Last week on April 22 -- Earth Day 2008 -- several agricultural groups pointed out the improvements that have been made in Iowa's air and water quality over the past several years. They cited new information released by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Iowa Climate Change Advisory Committee.
Des Moines is ranked highest in the nation for clean drinking water, according to EPA-required community water system reports. This data has just been published in Forbes magazine and covered 77 metropolitan areas and their EPA-guideline rankings based on a variety of measurements. "This is welcome news for consumers and our tap water," says Rick Robinson, environmental policy adviser for the Iowa Farm Bureau.
Iowa farmers and their city cousins have been working hard, investing $435 million annually on a variety of measures to protect the source water (rivers, streams and lakes) for much of the water used as tap water in the state's largest metropolitan areas, according to a recent report by the Center for Agricultural Research and Development at Iowa State University.
Ag leads in reducing greenhouse gas emissions
This supports use of seven major conservation practices used on Iowa farms that are estimated to remove as much as 38% of the total nitrogen, 28% of the nitrate and up to 58% of the phosphorus that otherwise would be present.
Other indicators of progress include conservation tillage being used on nearly 10 million acres of cropland (60% of Iowa's acreage) in 2006, up 3% from 2004, the last time the survey was conducted. Also, since 2004, there has been an increase of 660,000 acres of no-till acres. "Farmers realize we all live in a watershed, and they are always looking to improve practices that make them good stewards and good neighbors," says Robinson.
Other preliminary figures released last week shows Iowa agriculture leads every other industry in the state in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
According to the Iowa Climate Change Advisory Committee, all other industries expect an increase in greenhouse gas emissions through 2025, but agriculture is projected to have an 8% decrease. All other sectors, including residential, the fossil fuel industry, waste management, transportation and industrial are expected to climb.
"The important thing for all Iowans to remember as we celebrate Earth Day and everyday is that we all find ways to make improvements. Whether we grow food or want green lawns for our kids to play on, we all need to be aware of our environmental impact," says Robinson.