Water is a fundamental resource, and we believe rural communities will play a key role in improving water quality. By promoting stewardship and pursuing policies that improve water quality, build soil health, and protect our natural resources, we hope to ensure clean water for generations of rural Americans.

When water is polluted, our neighbors and communities are put at a disadvantage and public health is threatened. Surface water contamination limits the potential for economic opportunities and groundwater degradation requires costly treatment systems—infrastructure that is often too expensive for many rural communities.

Across rural America, farmers, ranchers, and communities all depend on clean and abundant water to sustain our way of life. Agricultural producers rely on water for productive yields and livestock, communities need water to provide basic services to their residents, and local businesses rely on rivers, lakes, and streams to attract visitors who stimulate the economy.

Important challenges remain in pursuit of clean water in rural places. Increased levels of point source and nonpoint source pollution often put our waterways at risk. Changing weather patterns lead to unpredictable precipitation, forcing many of us to adapt as flooding and droughts become more frequent.

At the Center for Rural Affairs, we aim to elevate the efforts of rural people who are taking action in support of clean water. We advocate for public policies that empower farmers to adopt conservation practices and communities to provide safe drinking water. Ultimately, we work to ensure rural Americans can take pride in the waterways we all depend on.

Iowa Watershed Resource Library

Rural Iowans should be involved in the decisions that impact their futures and we believe that the state’s most effective path to cleaner water includes a strong emphasis on a watershed approach. Click here for a resource library for watersheds across Iowa to inform, assist, and empower those who live within their boundaries.

Water Notes


Leveraging Local Funds for Watershed Improvement

As stakeholders in Iowa’s 56 hydrologic unit code 8 (HUC-8) watersheds look to improve resiliency through conservation practice adoption, education and outreach, and long-term planning, securing funds for these activities is often a challenge. This fact sheet contains a list of local strategies Watershed Management Authorities (WMA) members can leverage to attain funding.

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Watershed Planning 101

As Iowa looks to address its water quality problem, enabling success through watershed-level planning and project implementation is a crucial step. Developing a watershed management plan is an early part of the water quality improvement process that enables local buy-in and jump starts action in a watershed.

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Iowa Legislative Update - March 10, 2020

Things have been moving quickly in Des Moines. We have continued to track dozens of bills through subcommittee meetings, committee votes, and floor action in both the House and the Senate. 

As we weigh in on legislation ahead of the second funnel deadline on March 21, we want to hear your thoughts. We have registered for, against, or undecided on more than two dozen bills which relate to water quality, renewable energy, economic development, and more. One notable update for you is that the “solar bill,” Senate File (SF) 583 (see below), passed the House and the Senate unanimously last week—it currently awaits Gov. Reynolds’ approval.

Iowa bill to boost state sales tax would help with conservation

DES MOINES, IOWA— Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds is trying to build support for a 1-cent sales-tax increase that would help fund conservation programs. It's a tough sell in the Legislature, but some groups are throwing their support behind the plan.

A portion of the tax hike would fulfill a 2010 constitutional amendment to the Iowa Water and Land Legacy trust fund. No money has been added to the fund since it was created, leaving rural areas to struggle with the effects of climate change.