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ISA: There is no growing nitrate problem

By Staff | Jan 9, 2015

ANKENY – Iowa Soybean Association President Tom Oswald, of Cleghorn, issued the following statement regarding Des Moines Water Works’ decision on Jan. 8 to pursue legal action against several counties in northwest Iowa for alleged shortfalls in water quality.

“Claims by Des Moines Water Works that we have a water quality crisis in Iowa is sensationalistic at best and, at worst, dishonest,” Oswald said. “The Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Geological Service officials all agree there is not a trend of rising nitrate levels in the Raccoon River.

“This is backed by an analysis of thousands of water samples from 41 locations in the Raccoon River Watershed taken from 1999 to 2014 that found nitrate concentrations decreased by nearly 25 percent due to refinements of cropping systems.

“There is no evidence that the regulatory scheme ultimately sought by Des Moines Water Works will improve water quality as it relates to non-point source issues.

“There is, however, ample evidence that conservation practices tailored to specific farms and watersheds do.

“Just last year, 2,400 farmers and land owners invested $22.5 million on conservation practices to prevent soil erosion and improve water quality, of which $13 million came out of farmers’ own pockets.

“A declaration by the chief executive officer of Des Moines Water Works that the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy is a failure just 18 months into this multi-decade initiative reveals a startling disconnect from the scope and complexity of non-point water quality issues.

“ISA’s work combined with greater awareness and cost-share funding provided by the INRS is increasing the use of cover crops, bioreactors, buffer strips, gated tile systems and other practices proven to have a quantifiable impact on water quality.

“Iowa farmers are committed to providing the best water possible for use by Des Moines Water Works. We encourage the entity and its CEO to abandon the political posturing in favor of pragmatic, workable and sensible activities that will truly have a positive impact on environmental performance and water quality.

“The ISA will continue to extend invitations to Des Moines Water Works and its CEO to be partners in this progress.”

According to ISA:

1) Des Moines Water Works’ nitrate removal system has not operated in eight of the 23 years it has been installed, with the longest stretch from 2008-12.

2) From 1992 to 2000, the nitrate removal system operated an average of 46 days per year. From 2001 to 14, it has operated an average of just 26 days

3) No one wants to pay more for water. But the fact is that the state-of-the-art nitrate removal system efficiently, effectively and economically treats the exact amount of water needed by Des Moines Water Work’s 500,000 customers.

4) The annual operations of the system costs the average customer less than $1 per year, or less than the cost of one cup of coffee.

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