News Feature | March 8, 2017

Iowa Considers Nutrient Exchange To Address Water Quality Issues

Dominique 'Peak' Johnson

By Peak Johnson

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Iowa is considering legislation to introduce a nutrient exchange in the state. Under the law, treatment or manufacturing facilities that discharge pollution would be able to pay farmers to reduce nutrient run-off from their land, giving the facilities more discharge flexible.

Radio Iowa reported late last month that Republican Representative Chip Baltimore said that the potential law is “about sparking ‘collaboration’ rather than confrontation to clean up the state’s surface water.”

“At least in my conversations, there’s broad-based, very generic … interest in a nutrient exchange,” Baltimore is quoted as saying during a House subcommittee meeting. “We’ve got some pilot projects that are out there that are working their way through, but I think having some formal recognition of the nutrient exchange may help move that process along.”

The Gazette reported that last month during a hearing on Iowa water quality legislation, “a part of House Study Bill 135 that would allow ‘nutrient exchanges’ came under fire from opponents of corporate agriculture.”

“This bill does nothing to stop pollution,” Jessica Mazour of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement told a House Agriculture subcommittee. “It further passes the cost of cleaning up Iowa’s water on the public. We shouldn’t have to subsidize cleaning up the water from the pollution they created.”

Tim Whipple of the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities promoted the plan by saying that it would enable participants “to be able to share and work outside the boundaries of a city.”

He added that it would be cheaper to address nutrient issues upstream, improving water quality and flood control, rather than having to build water and wastewater treatment facilities.

Other states have similar laws for nutrient exchange on the books. According to the Chesapeake Bay Nutrient Trading Program Policies, “Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia introduced nutrient trading programs to provide wastewater treatment plants with flexible options for meeting and maintaining permitted nutrient load limits.”

For similar stories visit Water Online’s Nutrient Removal Solutions Center.

Image credit: "Landora, Iowa, March 2012" Thad Zajdowicz © 2012 used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/