Report: Healthy Farms, Healthy PlanetProtect Our Rivers

Environment Iowa's Frightening Facts about Iowa's Waters

Released by: Environment Iowa Research and Policy Center
  1. Factory farms across the country generate 500 million to 1 billion pounds of manure – laden with nitrogen, phosphorus, hormones, and pathogens – each year that pollute our waterways. This is 3 times more waste than the U.S. human population creates. i
  2. Only 3% of monitored waterways in Iowa are considered in “excellent” condition, with 72% classified as very poor, poor, and fair. ii
  3. In Iowa’s nearly 72,000 miles of rivers and streams, volunteers have successfully removed trash from 786 miles of the waterways. In these 786 miles alone, there was over 250 tons of trash. This doesn’t even account for the pollutants we can’t remove by hand. iii
  4. Total toxic discharge in Iowa’s waterways is 6,602,493 pounds.iv
  5. The Des Moines River alone holds 620,710 pounds of this discharge. v
  6. In 2012 Tyson Fresh Meats Inc. and Cargill Meat Solutions Corp. were Iowa’s biggest polluters, together releasing nearly two million pounds of toxic waste into our waterways. vi
  7. 667,428 people in Iowa only have access to drinking water that is considered “at risk”. vii
  8. In Iowa’s lakes and wetlands, the number one source of impairment is algae, affecting 51 of these lakes and wetlands. These algae can produce bacteria that are harmful to humans and animals. viii
  9. The USDA estimates that the cost of cleaning nitrate pollution in waterways is $4.8 billion a year. ix
  10. This year 5 fish kills have already occurred in Iowa, 3 directly related to illegal animal waste and chemical run off – resulting in the death of over 101,000 fish. x

i Anna Aurilio, Environment America Research and Policy Center, EPA Balks at Cleaning-up Factory Farm Pollution, June 2013.

ii Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Water Quality Summary 2012, February 2013.

iii Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Project A.W.A.R.E., January 2013.

iv Environment America Research and Policy Center, State by State Numbers for Waterways at Risk.

v Environment America Research and Policy Center, Industrial Pollution in Iowa Waterways.

vi Environment America Research and Policy Center, Industrial Pollution in Iowa Waterways.

vii Environment America Research and Policy Center, State by State Numbers for Waterways at Risk.

viii John Olson, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Understanding Iowa’s Impaired Waters.

ix Olga V. Naidenko, Craig Cox, Nils Bruzelius, Environmental Working Group, Troubled Waters, Farm Pollution Threatens Drinking Water, April 2012.

x Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Fish Kill Database, September 2013.