Iowa's Low Hanging Fruit

Stream Buffer Rule = Cleaner Water, Little Cost

February 3, 2015

Iowa's Low Hanging Fruit: Most Landowners Would Not Be Affected

Meeting streamside buffer standards for all the waterways EWG assessed would affect only a small percentage of landowners in the five counties. Even implementing a 75-foot standard would affect only 13 percent of landowners (Table 4). Meeting a 35-foot standard would affect only 8 percent.

Table 4: Percent of landowners affected by each possible standard

County Percent of all landowners affected Percent of landowners with cropland along streams affected
35-foot 50-foot 75-foot 35-foot 50-foot 75-foot
Plymouth 13% 15% 17% 67% 77% 86%
Linn 6% 8% 10% 22% 33% 42%
Hamilton 6% 8% 10% 27% 36% 46%
Union 9% 13% 16% 31% 45% 57%
Allamakee 4% 8% 11% 18% 35% 45%
Total 8% 11% 13% 34% 46% 56%

Of course, a buffer standard would affect a larger percentage of those landowners who actually own cropland adjacent to streams and rivers, ranging from 34 percent to meet a 35-foot standard to 56 percent to meet a 75-foot standard. Far more Plymouth County streamside landowners would be affected, reflecting the poor state of current streamside buffers in that county.

Even more striking, fully 85 percent of all affected landowners across all five counties would need to convert only an acre or less of cropland to meet the 35-foot standard (Table 5). Converting a single acre or less would enable 71 percent of landowners to meet a 50-foot standard and 54 percent to meet a 75-foot requirement. The average landowner in EWG’s analysis controlled more than 125 acres.

Table 5. Percentage of unique owners who could meet each standard by converting a given number of acres

Additional Streamside Buffer Acres Needed to Meet Each Standard 35 ft. 50 ft. 75 ft.
0.01-0.25 acres 56% 43% 27%
0.26-0.5 acres 13% 14% 13%
0.51-1 acres 16% 14% 14%
1.01-2 acres 10% 15% 14%
2.01-3 acres 3% 7% 10%
3.01-4 acres 1% 3% 7%
4.01-5 acres 0% 2% 4%
more than 5 acres 0% 2% 10%