Category Archives: Water

New report highlights threats to clean water, recreation and tourism from NE Iowa frac sand mining

From a press release by the Iowa Policy Project, a Council member organization:

Potential impacts on water quantity, water quality, recreation and tourism have prompted necessary questions about the mining of Iowa sand for fracking, researchers say.

In a new report for the nonpartisan Iowa Policy Project (IPP), researchers Aaron Kline and David Osterberg point out the environmental and aesthetic assets of Northeast Iowa may be threatened by the growing attraction of the area for this specialty sand mining.

“Trout fishing enthusiasts should be worried — but so should anyone who drinks water in the northeastern corner of Iowa. And they are,” said Osterberg, founding director and an environment and energy researcher at IPP. “Local leaders in Winneshiek and Allamakee counties have questions, and given the potential long-term impacts of this mining industry, they deserve answers.”

The new report notes the so-called “frac sand” mining industry swept through Wisconsin in recent years, and areas of both southeastern Minnesota and northeastern Iowa have deposits of the same kind of sand sought by the hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” industry.

Learn about the Iowa Policy Project’s findings
or download the full report.

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Rosenberg: Iowans’ help needed to overcome environmental denial

Ralph Rosenberg

Ralph Rosenberg is the executive director of the Iowa Environmental Council.

By Ralph Rosenberg, the Council’s executive director

One of the common tactics those who oppose protection of clean water and a healthy environment use is to downplay, deny, and distance themselves from whether problems we face exist at all.

For example, the resurgence of climate denial in the news during recent bitterly cold weather is a reminder to all of us to be vigilant for misinformation that is designed to hold back solutions we need for clean air, clean water, and our state’s future.  As the legislative session begins again, we must remember that denial can have consequences for public policy and our state’s future.

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Iowa Department of Natural Resources offers Facebook chat on clean water issues

From a press release by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources

Iowans with questions about the state’s water quality – from drinking water to recreation – can have those questions answered live on Facebook Jan. 14.

DNR staff will answer questions live from noon to 2:30 p.m. To ask a question, post it as a comment on the “Live Q&A” post that the DNR will post at noon that day. You can also post questions ahead of time on the DNR’s Facebook Timeline at Questions received after 2:30 will be answered, but at a later time.

DNR staff available for questions during the live water quality Q&A include:

  • Bill Ehm, head of the DNR’s Environmental Services Division
  • Shelli Grapp, Water Quality bureau chief
  • John Olson, senior environmental specialist

To make sure you see the Live Q&A when it is posted, make sure you “like” the DNR’s page on Facebook. Go to and click on “like” and make sure “get notifications” and “show in news feed” are selected.

Commenters should also view the DNR’s Facebook posting policy ahead of time at

Council welcomes new agricultural policy specialist, Jennifer Terry



The Iowa Environmental Council has expanded its capacity to seek dialogue and progress on clean water issues by appointing Jennifer Terry as a new agricultural policy specialist.

“Iowans believe urgent action for clean water is needed, and the Council is focused on delivering solutions that will help the state measure and maintain progress,” said Ralph Rosenberg, the Council’s executive director. “Jen’s skills as a conscientious listener and coalition builder make her a great fit to help our team deliver results Iowans want.”

Terry is a native Iowan who grew up on a dairy farm in Hardin County, Iowa.  A graduate of the University of Iowa College of Law, she has extensive experience leading business development and marketing efforts for an Iowa-based healthcare organization.

“Having raised two children in Iowa, I understand the concerns of many Iowans who worry about allowing their children to fish and swim in polluted waters,” Terry said.  “I am excited to join the broad community of farmers, conservationists, scientists and everyday people working to solve these problems.”

At the Council, Terry will work to broaden the Council’s coalition working on water pollution reduction in Iowa.  In Iowa, polluted runoff from farm fields and urban areas and chronic soil erosion are among the state’s most serious threats to clean water.  She will work with the Council’s partners to advance new solutions for putting conservation practices in place where they are needed and measure Iowa’s progress toward pollution reduction.

Major funding for the Council’s clean water efforts comes from the Walton Family Foundation, other foundation support, and the charitable contributions of individual Iowans across the state interested in protecting clean water and a healthy Iowa environment for future generations.

278 organziations sign letter in support of farm bill conservation

farmbillblogAs work on the long-stalled Farm Bill resumes in a Congressional conference committee this week, across the nation, 278 organizations including many in Iowa have signed a new letter calling on Congress to take responsible action for conservation.

The groups urge Congress to reconnect taxpayer subsidies for crop insurance to common-sense conservation protections for soil and water–a part of the farm bill known as “conservation compliance.” The letter also calls on Congress to support a national “sodsaver” provision to reduce taxpayer subsidies for converting native grasslands to crop production.

“Both of these provisions, included in the Senate bill, ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to incentivize risky or environmentally destructive practices,” the 278 groups say.  “Conservation compliance and sodsaver are among the top farm bill priorities for our groups, and both will be determining factors as we consider our support for a final bill.”

As the letter explains, much is at stake as Congress considers this policy:

Without these key protections, billions of taxpayer dollars spent on crop insurance over coming years will subsidize soil erosion that will choke our waterways, increase the cost of water treatment and dredging, and reduce the long term productivity of farmland. It will also allow for the destruction of tens of thousands of acres of valuable wetlands, resulting in increased downstream flooding, loss of wildlife habitat and decreased water quality.

A diverse group of organizations representing Iowans, including the Iowa Environmental Council, have signed the letter.  Other Iowa organizations signing include Citizens for a Healthy Iowa, the Des Moines Water Works, the Driftless Chapter of Iowa Trout Unlimited, the Iowa Bowhunters Association, the Iowa Chapter of the American Fisheries Society, the Iowa Farmers Union, the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, the Iowa Wildlife Federation, the Izaak Walton League of America, Maquoketa Valley Chapter, the North Bear Chapter of Trout Unlimited, the Quad City Audubon Society, the Spring Creeks Chapter of Trout Unlimited, the Iowa Council of Trout Unlimited, and the Wagner Conservation Coalition.  The Environmental Law and Policy Center, a regional organization with offices in Iowa, also signed, as did the Environmental Working Group, whose national agriculture program is based in Ames.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) coordinated this national effort.  NSAC’s website has the full letter and list of organizations.  You can also read about the latest grassland loss data from USDA by clicking here.