In 2008, the state passed the Smokefree Air Act which banned smoking in public places. Why? Because it protected public health. State legislators passed this bold legislation because it was best for the people of Iowa.
Reducing nitrate, phosphorus, and bacteria in Iowa’s rivers, streams, and lakes will also protect public health. This year is a record setting year for nitrate levels, with the Raccoon River reaching 24.39 mg/L and Des Moines River 18.62 mg/L. If nitrate levels in our source water persist at levels such that DMWW is unable to produce finished drinking water below 10 mg/L, Des Moines Water Works will violate the drinking water standard set by the Environmental Protection Agency. This standard is set to protect our most vulnerable population, infants under 6 months of age.
Opponents criticized the Smokefree Air Act as a government intrusion into personal choice and free enterprise that would force businesses to close due to a reduction in business. Agricultural interests are using similar arguments. The agricultural community insists government cannot tell them what to do on their own land, and argues that if agriculture is regulated, it will force the livestock industry and row-crop production out of the country. No one is allowed to use the state’s water resources to the point that they impair water use by others. All Iowans are accountable and responsible for improving and protecting Iowa’s water resources and ultimately public health. Iowa Code, 455B.262 (3) states, “Water occurring in a basin or watercourse …is public water and public wealth of the people of the state … the control and development and use of water for all beneficial purposes is vested in the state, which shall take measures to ensure the conservation and protection of the water resources of the state.” Iowa needs strong leadership on this important issue. Where are the voices of state officials who will take bold steps to ensure Iowa’s water resources benefit all Iowans?
Protecting the health of Iowans is not a partisan issue. Agriculture should not be exempted from all regulation, especially when conditions created by the industry negatively impact the general population. Balancing freedom in farming decisions and water quality is a critical issue in Iowa. Des Moines Water Works wants to work with state leaders to ensure the economics, social, and environmental effects of farming are balanced for future generations.