Iowa’s Huge Population Problem

Update: Chris Jones updated some details about the population and fecal waste issues. Please follow this link for his post 50 Shades of Brown.


My state of Iowa has a human population of 3.16 million (2018). Demographics are here. Des Moines is the most populous city with over 210,000 residents, then Cedar Rapids (130,405) and Davenport (102,582). The rest of the state is mostly small towns and rural. The many river and stream watersheds are outlined in the following image with the human population noted.

Dan Gilles | Water Resources Engineer | Iowa Flood Center

Why do I say the state has a huge population problem? It is because of the large numbers of animals grown in these watersheds. There are about 20-24 million hogs, 250,000 dairy cattle, 1.8 million beef cattle, 80 million laying chickens, and 4.7 million turkeys. Not included are the sheep, goats, horses, deer or Canada geese. These animals create a heavy burden on the water quality of the rivers and streams in the many watersheds around the state. All of which feed into the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers bounding our west and east coastlines.

The University of Iowa Institute of Hydraulic Research in Hydroscience & Engineering (IIHR) helps understand the demands on the water flow throughout the state. It helps engineer solutions to the problems encountered in keeping our waters safe. Water quality engineer Chris Jones recently examined the nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and total solid matter (TS) of the animal wastes and compared them to equivalent human N, P, and TS levels. His results were published in his blog and were astounding. Please read his post for the details.

The impact of all those animals raised in Iowa was equivalent to a human population of 134 million people. That ranks our state as the 10th most populous ‘nation’ compared to humans alone, behind Russia and ahead of Mexico. To make his point, he put various equivalent human population centers of the world within the watershed boundaries. It is no wonder our rivers and streams are suffering from critical levels of runoff.

Chris Jones | Water Resources Engineer | IIHR

Chris Jones was not trying to pass judgement upon the livestock industry. It is a mainstay in our economy. He says it is important for leaders in the state to examine environmental outcomes along with the economic and regulatory considerations of the industry. I agree.

Tornado Funnel Cloud

We headed home late in the afternoon after visiting our daughters in southeast Iowa. A small thunderstorm was leaving the area we drove north of the town of Mt. Pleasant. We hadn’t paid attention to the weather notices since we were busy visiting. A severe storm watch had been issued. This small storm looked quite energetic. I remarked how the trailing part of a storm is often where funnel or tornado activity originates. Thank you spotter training 101. In all my years of watching weather, I have not seen a tornado in real time.

Funnel

We approached the rear of the storm as we drove north. The arrow in this radar map shows our location. The sky was bright to the west and dark to the east. A few cloud formations appeared low to the northwest. I was not driving the car and watched one funnel shape in particular. It was small and rotating very fast. We pulled to the side of the road to avoid driving into the path of it in case it got to the ground. It broke up.

We drove another mile and watched the same cloud form another funnel. This one was larger and longer. We pulled off the main highway to a side road for a better and safer view. The funnel was but a half mile away, still to our northwest. Full screen gives a more detailed view.

I called the NWS reporting phone number to give them details on location and movement they need to issue warnings. We watched the storms later as they moved into Illinois. Some storms caused heavy rains and hail. Extensive tornado damage occurred in the small town of Cameron about 30 miles east of where we watched this funnel.

Castor Bean | Hard Freeze | Update 6

Our View From Iowa

Links to the Original post, Update 1, and Updates 2 and 3, 4, and 5


It was bound to happen. Cold air from the north arrived recently and killed the once tall and strong castor bean plant. It looked so sad. It will not regrow in the spring. I will see if the seeds are viable.

20141107_085035 November 8, 2014

The seeds never quite fully ripened. The prickly pods contain 3 in each. A few were starting to split. I cut off the long stalk of them for a closer look. Plus, they will be destroyed and not put out to the environment for animals or children to access. They are toxic.

2014_1107_03 Click to embiggen

Here are some close views of a seed pod followed by photos of the 3 seeds compartments and one of a seed exposed. I read where the seeds resemble a tick full of blood

View original post 76 more words

Election 2014 | Some Thoughts

French ballot box 2007 | wikimedia

Our team of volunteers was like thousands of others around the country. During the two weekends prior, and during the four days of GOTV November 1-4, we sent out canvassers to knock on doors. We reminded people of their early voting opportunities and of the need to return their absentee ballots if they had one. We sent canvassers at 9, 12, 3, and 6. Some returned to our staging location with absentee ballots which we gave to our county auditor that day or the next.

