Water, it is all around us, but how much of it is fit for your consumption? How has poor conservation practices affected the water on which we as a species survive? In Iowa, we have programs that encourage landowners to make improvements to their property that promote water quality and help prevent erosion that would take away from us our topsoil. In order for Iowa to maintain its water quality, arable land, and economic prominence, steps must be taken to promote conservation practices while still maintaining individual liberty by making sure all participants are there voluntarily.
On Monday, Water Day on the Hill brought representatives from the water utility industry to visit with us in Des Moines. They reminded the legislature how much work goes into the process of purifying water, so it is fit for human consumption. Many of these groups fear the continued run-off from agricultural institutions. For them, the purity of the water they sell to their customers is of utmost importance.
Iowa plays in a global, agriculture market; it competes, as a single state, with countries like China and Canada whose landmasses are about 67 times bigger. Despite our size disadvantage, Iowa competes with these nations. In grain production, Iowa produces 55 million metric tons while Canada produced 45 million metric tons. When looking at our soybean production, we are barely behind China, 15 million metric tons to 14 million metric tons. This high production rate leads to a great economic position, but it also means that our ground is susceptible to erosion of our topsoil and loss of nutrients. Iowa contributes 5-10 percent of the phosphorous in the Gulf of Mexico and 10-17 percent of all nitrogen in the Gulf.
One step that needs to be taken to preserve both Iowa’s water and topsoil is state cost matching for land improvements. Land owners would be allowed to get matching funds from the state to make improvements to their property if they wished. It would raise the value of the property, extend the arability of the land, and prevent chemical run-off from the working of it. The key part of this program must be volunteerism. Choice of the landowners must be the deciding factor to make these improvements, not coercion on the part of the state.