American Rivers Has Named Iowa River ‘Most Endangered’ In The Country

April 13, 2021

Our waterways are struggling under the burden of an industry that spews billions of pounds of toxic waste. One river in Iowa that means so much to me is now listed as one of the most endangered in the entire country.

by Emma Schmit

Iowa’s water is in crisis. There are more than 750 hazardous impairments across our state, and most of these impairments can be attributed to one industry. E. coli, MRSA, and toxic levels of nitrates are as much a part of our water in Iowa as hydrogen and oxygen. Where are they coming from? These harmful pathogens and pollutants originate in factory farms. Each year, over 10,000 factory farms across the state produce more than 72 billion pounds of manure. That waste is then spread on acre after acre of cropland, oftentimes in amounts far greater than the soil’s ability to absorb it. From there, the excess runs off into our waters, polluting our drinking water, limiting our ability to recreate on the water, and destroying critical plant and animal habitat.

Today, American Rivers named Iowa’s Raccoon River one of the Most Endangered Rivers in the U.S. The Raccoon River supplies drinking water to over half a million Iowans. Des Moines Water Works, Iowa’s largest water utility, depends on the Raccoon River in order to provide residents of central Iowa with safe drinking water. But industrial agriculture practices are rampant in the watershed. Over 750 factory farms are located in the basin and have put our access to clean water at risk. In order to provide safe drinking water to residents in Iowa’s capital city of Des Moines, the Des Moines Water Works was forced to invest in one of the world’s most expensive nitrate removal systems — a cost borne by ratepayers, not the corporate agribusiness entities responsible for the pollution.


I’ve lived in the Raccoon River Watershed for my entire life. As a child, I fished on the river. As a teenager, I swam in the river. But as an adult, I mourn the river. The memories I hold dear from my own childhood are not experiences I can now share with my child. She can’t catch a fish from a river loaded with harmful pathogens and bacteria. She can’t swim in a river that reeks with the odor of hog manure or that harbors potentially deadly algal outbreaks. The state of Iowa has traded our quality of life, our traditions, and our drinking water for Big Ag’s profit margin. While massive corporations like Tyson rake in billions of dollars by extracting our resources, hollowing out our communities, and influencing our elected officials, the residents of Iowa are left trying to hold the ramshackle pieces of our state together.

This is not what Iowa is meant to be. Our state motto proclaims, “Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain.” Where are our liberties when we can’t even step outside without being assaulted by the noxious odor of hog manure? Where are our rights when we glorify the destruction of our water, communities, and climate for the sake of corporate profit? The state of Iowa has failed us. 

But the people of Iowa haven’t. We might not have bank accounts the size of Big Ag’s. We aren’t able to buy goodwill with community pork loin giveaways. We probably can’t auction off time with the governor. But the power of the people is with us, and we will keep fighting until we win.

For too long, Iowa has turned a blind eye to the impacts of Big Ag. Today, we’re calling on the EPA to address the impacts of factory farm pollution on Iowa’s water. EPA has delegated authority to regulate the state’s factory farms to Iowa’s Department of Natural Resources, but IDNR has clearly failed us. EPA must step in to reduce the harms the factory farm industry has on the Raccoon River and all of Iowa’s waterways. Join us in the fight for clean water by urging the EPA to address the impacts of factory farm pollution on Iowa’s water.


Trump Wants To Enable Factory Fish Farms, Wreaking Havoc On Our Oceans

October 19, 2020

Trump Wants To Enable Factory Fish Farms, Wreaking Havoc On Our Oceans

Our oceans and food supply are at risk due to recently introduced legislation that would open federally-controlled waters to large-scale open ocean aquaculture, or factory fish farms. Here’s how you can help.

By Melody College

Open ocean aquaculture may sound harmless, but it’s really just another term for dangerous, industrialized, large-scale factory fish farms. These facilities damage wild ecosystems, threaten coastal economies and rob local fishing communities of their livelihoods. 

That’s why Food & Water Action is calling Congress out and demanding it to protect local communities by stopping corporations from taking over our oceans for their own profit.

Send a message to your Members of Congress asking them to reject factory fish farms.  

