The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is seeking suggestions, comments and questions on improving water quality in the Des Moines River and Raccoon River Watersheds. "Portions of these rivers are impaired by high levels of bacteria and nitrates," says Jeff Vonk, director of the state DNR.
However, the situation can't be fixed without the assistance and input of people upstream who can address the water quality in their local streams. So while these rivers may not run directly through your town or farm, you may still live in the rivers' watersheds.
With the public's help, water quality improvement plans, also known as Total Maximum Daily Loads (TDMLs), are being developed to address those water bodies across the state that are considered by DNR to be "impaired."
What is a TMDL anyway?
A TMDL is the maximum amount of a pollutant that can be "loaded" into a stream or lake in a day without sending that water body over the maximum allowable threshold and into violation of established water quality standards. In a nonpoint source environment, TMDL responsibility falls on the shoulders of everyone in the watershed—farmers included.
Ultimately, because TMDLs are a community issue, many Iowa farmers are going to have to add "TMDL" to their farm management vocabulary in the next couple years, says Mike Tidman, environmental programs communications manager for the Iowa Soybean Association.
TMDLs are mandated by the federal Clean Water Act (CWA), which was passed in 1972 because many waters were deemed unsafe for drinking, swimming and fishing. Water quality standards are determined by the intended use of the water body—falling into categories that include: fishable, swimmable and drinkable.
For more information on TMDLs and the CWA, refer to:
The meetings this week and next are being held as follows:
For the East Fork Des Moines River watershed, it's December 5 at 6 p.m. at the public library in Algona.
For the Raccoon River watershed, three meetings are being held. The first is December 7 at 3 p.m. at the Community Center in Jefferson. The second is December 7 at 6:30 p.m. at Sac City Community Building in Sac City. Third is December 11 at 6 p.m. at Springbrook Education Center at Guthrie Center.
For the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers, a meeting will be held December 13 at 6 p.m. at the Botanical Center in Des Moines.