State and federal funds boost Iowa water quality efforts

State and federal funds boost Iowa water quality efforts

Report shows $325 million invested in Iowa through state and federal programs providing water quality benefits last year.

More than $325 million in state and federal funds were directed to programs with water quality benefits in Iowa last year. The bulk of the spending, $254 million, came from federal conservation and water quality programs. This amount included about $220 million through the federal Conservation Reserve Program, which provides payments to farmers to remove environmentally sensitive land from production.

The state of Iowa spent about $70 million, including nearly $36 million invested through a state revolving loan fund and $18 million in water quality initiatives in targeted watersheds to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus losses.

REDUCING POLLUTION: The state of Iowa is boosting programs to reduce the amount of nutrients entering Iowa waterways and eventually contributing to the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Iowa adopted a plan, called the Nutrient Reduction Strategy, in 2013 to reduce the amount of phosphorus and nitrogen levels entering Iowa waterways by 45%.

Significant government investment is being made to improve water quality
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey made this announcement on November 30, as he met in a budget hearing with Gov. Terry Branstad. Northey said "significant investment" is underway to reduce the amount of nutrients entering Iowa streams, rivers and lakes from farm fields and from cities.

Those figures come from the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy Annual Report that was provided to the state's Water Resources Coordinating Council (WRCC) this past summer. The report highlighted $105 invested by state and federal agencies in programs with water quality benefits. Additionally, $220 million was invested by USDA in Iowa through the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) which also has broad water quality and conservation benefits.

Farmers, non-government organizations also investing in water quality
"Significant investment in improving water quality continues to be made through state and federal programs, many of which require at least a farmer match. Work is being done to better quantify private investments in water quality made by individual farmers, non-governmental organizations and others, but we know this additional investment to be in the tens of millions of dollars each year," Northey says. "It is encouraging to see the broad support and growing investment in the Iowa strategy as well as the significant progress that has that has been made as a result."

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The Nutrient Reductions Strategy annual report can be found at nutrientstrategy.iastate.edu under "Strategy documents."  A wide variety of state and federal programs are identified in the report. They include:

•$17.8 million through programs operated by the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship, including the Water Quality Initiative, Iowa Financial Incentives Program (IFIP), Ag Drainage Well Closure program, Watershed Protection fund and others.

•$16 million through programs operated by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources include EPA Section 319, Lakes Restoration and Water Quality Monitoring.

•$34 million by the USDA Natural Resources Conservations Service through programs such as Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), Conservation Technical Assistance and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).

•$35.7 million through the Iowa State Revolving Loan Fund (SRF), which is a water, wastewater and water quality infrastructure low interest loan program jointly managed by the Iowa DNR and Iowa Finance Authority. 

Iowans encouraged to review the report, learn more about water quality
The report was compiled by the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship, Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Iowa State University with input from the WRCC and Watershed Planning Advisory Council (WPAC). The annual report provides progress updates on point source and nonpoint source efforts related to the action items listed in the elements of the strategy and updates on implementation activities to achieve reductions in nitrogen and phosphorus loads.

Iowans are invited to review the full report and updated Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy. The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Iowa State University seek to continue to broaden the engagement of stakeholders and further advance the strategy.

Public can provide comments on water quality improvement strategy
The public is invited to provide feedback on implementation of the strategy and comment on additional partnerships that could help strengthen the strategy and help achieve the goals of continuous improvement and broad participation by all stakeholders. The comment period will be ongoing. Comments can be provided electronically at nutrientstrategy.iastate.edu/comments or mailed to ANR Program Services, Attn: Nutrient Reduction Strategy, 1151 NSRIC, Ames, Iowa 50011-3310.

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In addition to the programs identified in the report, $220 million was invested by USDA last year through the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), which also has significant water quality and conservation benefits. Through CRP farmers remove environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production and plant species that will improve environmental health in exchange for a yearly rental payment.

Background on the Iowa Water Quality Initiative
The Iowa Water Quality Initiative was established in 2013 to help implement the Nutrient Reduction Strategy, which is a science and technology based approach to achieving a 45% reduction in nitrogen and phosphorus losses to our waters. The strategy brings together both point sources, such as municipal wastewater treatment plants and industrial facilities, and nonpoint sources, including farm fields and urban stormwater runoff, to address these issues.

The initiative seeks to harness the collective ability of both private and public resources and organizations to deliver a clear and consistent message to stakeholders to reduce nutrient loss and improve water quality. State assistance is limited to 50 percent on any practice and must be matched by the farmer, landowner or other source.

More farmers are installing nutrient reduction practices in Iowa
Earlier this year Northey announced that 1,800 farmers committed $3.5 million in cost share funds to install nutrient reduction practices in each of Iowa's 99 counties. The practices that were eligible for this funding are cover crops, no-till or strip till, or using a nitrification inhibitor when applying fall fertilizer. Participants include 980 farmers using a practice for the first time and more than 830 past users that are trying cover crops again and are receiving a reduced-rate of cost share. 

In addition to statewide cost share, 16 targeted Water Quality Initiative demonstration watershed projects have been funded to help implement and demonstrate water quality practices. The state has provided $7.4 million in funding to support these projects and has leveraged an additional $11.7 million in additional funding from partners and landowners. More than 95 organizations are participating in these projects.

Expanding the use of innovative water quality protection practices
Four projects focused on expanding the use and innovative delivery of water quality practices beyond an individual watershed have also received funding. These projects will receive $3.06 million in funding through the Iowa water quality initiative over the next three years and be matched by $2.59 million in funding from other sources. These projects include projects that will focus on expanding the use of cover crops, edge of field practices such as bioreactors and saturated buffers, and usage of water quality wetlands. A second round of funding for these projects has also been announced and applications are currently being accepted.

Nine Urban Conservation Water Quality Initiative Demonstration Projects have also been funded. The state has awarded $655,194 in funding and partners and landowners participating in the projects will provide $2.43 million to support urban conservation efforts.

More information about the Iowa Water Quality Initiative can be found at CleanWaterIowa.org.

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