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mississippi river

God Made Me Do It

Discussion of the moral issues related to Iowa water pollution.
Kent Park

Mea Culpa--Nitrate event that wasn't

Retraction of data related to Upper Iowa nitrate episode.
mississippi river


Ag propaganda and claims of improvements in nutrient loss are examined.

Truth or Consequences

This post evaluates and ranks overall water quality for 44 Iowa streams.

Photo of Ring Lardner

Means, Ends, and Granfalloons

Essay discussing pushback from a member of the Iowa legislature, and agriculture's objectives and strategies for water quality in Iowa.
Photo of Svante Arrhenius

Crap and Trade

What will Iowa's new carbon task force do? And what about the Growing Climate Solutions Act, recently passed by the U.S. Senate? It's high time to clarify what these programs do and why it is not appropriate to call them markets.
Photos of Oppenheimer and Teller

The Swine and the Swill

Decades ago, physicist Edward Teller made some predictions with startling relevance to today's events.
discharge on Des Moines river

Des Moines River Discharge Anomaly

Des Moines River flow exceeded that of the Mississippi River on this day.

Take this Stream and Shove It

Blog entry on the Iowa Supreme Court decision dismissing water-quality concerns in the Raccoon River.
Raccoon River. Photo by Christine Warner (Flickr Creative Commons)

Raccoon River Discharge: 2021 vs. Other Drought Years

Drought has hit Iowa hard in 2021. How does this dry spell compare to legendary droughts in 1934 and 1956?
Installing a bioreactor on Bogard Farm near Des Moines Photo by Lynn Betts (SWCSIDALS )


A recent Polk County plan would install 200 "edge of field" practices to capture nitrate from underground drainage pipes at the expense of Iowa taxpayers. Effective, yes, but is it fair?
The ugly

Iowa Rivers 1 to 45: The Fair, the Marginal, & the Ugly

Determining whether water is good, bad, or something in between is not at all straightforward. An accurate water-quality index can be useful. Why doesn't Iowa have one?
Map of the watersheds of the central United States

Grading on a Curve

How much nitrate does Iowa contribute to the Missouri and Mississippi river basins?
Iowa City Press-Citizen Wordmark

Wake Up and Smell the Manure

We need regulation to clean up Iowa’s water. We have a massive, continental-scale problem here with nutrient pollution — one so large that the average person can barely get their head around it.
A farmer in a green coat pulls a big sliding door shut on the machine shed


Silvia Secchi comments on land values, government subsidies for agriculture, and the demographics of farmers who receive the subsidies.
Newspaper clipping about a couple's 50th anniversary

Environmental Injustice

Long and short, Iowa farming is whiter and older and manlier than the Caddyshack country club.
finally realizing Vichy water is for Nazis

Big Pollution

How water pollution in Iowa has created a cottage industry of professionals dependent upon the maintenance of the problem.
Iowa 2020 Nitrate loss interior basins

Manure Matters: Iowa 2020 Nitrate Summary

Iowa 2020 Nitrate-Nitrogen loss to the Mississippi Basin and the Gulf of Mexico.
Manure applied to an Iowa farm field in winter

This Might Hurt Some Feelings

People have been thinking about “what can be done” about water quality and pollution in Iowa for a long time. But are we any closer to a solution?
Grant Wood Self Portrait

Defending Paris

Contrast between how urban storm water and agricultural runoff is regulated in the U.S.
Camper at Crowley's Ridge State Park

No Country For Old Men

Comparison of Iowa and Arkansas funding for parks and natural resources.
Serving the Reich by Phillip Ball


Politicization of Science
E coli bacteria

Dream On

Discussion of E coli levels in the Des Moines, Raccoon and Mississippi Rivers.
mississippi river

On Brothels and Cathedrals

Essay about the proposed cattle confinement in the Bloody Run Creek Watershed
mississippi river

Land of Milk and Money

Discharge of milk from Ankeny HyVee grocery store into Fourmile Creek, and the devaluation of Iowa's water resources.
Soybean field with a lot of weeds

Everyone Is Responsible So No One is Responsible

It was inevitable that the law was going to catch up to the weedkiller Roundup (Glyphosate) and throw it in the hoosegow. The law of natural selection, that is.
crowd on lake okoboji

When the Ship Comes In

Discussion of water quality on Iowa Great Lakes and the dichotomy between water quality experienced by wealthy and not-so-wealthy people.
raccoon crossing road

Ripe as a Roadkill Raccoon

Discussion of lack of progress on water quality improvement in the Raccoon River Watershed.
mississippi river

China Journal

Journal of 2016 trip to China with Keith Schilling.
mississippi river

I'm Not a Scientist

Discussion of science and it's role in today's politics.
Gas Pump

Hair of the Dog

Future of corn ethanol as a fuel with the emergence of electrical vehicles, and duplicity of agriculture when discussing ethanol and climate change.
View of the DeSoto River with inset photo of Chris Jones

The Ethics of a Pig

Hog production and the environmental effects of globalization.
A cornfield

They Break It, You Buy It

Over fertilization of corn and it's role in degraded water quality.
Henderson Slough-Upper Mississippi River

Fool Me Once....

Foot dragging by agriculture on water quality, and failure of voluntary adoption of conservation practices.
A cornfield


mississippi river

Free Iowa Now

Confined animal agriculture, dead zones, and ag industry rhetoric.
aldo leopold cropped

Woke Aldo

How Aldo Leopold's vision is been unfulfilled by the Iowa farmer.
book cropped

Eau de BS

Review of the book "On Bullshit" by Harry Frankfurt and how it relates to Iowa agriculture and water quality.
green lake

Don't P Down My Leg and Tell Me It's Raining

Claims about improvement in Iowa stream phosphorus are exaggerated.
Spools of tile in an Iowa farm field in winter

Cry Me a Raccoon River

I suppose we all experience certain days when events crystallize our ideas in ways such that the day and the ideas will both go unforgotten. November 14 was one of those days for me.
Anhydrous ammonia tank

Iowa is Hemorrhaging Nitrogen

How much nitrate is Iowa contributing to Iowa rivers and streams, the Mississippi River, and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico? Some perspective: Since 2003, statewide stream nitrate loads have increased 100.4% (i.e., doubled), as measured by the five-year Running Annual Average.
tile installation

Drain Brain

Discussion of "Nature Sustainability" journal article on expansion of farmed drainage in Iowa
Iowa flag with pig


Discussion of how manure management plans (MMPs) are not protective of water quality.
channel cat

Fishing in the Rain

Nitrogen budgets for Iowa watersheds and how they relate to legacy nitrate studied by Dr. Kim Van Meter of University of Illinois Chicago.
eroding bank

It's Their Way or the Highway

Agriculture's resistance to a stream buffer law.
muddy boat launch

Middle of Nowhere is Downstream from Somewhere

Condition of Lower Iowa River.
Kent Park

Demand Clean Water Now

Guest editorial that first appeared in Iowa Ideas Magazine is reposted here. Essay discusses nitrate pollution, altered hydrology, and farm conservation in Iowa.
Orlan cropped


Essay about fishing with newspaper columnist Orlan Love and the Wapsipinicon and Maquoketa Rivers of eastern Iowa.

Market Dis(equilibrium)

Guest post authored by Dr. Silvia Secchi about USDA conservation programs and how they could be improved to deliver outcomes beneficial to the public.
A river flowing between trees

10,000 Pounds of BS

Nitrate contamination of drinking water and whether stream nitrate pollution links to soil organic matter.