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Editorial: Organizations can defend Iowa's water sources

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | APRIL 03, 2013 5:00 AM

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Concerned with improving and protecting the Iowa River watershed, members of the Iowa River Friends are organizing and plan to officially form by mid-April.

The quality of water in the Iowa River has fallen drastically largely because of runoff from manure and fertilizer on farmland and discharge from city sewage and septic drains, said Mary Skopec, IOWATER program coordinator for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and adviser to Iowa River Friends.

Though Iowa’s governing bodies have adequately protected Iowa’s bodies of water, individual organizations are thankfully sprouting up to further defend Iowa rivers.

Members of the Iowa River Friends are trying to protect the Iowa River and its watershed from pollutants and promote recreational activities on it. Mel Schlachter, a member of Iowa River Friends’ organizing committee, said the board of directors will include people from across the Iowa River watershed with different interests in preserving the Iowa River from farming to environmental concern to recreation.

The Daily Iowan Editorial Board wholeheartedly supports the efforts of the Iowa River Friends in improving the sanitation of the Iowa River.

The Iowa River is considered by the Environmental Protection Agency to be impaired in many places because of contamination that drains from the watershed into the river.

In spite of the Iowa River’s lackluster shape, a report by American Rivers said that the river provides strong economic benefits to the cities and towns through which it passes for its recreational uses, though generally as water quality worsens, those benefits will gradually disappear as a result of higher water treatment costs.

Schlachter said by increasing recreational use of the Iowa River, he hopes to raise support for taking care of Iowa’s rivers.

“People aren’t going to care as much about the river if they don’t know it,” he said.

Acquainting residents with the Iowa River, Sclachter said, will hopefully increase turnout at some of the group’s events and those they promote, which include river cleanups and teaching people how to test the water quality in local streams, among others.

Skopec and Schlachter pointed to bridges along the Iowa River in Iowa City as a deterrent to further water recreation because of the hazard they create. Skopec said members of Iowa River Friends may seek to modify these bridges in such a way that they would create a “white-water experience” for boaters, which would be more exciting and potentially attract more people, leading to large economic benefits.

Kayaking and canoeing along the Iowa River could also be extremely useful in relieving stress. A project by the University of Washington, Green Cities: Good Health, found that increased contact with nature helps people cope with stress, particularly from work and studies while increasing productivity and happiness.

“Natural scenes evoke positive emotions, facilitate cognitive functioning, and promote recovery from mental fatigue for people who are in good mental health,” it said. “The experience of nature can also provide respite for those who experience short-term and chronic mental illness.”

Considering the numerous potential benefits that a cleaner Iowa River can provide, it is a moral and practical imperative that as Iowans, we do everything in our power to protect our waterways through organizations like Iowa River Friends.


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