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The Science of Improving Iowa’s Water Quality

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 […]

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Posted on April 26th, 2021

Recently someone in my peer group publicly stated that “I counsel students if they conduct research for an academic institution (to) avoid advocacy related to their professional focus. Your research will become biased or perceived as such and you lose credibility.” Now this statement, mind you, comes from a person who some might say has […]


Posted on March 28th, 2021

Note: this post was written by Professor Silvia Secchi. Some of the farmer data presented here may seem to be slightly different from my (CJ) last post. Neither of us is wrong; rather, it relates to a distinction USDA makes between “primary” and “principal” producer.  There was a recent New Yorker article that really irritated […]

Environmental Injustice

Posted on March 22nd, 2021

Using 2017 data (1), USDA has identified 86,104 people as the “primary producer” (e.g., farmer) on Iowa farms. Of these folks, 378 (0.4%) identified as of Hispanic origin, 45 (<0.1%) as Native American, 64 (<0.1%) as Asian, 40 (<0.1%) as African American, 6 (<0.1%) as Pacific Islander, and 85,827 (99.7%) as white. Of these white […]

Big Pollution

Posted on March 7th, 2021

It’s always been in the best interests of the ag industry to make nutrient pollution seem mysteriously complex. After all, complex problems rarely lend themselves well to simple solutions. Complex problems require lots and lots of time and money to solve, and the bigger the problem, the more likely the taxpayer is going to be […]