DES MOINES — Educators, scientists and other clean water advocates got together Sunday at the first Iowa Water Festival to bring awareness to the state’s water quality issues.
The event comes after a report by the Environmental Working Group said Iowa is one of the leading states with cancer diagnoses caused by nitrate pollution in drinking water.
A panel of speakers covered a variety of topics, but all expressed concerns for the state of Iowa’s water.
David Osterberg, a professor emeritus of public health at the University of Iowa, said this is largely due to Iowa being an agriculture state.
“We have very high levels of nitrogen-phosphorus in the water,” said Osterberg. “Nitrogen is necessary to make corn grow, but too much of it causes lots of pollution and that’s the pollutant in Iowa.”
Panelists talked about different possible solutions, but all called for a change in public policy.
“We need to elect people who claim to care about water and really show that they do,” Osterberg said. “Right now we have not had that for a number of years, we can’t just do lip service. This is a serious problem, we need to address it.”
Isabelle Brace, a member of the Iowa Strike Climate Group, said this is an issue all Iowans should care about.
“Clean water is one of the absolute most essential steps to a functioning ecosystem and a functioning environment,” she said.
Brace said it’s important to focus on clean water because it’s something that affects everyone. She’s not of voting age yet but agreed that policy change needs to happen.
“Voting for candidates who are pushing for water issues and are talking about these things is so important,” Brace said.
Channel 13 spoke to Des Moines Water Works earlier in June. Water Works said they have made efforts on reducing nitrates but are primarily focused on bigger threats right now, like removing toxins from water.
This was the first Iowa Water Festival, and organization leaders said they hope it won’t be the last.