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The Science of Improving Iowa’s Water Quality

Means, Ends and Granfalloons

Posted on July 18th, 2021

“ ‘Shut up,’ he explained.”—Ring Lardner I get asked with some regularity about pushback on these essays—do I get any? The answer is less than what most people would expect. I did get some about four months ago from what many would consider a person of influence. This was reported in the media about 10 […]

Crap and Trade

Posted on July 7th, 2021

Some of you may have seen the op-ed that Dr. Jones and I wrote for the Des Moines Register regarding the Gov. Reynolds’ carbon task force. You may have also seen that the US senate passed the Growing Climate Solutions Act, which will use public funds to create certification programs for agriculture and forestry “markets”. […]

The Swine and the Swill

Posted on June 29th, 2021

The physicist Edward Teller emigrated to the United States from Hungary in the 1930s and played an integral role in the Manhattan Project. He later derived the principles behind the hydrogen bombs that make up much of our present nuclear arsenal. Teller was also known for his irascible personality and political conservatism, and his testimony […]

Des Moines River Discharge Anomaly

Posted on June 25th, 2021

Big rains over the past couple of days in southeast Iowa have produced a curious anomaly: today the Des Moines River is bigger than the Iowa portion of the Mississippi River. As I write this, the flow on the Des Moines River at Keosauqua is 56,900 cubic feet per second, while the flow of the […]

Take this stream and shove it

Posted on June 19th, 2021

You may have heard that another lawsuit concerning the Raccoon River was dismissed by the Iowa Supreme Court. This latest one, pink-slipped in a 4-3 decision, was filed by Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Food and Water Watch. They asserted that the State of Iowa had violated the public trust doctrine, meaning the citizens […]

Raccoon River discharge: 2021 vs other drought years

Posted on June 17th, 2021

There’s been some news lately about the low flows on the Raccoon River and the impacts on the Des Moines Water Supply. I have a lot of this sort of data at my fingertips for this watershed, so here is a short piece. In terms of river discharge, the two lowest (least flow) years were […]


Posted on June 9th, 2021

“The dramatic threat of ecological breakdown is teaching us the extent to which greed and selfishness, both individual and collective, are contrary to the order of creation.”  Pope John Paul II. Polk County is one out of 99 in Iowa, but one in six Iowans live there, and about one in four are there on […]

Iowa Rivers 1 to 45: The Fair, the Marginal & the Ugly

Posted on May 27th, 2021

This turkey is going to take a long time to bake and my guess is the title makes you hungry, so I’ll let you have a small piece of pie for now. The list below ranks 45 Iowa stream sites for water quality, top to bottom, over the last five years (2016-20). A good story […]

Grading on a Curve

Posted on May 6th, 2021

More than three years ago now I published a paper with colleagues Jacob Nielsen, Keith Schilling and Larry Weber titled Iowa stream nitrate and the Gulf of Mexico. This paper appeared in the journal PLOS ONE which is an open access journal, meaning anyone can read it for free. Here is the link. In that […]

Wake Up and Smell the Manure

Posted on May 5th, 2021

Note: this piece was co-written with Professors Silvia Secchi (University of Iowa) and Benjamin Maas (presently Buena Vista University but soon leaving for South Dakota) and was run in the Iowa City Press Citizen on April 21. The Press Citizen gave me permission to post it here. This isn’t the exact manuscript we submitted to […]