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Let’s rely on the ‘Iowa Way’ to protect water
James C. Larew
Mar. 24, 2023 2:22 pm
Iowa’s abundant freshwater supplies, once upon a time, were among our state’s most important and precious natural resources, in a world of extremely limited quantities of it.
Now, that prized Iowa resource is at grave risk.
Cross-pressures to meet the world’s competing needs for grains, for animal-based foods and for alternative sources of fuel, in an era of climate change, threaten the quality of our freshwater:
● Public beaches are closed by the presence of poisonous blue-green algae blooms, largely caused by chemicals, fecal matter and other nutrients running off of our largely-unregulated farms and urban lots.
● Safe drinking water supplies from our private and public wells, now being drilled to historic depths, are needed by households, businesses and communities, but are frequently contaminated by the nitrates and other toxic pollutants that are coursing through our aquifers.
● Municipal water supplies drawn from rivers and wells must be treated aggressively with expensive purifying processes to address broadening types of pollution, costing huge amounts of taxpayer dollars.
● Pollutants from divergent origins poison our once-pristine creeks, streams and rivers, threatening ecosystems and native species, and restricting our own use and enjoyment of those waters.
The degradations inflicted upon our freshwater supplies accumulate and intensify as they pass through our state causing harms both to Iowans and to those residing elsewhere:
● Iowa’s cancer rates are now the second-worst in the nation — and we are the only state where the incidence of cancer is increasing. Second worst in the nation! Getting worse!
● Water pollutants are not constrained by state borders. Iowa-originating contaminants flow down our rivers and connect with the Mississippi River, then travel all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. Resulting “dead zones” increase in size nearly every year.
Let’s be honest. Iowans are faced with a huge and unprecedented water pollution challenge.
Fortunately, bold undertakings and challenge-busting-initiatives are a part of our state’s cultural DNA.
When facing large challenges over the years, Iowans, when we are at our best, have often worked together to make things better. It might be called “The Iowa Way” of doing things.
Improving and protecting our fresh water supplies, The Iowa Way, will require:
● Meaningful pollution-reducing actions taken by ourselves, our families and our neighbors;
● Creative pollution-reducing strategies invoked by our businesses, our manufacturers, and our educational institutions; and
● Enlightened pollution-reducing policies initiated by our elected officials, coupled with the firm enforcement of our environmental laws.
By improving our freshwater resources in the future, Iowans will reclaim an important part of our natural heritage.
It’s The Iowa Way of doing things.
Let’s get going.
James C. Larew is an attorney who lives in Iowa City.
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