With Memorial Day passed and schools out, it’s officially summer in Iowa.
And that means the Iowa Department of Natural Resources has started monitoring water quality at Iowa beaches.
Iowa’s waterways are routinely flagged for too-high levels of pollutants and bacteria, mostly from livestock runoff. This can lead to swim advisories or outright closure in recreational waterways like lakes and rivers.
Every Friday, the DNR sends out emails with water quality updates for the week, and it monitors quality until Labor Day. According to the most recent email, four Iowa beaches have an advisory for the week.
Denison Beach in Lake View, Lake Keomah Beach in Oskaloosa and Lake Macbride Beach in Solon have advisories related to E. Coli.
Darling Beach in Brighton has a microcystin-related advisory, meaning there’s enough nitrogen and phosphorous to feed the toxic bacteria that look like algae bloom.
More beaches are labeled vulnerable, meaning they contain more than the standard amount of bacteria.
The previous week, only one beach had a microcystin-related advisory and zero related to E. Coli
“Agriculture is responsible for the vast majority of the nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in the state, and those are the causes of many of the impairments in our waters today,” said Michael Schmidt, the staff attorney for the Iowa Environmental Council.
The contaminants get into the water because of runoff from land-applied manure, he said. It can either run off on the surface or into tile drainage. And it’s a problem mostly because of a lack of regulation.
“We are a very agriculturally intensive state and we don’t regulate runoff from agriculture or how much nitrogen and phosphorus farmers or ag producers put onto the landscape,” Schmidt said. “We have some limitations, but they are exempt from the Clean Water Act.”
“The position that IEC has taken is that this is a significant problem in terms of recreational opportunities, but also it’s a bit of an equity issue. People downstream end up paying for the pollution.”
by Nikoel Hytrek