ABOUT THE CONSERVATION INFRASTRUCTURE INITIATIVE
Economic Drivers and Market-Based Solutions
The Conservation Infrastructure (CI) initiative aims to harness economic drivers and market-based solutions to find more cost-effective ways to improve water quality
Vision – We envision a prosperous, sustainable and resilient Iowa with HEALTHY SOIL AND WATER and ECONOMICALLY VIBRANT COMMUNITIES that is recognized as THE national leader in both agriculture and conservation.
Definition of Success - Conservation practices are economically compelling and easier for farmers and landowners to implement. Increased investments in conservation practices that lead to healthy soil and improved water quality for the benefits of all Iowans and downstream communities.
View CI Executive Summary
Rapid Acceleration in the Investment and Adoption of Conservation Practices
Since the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy (NRS) was developed in 2013, there has been a rapid acceleration in the investment and adoption of conservation practices to improve water quality. While it is important to note the significant work to date through the efforts of individual farmers and landowners and the public support to help make these numbers a reality, it is equally important to focus on the need for even greater advances in the future.
The 2017 Iowa NRS Progress Report set the vision by saying, “While many programs are in place to further the NRS, there is great need for developing other opportunities and investments that will support the enormous level of scaling-up that is required.”
Leaders in Iowa recognized the public and private infrastructure issues (i.e., physical, financial, human, communications, technical and leadership) required to increase the pace and scale of conservation practice adoption and other barriers and created the CI initiative to address these and other infrastructure gaps and barriers.
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A History of Progress
For many decades, Iowa’s farmers and landowners have made significant investments in traditional soil and water conservation practices like terraces and waterways that have led to water quality improvements and flood mitigation. The total investment includes substantial public funds, typically in the form of cost-share. These practices are an important part of Iowa’s total conservation infrastructure.
The Iowa Best Management Practices (BMP) Mapping Project
This project produced an initial statewide inventory of selected conservation practices using LiDAR data (detailed topography) and aerial photography. It provides a complete baseline for these practices as of 2007-2010. The total value of the investment in these practices is estimated at $6.2B in today’s dollars. The practices and quantities measured include:
114,000 pond dams
327,900 ac. grassed waterways
506,100 terraces stretching 88,874 miles (enough to wrap around the earth about 3.6 times)
246,100 water and sediment control basins (WASCOBs) stretching 12,555 miles (enough to wrap about halfway around the earth
557,700 ac. of contour buffer strips (total field acres protected by the strips, not just the ac. of grass strips)
109,800 acres of contour strip-cropping
Though designed primarily for in-field soil erosion control and in some cases for flood control, these practices have the effect of limiting the delivery of sediment to our streams, rivers, and lakes. Moreover, control of sediment losses directly relates to reducing the loss of phosphorus in runoff, and the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy, as the bulk of total phosphorus loss to surface water is phosphorus attached to the eroded soil. Additional analysis work is underway to utilize the science of the Iowa NRS to quantify the water quality impacts these practices are having in terms of reduced sediment and phosphorus loads to Iowa streams.
Note: Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Iowa State University GIS Facility, Iowa Nutrient Research & Education Council, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, and the Iowa Nutrient Research Center provided the resources to complete the BMP project.
Maps and additional information can be found here.