The water quality talk in Iowa continues to amp up even if the Iowa Legislature declined to do much last session and a federal judge threw out Des Moines Water Works’ effort to force action through the Clean Water Act.

And despite the stripping of state funding for the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, which still exists, there is plenty of research into new and old ideas to reduce the amount of pollution going into waterways. 

For example, Keith Schilling and Chris Jones of the University of Iowa, along with graduate student Bryce Haines, are looking into the cleansing power of oxbows — those winding parts of streams that sometimes get cut off, forming a pond. Iowa Environmental Focus reports that oxbows were seen as great pollution buffers before Iowa lands were widely drained for crop fields. Schilling and Haines hope to measure how restored oxbows could reduce contamination headed for waterways. Schilling reported in an earlier study in the Boone River watershed that an oxbow reduced nitrate pollution by 
45 percent.

“Oxbows can provide a triple benefit of habitat, flood storage and stream water quality enhancement,” Jones said, “And all for not much money.”