Trump’s Executive Order Slashes Environmental Review And Regulations For Fish Farms

In May, Trump issued an executive order aimed at slashing regulatory protections and environmental reviews of factory fish farms. For years, federal agencies have been pushing factory fish farms in federal waters, even though they know the harm those facilities will cause. In fact, we had to file a federal lawsuit and get a U.S. Court of Appeals to declare that it was unlawful for the government to give industrial fish farms everyday permits. Now some members of Congress want to give fish farmers a pass.

Open ocean fish farms wreak havoc on everything around them:

  • They pollute. Waste, excess food, antibiotics and other chemicals pollute ocean water, promoting algae growth that leads to habitat loss and the destruction of sea life.
  • They spread disease. Outbreaks of diseases and parasites can spread to wild fish populations, killing them or making them unsafe for consumption. 
  • The fish escape. Approximately three million fish escape every year from fish farms, pushing non-native species into the ecosystem and disrupting Indigenous fisheries.
  • They harm fishing communities. Factory fish farms eliminate fishing jobs by undercutting wild fish prices. This means lost jobs in coastal communities. 

Join The Indigenous Nations And Local Communities In Fighting Factory Fish Farms

Despite the hype from agribusinesses and industrial fish companies, it’s clear that factory fish farms solve zero problems and create a whole lot of new ones. Allowing open ocean aquaculture in U.S. waters would make our food less safe and damage our oceans.

The wild-capture fishing industry, Indigenous nations and local communities are already speaking out against this bill. Let’s stand with them. We can’t let this threat to our oceans and food system moving forward. 

Take action now to tell your Members of Congress to protect our oceans and fishing communities.


Our Grassroots Brigade Is Taking Action On Coronavirus

March 20, 2020
 Climate Democracy Water
In times of crisis, we look to our leaders to take bold actions to protect us. Food & Water Action has built the organizing power and our members are using it to push those leaders and protect people. 

When the coronavirus started sweeping the world, we understood that one of the crucial underpinnings of our work would be a huge focus — access to water. We also knew that fossil fuel corporations would try to use this moment as an opportunity to enrich themselves. 

We quickly started planning a two-pronged approach with one simple idea: it’s time to protect people over profit. 

Without Water, How Can You Stop A Virus?

You can’t stop the spread of disease if millions are unable to wash their hands. It is that simple. 

Though we’ve fought over the years to shed light on the water shutoff crisis in America and to combat it, the start of the COVID-19 crisis has been a crucial time for us to double down on our work. 

That’s why we’re demanding a national ban on water shutoffs in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Because of all the hard work of our organizers, members, allies and other across the country in the last two weeks:

  • 13,223 people have co-signed our demand for a national ban on water shutoffs
  • 289 municipalities and states have stopped water shutoffs
  • More than 128 million Americans have been protected because of these actions

It is work like this that makes us proud of our members and our team. You can add your name now, too


Help Food & Water Action ban water shutoffs to protect the public from coronavirus.

Hey Fossil Fuels! Get Your Hands Off The Taxpayers’ Emergency Funds

Predictably, as the need for travel plummeted and sunk the already flailing profits of the oil and gas industry to new lows, billionaire fossil fuel execs started cozying up to Trump hoping for a government handout. 

Relief money belongs to the taxpayers — to everyday Americans who are sacrificing so much to stop the pandemic — and it needs to go to initiatives like economic stimulus packages, tests for sick Americans, and vaccine research. The last thing the taxpayers need is to subsidize an industry whose business is already putting us in danger by depleting our water, poisoning our air and soil, and contributing to climate change. 

That’s why we quickly acted to send a message to Congress: No Bailout For Fossil Fuel Companies! 

15,736 of our members agree, and the number is growing by the day. Will you sign on?


The Moment Is Here To Work Harder Than Ever To Protect People

We’ve been growing Food & Water Action’s team and membership for 15 years. We’ve seen a lot of wins, and we’ve developed scrappy, smart strategies to defeat the corporations that want to steer our legislators. 

Everything we’ve learned in these fights has brought us to this moment, when we are all able to band together and be truly useful in the fight to protect the public from disease and opportunistic predators like the fossil fuel corporations. 

Will you join us by making a monthly donation so we can continue this imperative work to protect our food, water, and climate?


Fight like you live here. 

We Banned Fracking. So Why Does New York Accept Fracking Waste?

