Health

When will Iowans tire of their rivers being turned into toilets?

If a toddler’s diaper leaks at a public swimming pool, parents get their kids out of the water. Teenagers gag. Lifeguards recognize there’s a problem and respond by skimming, treating or even draining the water.

Contrast that with Iowa’s natural waterways, which are awash in animal manure, harmful chemicals from pesticides and other pollutants, mainly from farm field runoff. Visitors are apparently expected to just swim, fish, boat and recreate in them with a smile and a plugged nose. The contamination is even referred to as “nutrients,” a term that leaves the impression there is something healthful about it. And elected authorities do not take the problem seriously.

Iowa’s strategy has long been to trust farmers to do the right thing when it comes to reducing agricultural pollution of waterways. But the state’s voluntary Nutrient Reduction Strategy, adopted in 2013, hasn’t changed things. There is no reason to think that the missing ingredient is more time. 

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