Ours is a heavily Democratic county. Our tally of votes during the general election would help our candidates running statewide for U.S. Senate and Congress. The countywide results after the election showed our Democratic candidates received twice as many votes as their Republican opponents. We did our job well. Statewide, the results were disappointing for the Democrats. Iowa is a rural and conservative state with three or four pockets of liberal and progressive voters like most of those in our county. Voter turnout in general was low.

My role as a volunteer was to train canvassers to do their job politely and effectively. They were greeted after their shifts and asked about their experiences, positive and negative. Most people were not home. Some could be seen inside and chose not to answer the door.

There was a small amount of positive feedback from voters who appreciated the information. However, negative feedback was most common. Top on the list was how sick and tired they were of the long and non-stop negative campaign. Television and radio ads attacking each candidate were wearing the patience very thin on the voters we contacted. They also had complaints about the number of phone calls they had received. They were very eager for it to stop.

What was conspicuously missing from nearly all of the positive or negative feedback was any discussion about current important issues faced by the country. They weren’t discussed in the political ads. Instead, those ads attacked and took much out of context. The voters were fed up and disgusted. They were opting out of participation in the democratic process.

This isn’t a new problem. But, it does seem particularly intense now. Voters see their communities and neighborhoods made up of people from different walks of life, different cultures, education, religions, races, sexual orientations, etc. They generally get along. When problems arise, the people work toward a solution. Some progress is made. It isn’t perfect. But, there is an attempt to look past differences to try to reach compromise and make life better for the residents now, and in the future. They don’t understand or accept that politicians in Washington D.C. and statehouses are so dysfunctional. The voters are angry.

Another very large part of the negative feedback we heard was about the enormous amounts of money spent on negative campaign ads. Voters feels their voice is not important any more. They don’t feel their vote carries much weight and so choose to tune out. They feel they cannot compete with the dollars spent by secret groups and individuals. So, why bother trying?

This is a very serious problem. Our founders envisioned a republic supported by we, the people. The people we heard from don’t feel they are as significant as the powerful dollars spent by special interests. It seems to them a losing proposition. I watched a video on TED this week by Lawrence Lessig in which he specifically addressed this financing issue in 2013. This problem can be fixed. It is a problem which is easier to solve than many others our country has faced and solved. But, it will require major changes by everyone. I invite you to watch and comment.

Election 2014 | Getting Out The Vote

Communities all across the U.S. have elections this coming Tuesday Nov. 4. My state of Iowa is electing a governor and a senator. We will also elect a member of congress from our district. There are races for many other state and local offices and some ballot questions to decide.

Both Melanie and I are volunteering with our Democratic party Saturday through Tuesday to Get Out The Vote – GOTV. We have also been helping before these final days. There are thousands upon thousands of citizens who are doing this all across the country. They come from both major political parties. I think this is the correct grass-roots way.

The overwhelming amounts of BIG donations coming from undisclosed donors is destroying our system where each common person feels their vote counts as much as the next. People feel their voice does not count any more. They are losing interest and are fed up and angry with government. I feel campaign financing reform should eliminate all donations like those. That is an issue for another post.

Control of the senate hinges on the outcomes of only a few states where there are competitive races. Iowa has one of those races. Our long time senator, Tom Harkin, is retiring. Many of us are supporting current congressman, Bruce Braley, to be his replacement. Today, I visited the FiveThirtyEight blog by Nate Silver to see what the current projections look like in those competitive races. Our Iowa race is within a point based on his polling.

Races

FiveThirtyEight

For the final four days, volunteers will be visiting the homes of potential voters and calling them to see if they have voted. If we find they have actually voted based upon official records, that night we will strike their name from the list. We won’t ask them the next day.

Early voting is widely available in Iowa. Past history shows many take advantage of early voting in our county, which is a Democratic stronghold. We are looking for every possible vote for our candidates in order to have election results in our favor.