Grassed waterway

DES MOINES — Iowa State University, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources announced this month that the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy Annual Progress Report is available to the public at

“We are committed to robust measuring and reporting around each of the steps necessary to reach our water quality goals,” Mike Naig, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, said in a news release.

Bruce Trautman, acting director of the Iowa DNR, said the annual report provides progress updates on point source and nonpoint source efforts to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus loads leaving the state, with the goal of achieving a 45 percent reduction in nitrogen and phosphorus loads.

“The report highlights the increase in activities in the five years since the release of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy, which is encouraging,” said Matt Helmers, director of the Iowa Nutrient Research Center at Iowa State University. “But it is also important to recognize the scale of change required to meet nutrient reduction goals, and the need for increased levels of practice adoption and implementation throughout the state.”

Highlights from the report:

Inputs: Funding, staff

  • $512 million in private and public sector funding for Nutrient Reduction Strategy efforts identified during the 2018 reporting period.
  • Long-term funding is now in place that will provide an additional $270 million for conservation practices and wastewater treatment upgrades over the next 12 years.
  • Since 2013, the Iowa Nutrient Research Center at Iowa State University has funded $8.7 million for 76 research projects led by scientists at the state’s three Regents universities.
  • The Conservation Infrastructure Initiative engaged leaders within and outside of the agriculture industry to address barriers, solutions and new revenue streams to improve water quality.

Land: Practice adoption

  • Statewide estimates indicate 760,000 acres of cover crops were planted in 2017, including 330,000 acres enrolled in government cost share programs.
  • 1.8 million acres of land were enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program, about 200,000 acres more than in 2011.
  • Statewide mapping of six types of conservation practices was completed. An analysis of the results shows the value of this public and private investment in conservation would be $6.2 billion in today’s dollars. Additional analysis is underway to quantify the water quality impact of these practices in terms of reduced sediment and phosphorus loads to Iowa streams.

Monitoring: Sensors, baselines

  • Iowa has an extensive water quality monitoring system in place, including 32 more real-time nitrate sensors deployed by the University of Iowa’s Hydroscience and Engineering - IIHR than in 2016.
  • At least 88 percent of Iowa’s land drains to a location with water quality sensors.
  • Surface water samples are collected regularly at 302 locations, plus 582 edge-of-field sites by the Iowa Soybean Association and Agriculture’s Clean Water Alliance.

The annual report works towards evaluating progress using an updated baseline that is consistent with the Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force and follows the direction of the Iowa Legislature. The baseline looks at the 1980-96 time period. In future reports, the baseline period will be used to measure progress toward water quality goals identified by the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.