February 10, 2020
 Climate Water

A shocking Rolling Stone investigation uncovered the radioactive dangers of fracking waste. Now a new bill aims to close the dangerous oil and gas loophole.

Five years ago, a huge grassroots movement, led in part by Food & Water Watch, stopped fracking in New York state. That much you probably know.

But did you know that a loophole in state law exempts oil and gas waste from the normal testing of hazardous materials? That means that in the past decade, over 650,000 tons and 23,000 barrels of oil and gas waste from Pennsylvania has been disposed of in New York landfills. Leachate from those landfills can contaminate nearby rivers and streams, some of which can be drinking water sources.

Fracking is depleting our water faster than initially known.

We need to change that. And we have the legislation to get the job done right now.


Fracking Is A Public Health Threat

Fracking and drilling waste threaten our water and public health. An explosive investigation in Rolling Stone magazine shed some light on the dangers posed by this waste stream, which is being dumped into landfills, trucked hundreds of miles across several states, and even used as a de-icer or a dust suppressant on roads.

We banned fracking because it was a threat to New York. The waste created by fracking is extremely dangerous too; it can contain carcinogenic chemicals like benzene and formaldehyde, and includes radioactive materials as well.

Help Get Dirty Fracking Waste Out Of New York

Hundreds of organizations across New York signed a letter to state legislators urging swift passage of S.3392/A.2655. Now we need you to join the fight to keep dirty fracking waste out of New York. 


Congress Betrays American Public By Gutting Forever Chemical Action from NDAA

December 6, 2019

Passing the WATER Act Is Now More Important Than Ever

Washington D.C. – Politico reports that in the face of Senate Republican opposition, House Democrats have dropped their bid to include two vital pieces of per- and polyfluorinated compounds (PFASs) regulation in the annual must-pass National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This comes on the same day that the new film chronicling a 20-year judicial battle against DuPont, ‘Dark Waters,’ releases nationally.

The NDAA provisions would have finally designated PFAS as hazardous substances under the Superfund law, forcing polluters to pay to clean up the worst contamination, and would have set an enforceable limit for PFAS in drinking water.

In response, Food & Water Action Public-Water-For-All Director Mary Grant said:

“The exclusion of these provisions would be a betrayal to the American people. Congress has effectively sacrificed the health of our children, communities, and environment by removing these PFAS regulations from the NDAA. We know that American voters want action on PFAS now — across the country, states one by one are cracking down on PFAS contamination — but without federal action, thousands of communities across the country will continue to face toxic chemicals in our food and water.

“In the face of such inaction, it is now more critical than ever that Congress pass the Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity and Reliability (WATER) Act to help states and communities remove these toxics on their own. The WATER Act would provide the funding needed to improve our nation’s water and sewer systems. We’re not giving up and we’ll be watching each and every member of Congress. It’s time to step up, cosponsor the WATER Act and take the urgent action needed to ensure safe water for all.”


Baltimore City Passes Monumental Water Affordability and Equity Bill

November 18, 2019

After banning privatization, Baltimore once again leads in water justice

Today, the Baltimore City Council voted unanimously to pass the Water Accountability and Equity Act, a sweeping overhaul of the city’s outdated water billing system. It sets up a percentage-of-income affordability program for low-income households, a customer advocate’s office with a mission of promoting fairness to customers, and a structure for appealing high bills and other problems commonly faced by customers. Mayor Bernard “Jack” Young introduced the bill last December when he was city council president and plans to sign the bill into law.

Baltimore has become the second city after Philadelphia to set up a percentage-of-income water affordability program. Detroit and Chicago are considering similar legislative efforts, and as the nation’s water affordability crisis deepens, other communities will likely pursue this model.

“Baltimore has shown its commitment to being a leader for water equity in this country,” said Rianna Eckel, Senior Organizer Food & Water Action. “In November 2018, Baltimore became the first major city to ban water privatization, and with that vote, the city committed itself to a public solution for its growing water billing issues. This legislation is the culmination of years of efforts to improve the public system. The new percentage-of-income water affordability program will tackle our city’s water crisis head on and ensure all Baltimoreans have access to affordable water. ”

“I am committed to ensuring their successful implementation to make our water system work better for all Baltimoreans,” said Mayor Jack Young. 

“This legislation is focused on structural change — on accountability and transparency within the Department of Public Works,” said City Council President Brandon Scott.