The state government has released its latest data on achieving the voluntary goals set by the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy — the state’s main machinery to address significant water quality problems. As state lawmakers continue to debate raising the sales tax to increase money for conservation and cleanup work — beyond the money-shuffling they did from existing accounts previously — the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship focused on what it considered good news. The strategy has been regularly blasted by environmental groups because it is, in their view, unenforceable, underfunded and ineffective.

Here’s what state staffers liked about 2018: 

— $512 million in private and public spending on related projects. 

— Lawmakers set aside $270 million for conservation practices and wastewater treatment upgrades over the next 12 years.

— The Iowa Nutrient Research Center at Iowa State University has funded $8.7 million for 76 research projects at the state universities. 

— So far, 125 of the 154 municipal wastewater plants and industrial facilities required to assess their nutrient removal capacity have new permits, and 82 have feasibility studies on improvements.

— The Conservation Infrastructure Initiative has discussed market-based programs and new funding for water quality work.

— Statewide estimates indicate 760,000 acres of cover crops were planted in 2017, including 330,000 acres enrolled in government cost share programs. The state has 26 million acres of cropland. 

— One of the most popular initiatives, the federal Conservation Reserve Program, has enrolled 200,000 more acres in Iowa since 2011.