The recently exposed water crisis in Griswold, Iowa is just one part of a statewide drinking water tragedy caused by factory farming. It’s time to put a stop to agribusiness’s irresponsible pollution of Iowa’s waterways -- so we’re taking the state to Court.
Griswold's Water Crisis
Griswold’s drinking water supply was contaminated by excessive fertilizer application to the surrounding cropland. Nitrates from chemical fertilizers and animal manure seeped out of the fields, into waterways, and eventually into the community’s drinking water supply. This isn’t only gross, it’s a major threat to public health -- exposure to high levels of nitrates has been linked to cancer, birth defects, and blue baby syndrome.
This sort of unconscionable behavior occurs across the state. Over 200 other community water systems also battle high nitrate levels, and thousands of private wells across the state are contaminated. We should be able to trust that our water is safe to drink, but in Iowa that’s too often not the case.
A Statewide Water Tragedy
Iowa also has over 750 miles of impaired streams, most of which are polluted by industrial agriculture. We can’t safely paddle or swim in many of these rivers and streams -- they’re far too polluted. Algal blooms and beach closures are common. Our ability to use our rivers and streams for recreation has been sacrificed for the benefit of corporate agriculture.
But we believe that clean water is a right. That’s why Food & Water Watch and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement are suing the state of Iowa for failing to protect the public’s right to clean water in the Raccoon River watershed -- a primary drinking water supply for our largest city, Des Moines.
Our Water Rights Lawsuit
Under the “Public Trust Doctrine,” the state of Iowa is required to protect navigable waters for the use and benefit of all Iowans. But rather than enacting a mandatory nutrient reduction strategy to ensure that best practices are being used to reduce agricultural runoff, the state has allowed agribusinesses to run roughshod over our environment with zero accountability. Our lawsuit asks the court to order the state to adopt a mandatory plan to clean up the Raccoon River and to impose a moratorium on new and expanding factory farms in the watershed.
Iowa’s corporate system of agriculture is morally defective. Iowans should not suffer while huge corporations rake in profits at our expense. We should not sacrifice our health, our water, and our quality of life to benefit greedy, polluting corporations. We’re standing up to say no more, and we’re starting in the Raccoon River watershed.
We're Already Winning
Our lawsuit has a long way to go but we already had a first victory. In early September, Polk County District Court Judge Robert Hanson denied the state’s motion to dismiss our case, which puts us one step closer to having our case heard on the merits. The state has responded by asking the Iowa Supreme Court to directly consider whether our case is too political to be decided in the courts, which would stop our lawsuit in its tracks. It’s clear the state does not want its poor record on water quality to be put on trial. But we’ll continue to fight to get our day in court.
It will take all of us to win in this battle against a state government that continues to protect Big Ag profits over the public good. We’re going to continue fighting until we have a food and agriculture system that works for the people of Iowa -- not the corporations. Stand with us by signing on to support a moratorium on factory farms in Iowa today.