Iowa could do more to avoid flooding by limiting how much rainfall runs off into the state’s rivers and streams, including addressing climate change and expanding grasslands and wetlands to absorb rain where it falls, experts said.
Despite devastating floods in 1993 and 2008, calls by environmentalists and scientists for the state to act to address flooding have often been ignored, The Des Moines Register reported.
Figures show that Iowa’s participation in the federal Conservation Reserve Program, which pays farmers to keep some land in native grasses and out of crop production, has dropped sharply as corn prices have risen over the years.
In 1993, Iowa peaked with 2.2 million acres in the CRP. By 2008, acreage had dipped to 1.8 million. This spring, it stood at just 1.5 million.
“Sadly, it looks as if things are going in the wrong direction right now,” Craig Cox, the Environmental Working Group’s Iowa-based senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources, told the Register. “Landowners can’t do much about how hard it rains, but they can do a lot to keep that water from rushing into streams and triggering flooding downstream.”
Conservation practices like no-till, grass buffers and wetlands to keep water on the land just a bit longer can help more than many people realize, Cox said.
He said that “cutting a few inches off a flood peak can keep a damaging flood from becoming a devastating flood.”
Experts predict the threat of flooding will only grow.
Iowa State University scientist Eugene Takle and colleagues predict a 50 percent increase in Iowa’s stream flows by the 2040s as rainfall increases because of climate change.