About the NRS
Iowa adopted a statewide Nutrient Reduction Strategy (NRS) in 2013 to satisfy U.S. EPA policy to address nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus) pollution. The goal of the NRS is to reduce Iowa’s nutrient pollution by 45%. Responsibility for NRS implementation is divided between three state agencies: Iowa State University (research and data analysis), the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (point source pollution reduction), and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (nonpoint source pollution reduction).
The NRS includes required actions for point sources of nutrient pollution, such as wastewater treatment plants and drinking water systems, but only voluntary measures for agriculture. Nutrient pollution is primarily from nonpoint sources – 92% of nitrogen and 80% of phosphorus. The largest nonpoint source in Iowa is from fertilizer and manure application to farm fields. This voluntary policy, pushed by the agriculture industry, has not led to widespread or even noticeable water quality improvements. Iowans have suffered the consequences, ranging from the increased risk of serious health issues, like cancer, to unsafe recreational waters.
Based on the failure of the voluntary policy, the state must revise its approach to make progress. Creating widespread behavior change and adoption of conservation practices on the landscape to curb nutrient pollution will require changes in state policy.