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.

Water quality in Iowa

You can take a stand for Iowa's water quality future by signing this petition urging lawmakers to fund the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund.

Water Notes


Next Steps for Iowa Water Quality

Iowa can chart a path forward in addressing water quality by building on its existing framework of a watershed approach with greater emphasis on watershed planning and leadership.

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Iowa’s Role in Cleaning up the Gulf

Excessive nutrient pollution in oceans and rivers can cause dense growth of plants and algae that, when decaying, deplete oxygen needed to sustain aquatic life. The technical phrase for this is eutrophication resulting in hypoxia. This condition creates the Dead Zone where the Mississippi River meets the Gulf of Mexico.

In fall 1997, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) convened a Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force (known commonly as the Hypoxia Task Force) that included the 12 states in the Mississippi River Watershed.

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Watershed planning is key for Iowa water quality

In 2018, the Iowa Legislature passed a law that gives $282 million for water quality projects over the next 12 years. While these funds help initiate new projects and build up existing efforts, more money is not the only way to improve water quality. Instead, lawmakers should put a premium on encouraging local control.

Progress has been made, but challenges remain in Iowa’s pursuit of clean water

Since 2012, the state of Iowa has invested approximately $541 million to improve water quality, an estimated $4 to $6 billion problem in the state. Meanwhile, the federal government has paid Iowa farmers more than $2.76 billion for on-farm conservation practices over the past two decades. Even with this investment, water quality in the state has much room for improvement, according to a Center for Rural Affairs report released in March.