DES MOINES, Iowa — Governor Kim Reynolds signed her first bill into law, which is aimed at improving water quality throughout the state.
The bill is expected to redirect $282 million over 12 years from state revenue toward existing voluntary water quality programs and create others. The funding would come from a water tax currently in the state budget and an existing infrastructure fund that collects gambling dollars. The funding is set to expire in 2029 unless the Legislature takes further action.
Reynolds signed the bill Wednesday, January 31st.
Iowa has faced water pollution issues for years, and research shows it’s tied in part to farm runoff. According to the latest update from the Nutrient Reduction Strategy, agriculture and urban runoff contribute more than 90 percent of the nitrogen and 80 percent of the phosphorus leaving the state of Iowa.
Water dominated the 2016 legislative session, after a Des Moines water utility filed a lawsuit that claimed drainage districts in three counties didn’t properly regulate the release of nitrate pollution. The Iowa Supreme Court later determined the drainage districts have immunity to such lawsuits. But the issue has remained on the legislative to-do list ever since.
Iowa’s main agriculture department supported the final bill, as did groups like the Iowa Farm Bureau and Iowa Corn Growers Association. The Iowa Environmental Council, a coalition of more than 65 member organizations, opposed it. Kerri Johannsen, government affairs manager for the council, said the legislation falls short.
The Associated Press contributed to this report