Clean Iowa

Does Iowa need to clean up its act?
Clean Iowa

Iowa is one of the largest polluters in the world. We take the clean water we are blessed with from above, and turn it into toxic waste. Toxic for everything except the algae in the Gulf of Mexico, which eat it and thrive, but have turned 6,334 square miles of pristine water into an international dead zone.

That’s 11% the size of our beautiful state. Draw a straight line from my home town of Postville to my great-great grandfather’s home town of Keokuk. Imagine all of Iowa to the right of it suitable for nothing but slimy green algae. That’s the area Iowa’s pollution has destroyed in the Gulf of Mexico.

We can do better.

Des Moines politicians appear to be antagonistic toward possible solutions, preferring to argue about who should pay for it, which always comes down to which taxpayers will pay, yours or mine.

With pollution there is always a simple principle – the people who pollute should stop polluting, or pay for it. I learned that in Econ 101.

As with the entire world, Iowa is composed of watersheds. A watershed is the land upon which a single drop of rain will always run toward the same river. There are 27 of them in Iowa.

Every piece of land in a watershed is a potential polluter. Either the water that flows off it is as clean as the water that flowed onto it, or the land owner is a polluter.

Iowa can create co-ops in each watershed, with each land owner a member, and give the co-ops a simple directive. The water flowing out of the watershed (usually the mouth of a river) must be as clean as the water flowing into it. This is easy to measure – water quality meters are very inexpensive, and can be monitored remotely. Imagine a single computer screen with up to the minute data from 27 co-ops. A positive number means a watershed is polluting, a negative number means they are actually making their water cleaner (cleaning up water that doesn’t come from rain, but from Minnesota).

Now it becomes the job of each co-op’s land owners to figure out how to make it happen. Iowa only cares about the results, not about the methods used to achieve them. This may sound complicated, but I trust 27 co-ops to develop the most efficient and cost effective method of achieving their goal. Watershed co-ops will learn from each other, and co-op members will insist their co-op is at least as efficient and cost-effective as the best of them.

People solving problems, not politicians creating them. It’s a simple libertarian solution for making Iowa a state we can all be proud to live in.

2 Responses

  1. Rick, the problem with this is you’re essentially putting a dollar value on nature. I worked for a large company in Iowa and we violated our discharge permit constantly and the company just chalked it up to the cost of doing business. What is stopping the large multinational ag corporations from polluting, and just paying the fines as a business cost. Even if you changed the laws, you would still have to have evidence, bring a lawsuit and take ot to the court which takes YEARS. Litigation isn’t a solution for protecting nature.

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