Gov. Branstad approves more water quality funds

Governor signs bill allocating funds for state water quality initiative

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad has signed a bill making funds available to support the Iowa Water Quality Initiative in fiscal 2016.

The measure signed into law by the governor on July 2 allocates $9.6 million to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey thanked the governor and the Iowa Legislature for their continued commitment to partnering with farmers to make significant long-term progress in protecting Iowa’s soil and water resources.

“Iowans in both rural and urban areas continue to be engaged in efforts to improve water quality,” Northey said. “These funds will help as we work to continue to build and expand practices shown to protect water quality and monitor progress. Iowa is a model nationally for the progress that can be made on this important issue.”

The Legislature provided $4.4 million for water quality in the Agriculture and Natural Resources appropriation bill (SF 494), which was signed into law on June 18. In addition, $5.2 million was included in the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund (RIIF budget, HF 650), which was signed into law on July 2.

SF 494 also added “Water Quality” to the name of the department’s Division of Soil Conservation and Water Quality to formalize the increased focus on the issue by the department over the last several years.

The funds will allow the department to continue to offer cost share statewide to farmers trying new water quality practices, continue work in targeted watersheds to achieve measurable water quality improvements, expand urban conservation efforts, and develop new programs to help engage all Iowans in improving water quality.

The appropriation for the department also includes $6.75 million for conservation cost share. For more than four decades, Iowa’s soil conservation cost share program has encouraged the adoption of conservation structures and practices to protect and preserve our state’s natural resources and improve water quality.

An additional $1.92 million was appropriated to support the closure of eight additional agriculture drainage wells in the state to protect groundwater quality.

In addition to the funds approved for the department for water quality, $1.35 million was provided to the Nutrient Research Center at Iowa State University to evaluate the performance of current and emerging nutrient management practices and help develop new practices. Iowa State also received a $1.23 million appropriation for a three-year pilot project to quantify in-field activities focused on improving water quality. The department also will pass-through $450,000 to the center for “nutrient water monitoring network technology and equipment.”

The Iowa Water Quality Initiative was established in 2013 to help implement the Nutrient Reduction Strategy, which is a science and technology based approach to achieving a 45 percent reduction in nitrogen and phosphorus losses to our waters. The strategy brings together both point sources, such as municipal wastewater treatment plants and industrial facilities, and nonpoint sources, including farm fields and urban storm water runoff, to address these issues.

Through this program alone, more than 1,600 farmers have invested $4.2 million to try a new practice on their farm to better protect water quality over the past two years.

Funds are currently available to farmers interested in using cover crops, no-till or strip till, or using a nitrification inhibitor when applying fertilizer. Any farmer not already utilizing these practices will receive priority consideration for this assistance. Farmers can immediately submit applications through their local Soil and Water Conservation District office.

In addition, 16 targeted Water Quality Initiative demonstration watershed projects have been funded to help implement and demonstrate water quality practices. The state has provided $7.4 million in funding to support these projects and has leveraged an additional $11.7 million in additional funding from partners and landowners.  More than 95 organizations are participating in these projects.

Nine Urban Conservation Water Quality Initiative Demonstration Projects also have been funded. The state has awarded $655,194 in funding and partners and landowners participating in the projects will provide $2.43 million to support urban conservation efforts.

More information about the initiative can be found at