Posted by: Vicki Burns | January 30, 2015

Iowa Lawsuit Landmark Action in Water Protection

I was amazed to see this article in the DesMoines Register detailing the DesMoines Water Utility’s plan to sue 3 counties in Iowa for polluting the drinking water supply for central parts of the state. The water utility believes that the use of tile drainage in agricultural lands in those areas facilitates the transport of nitrates from the croplands into rivers that are used for drinking water supplies. Apparently the concentration of nitrate in some areas was 4 times the safe limit. Included in the article is a graph showing the use of fertilizers on agricultural land quadrupling over the past 50 years.

Safe Drinking Water - Essential of Life

Safe Drinking Water – Essential of Life

Over the past 7 years I have been working in the area of lake conservation and water protection. Lake Winnipeg, the lake I grew up enjoying and summering at for many years, is now seriously threatened by blue-green algae blooms. As I have learned about what is causing the increased threat, I have been frequently reminded of the conflict between agriculture and urbanites over who is “to blame” for the degradation of the water. It is a discussion that has left me with little admiration for our human tendencies to blame and to avoid assuming responsibility.
The reality of our situation here in Manitoba, is that the phosphorus that is feeding the blue-green algae comes from both human sewage and from agricultural run-off originating from manure and fertilizer applications. As I have mentioned in many previous blogs, the city of Winnipeg has been tardy in diminishing our contribution to the problem by delaying the upgrade of 2 of our 3 sewage treatment plants. As well the contribution from agricultural lands has often been disputed. The result has been much talk but not enough action to see meaningful decreases in phosphorus getting into our waters.
The Iowa Utility’s lawsuit is precedent setting and could impact agricultural operations and regulations throughout North America. I hope that voluntary measures will trigger significant action but if not we may see more lawsuits of this kind.

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Responses

  1. Hi Vicki, Good article. I am wondering where you are at these days re your water work….I haven’t seen you at any meetings recently. Are you still with the Foundation? Are you part of the Stewardship Alliance? Just curious! Mo

    _____

    From: H2O: Ideas & Action for Canada’s Water [mailto:comment-reply@wordpress.com] Sent: Friday, January 30, 2015 10:44 AM To: motipples@shaw.ca Subject: [New post] Iowa Lawsuit Landmark Action in Water Protection

    Vicki Burns posted: “I was amazed to see this article in the DesMoines Register detailing the DesMoines Water Utility’s plan to sue 3 counties in Iowa for polluting the drinking water supply for central parts of the state. The water utility believes that the use of tile drain”


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