Who should supervise Iowa's water quality?
April 6, 2011

The Iowa Legislature has been considering a pair of bills this year -- House File 643 and Senate File 500, which would transfer the management of several water-quality monitoring and grant programs from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. The bill passed in the Republican-controlled House, but now appears to be stalled in the Senate. The lobbyist declarations on behalf of the bill suggest that farmers' groups are of mixed opinions on the subject, and many environmental-lobby groups are against it. Non-point-source pollution (generally, pollution from runoff) is largely a result of agricultural practices in a farming state like Iowa, which is why moving its management to that department might make sense in order to streamline the management issues and cut bureaucratic wrangling. Opponents argue, though, that the Department of Agriculture serves more as a promotional arm than an enforcement one, and as a result would be less rigorous about enforcing regulations should it come to supervise that segment of the state's environmental quality.

Antibiotic resistance in the West could be initiated by dirty water in India
April 7, 2011

One of the growing troubles of modern medicine is the emergence of antibiotic-resistant microorganisms like bacteria. The World Health Organization says that the spread of these resistant bugs could send humanity back to a pre-antibiotic era if the change isn't kept in check. That's why it's frightening to hear that Westerners going to India for "medical tourism" are bringing the antibiotic resistance home with them. The problem is a dramatic illustration of why access to safe drinking water everywhere is a matter of concern to us all. The antibiotic resistance is being spread by polluted water in India -- water that could be treated to much higher levels of safety and purity. The triumph over waterborne diseases was one of the great achievements in American public health last century.

"We are conservation planning for averages, not extremes"
April 21, 2011

Data collected by scientists at Iowa State University suggests that topsoil erosion in Iowa is much worse than thought, due to extremely heavy rainstorms over the last few years and pressure placed on conservation measures by very high corn and soybean prices. As commodity prices rise, land that was previously either unsuitable for row crops due to erosion -- or that was designated specifically for conservation -- is being put into use growing crops, which can increase the risk of soil erosion into the water. An analysis of the ISU data by an advocacy group called the Environmental Working Group concludes that portions of western Iowa are losing topsoil much faster than the statewide averages suggest.

Soil erosion is just as much a matter for water quality as it is for agricultural production. That's why products like turbidity curtains are used to prevent stormwater from carrying runoff into otherwise clear creeks and streams. Erosion also can carry fertilizer (including animal manure used for fertilizer) into waterways, which can contribute to high nitrate levels. (See a recent article on nitrate contamination to which we contributed in the recent Nebraska AWWA journal.) Please feel free to contact us with your questions about how to control erosion and how to manage its effects on public water systems.

Water main break in Washington (Iowa) makes boil order necessary
April 25, 2011

The City of Washington, Iowa, is under a boil order due to a large water main break that was the result of freeze/thaw cycles in the ground. Washington is a town of about 7,300 people, placing it in the upper range of medium-sized cities in the state.

A record runoff in the Missouri basin is possible
April 26, 2011

The US Army Corps of Engineers says the runoff into the Missouri River system could be of record volume this year, since snowmelt in the northern Rocky Mountains is just beginning. The Omaha District of the Corps supervises most of the Missouri River basin, and they are alerting the public to the situation through news interviews.

Omaha won't get state sewer help until at least next year
April 27, 2011

A Nebraska state senator had hoped to get state funding to aid Omaha's very expensive federally-mandated separation of its stormwater and sanitary sewers, but he's going to postpone consideration of that bill until next year, because he doesn't think it would survive a veto by the governor. Omaha is one of many cities across the country that have been ordered by the EPA to separate the sewers so that storm flows don't overload the sewer system and cause untreated wastewater to flow directly into rivers. It's a hugely expensive project that has to be completed over the next ten to fifteen years, and the costs have some commercial users worried that rising sewer fees will become cost-prohibitive for them to stay in business. The average household is expected to pay an additional $420 a year within the next half-decade or so to help pay, as well.

We can help you with gates, pumps, and other equipment for stormwater sewers, as well as sanitary sewers. Please feel free to contact us with your questions.

Past water and wastewater news updates

last revised April 2011