Water quality funding in Iowa

Iowa Gives Lip Service to Clean Water
New report examines Iowa's spending commitment, finds little progress

April 24, 2019
Executive summary

Full report

IOWA CITY, Iowa (April 24, 2019) — Policy makers need to acknowledge both the magnitude of the water quality problem in Iowa, and the role of nonpoint-source nutrient pollution primarily from agriculture, Iowa researchers say.

“Iowa spending on clean water is severely lacking compared to what is needed to improve environmental and human health,” said Natalie Veldhouse, research associate for the nonpartisan Iowa Policy Project and co-author of a new IPP report on water-quality spending by the state.

Veldhouse and IPP founder David Osterberg stated Iowans “pay lip service to our financial responsibility as a state and have underestimated what is required for success.”

The report looks at Iowa’s spending commitment to water quality and nutrient pollution reduction, what is needed to make progress and how the state can raise revenue to do so.

Among findings:

• Since the implementation of the Nutrient Reduction Strategy, water quality general fund spending has dropped off and struggled to return to pre-recession levels.
• State and federal spending on nutrient reduction in the state of Iowa was more than half a billion dollars in the year 2017/2018.
• A 2018 law hailed by new Governor Kim Reynolds did not greatly increase funding for nutrient reduction in Iowa.

“As the Iowa Legislature seems to be in its last days, we are passing another year without funding the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund approved by voters nine years ago. Also we are passing another year without doing much to reduce the nutrients that pollute our waterways,” said Osterberg, a former six-term state legislator.

“The two issues are related. I wish legislative leadership and the Governor would realize we need more funding to address a serious problem.”

This paper pulls together diverse estimates of revenues, including projections for the trust fund and a potential a tax on ag fertilizer as part of the solutions. Revenue options are combined with nutrient reduction spending needs estimated by Iowa State University, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, and the Iowa Soybean Association.

The report is available on the Iowa Policy Project website at www.iowapolicyproject.org.

# # # # #