statement IDALS released about the Pocahontas County undertaking, in addition to generating an enhanced habitat for wildlife, “existing research shows that these types of wetlands reduce nitrate loading by more than 50 percent and when combined with drainage systems both surface water runoff and phosphorus loss to Iowa streams are projected to be cut in half.”

Consequently, there’s good reason to have high hopes that the endeavor just launched will prove a prototype for other similar projects.

Farm News applauds this initiative and looks forward to hearing more about the research conclusions in the months ahead.

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