News & Publications

New Sand County Foundation Project Will Work to Advance Clean Water Collaborations in Iowa and Illinois

Furthering upstream-downstream partnerships in the Mississippi River Basin is the goal of a new project spearheaded by Sand County Foundation.

Recreational bodies of water plagued by algae, and drinking water contaminated with nitrates and cyanotoxins can be improved when businesses and municipalities collaborate with farmers to reduce pollution running off farms.  

“There are creative ways to achieve federal Clean Water Act goals by forging partnerships between municipalities, businesses and farmers,” said Kevin McAleese, Sand County Foundation President and CEO. “This project will examine how a successful model in Wisconsin can be adapted in Illinois and Iowa to improve water quality.” 

Jamie Konopacky has joined Sand County Foundation’s staff as Senior Attorney and Watershed Policy Specialist to lead this effort.  

“Frameworks for watershed collaboration in Iowa and Illinois need to be tailored to the unique physical and policy landscapes in those states. For example, instead of narrowly focusing on using watershed projects to implement Total Maximum Daily Loads, projects in other states may focus on using these projects to meet goals outlined in their state Nutrient Reduction Strategies, provide regulatory certainty to municipalities and industry and advance voluntary conservation on agricultural lands,” Konopacky explained. 

“Ultimately, we hope to help these states identify opportunities for watershed partnerships and create a replicable framework for municipalities, businesses and farmers to cooperate. This will help restore local water quality and begin to address the Gulf of Mexico’s dead zone,” she added. 

Sand County Foundation is a national non-profit organization that specializes in collaborative efforts to enhance conservation of soil, water and wildlife habitat. It has a long history of working with farmers, ranchers, and other private landowners in voluntary conservation practices on working agricultural land. 

Konopacky joins Sand County Foundation having recently completed a post-doctoral fellowship in watershed policy at the Harvard Environmental Policy Initiative. While at Harvard, she published on state, regional and federal water policy. Konopacky also worked on the 2018 Farm Bill reauthorization, focusing on incorporating a strong watershed focus into the farm bill’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program. The Wisconsin native began her water quality work at Godfrey & Kahn in Milwaukee where she advised businesses and municipal sewage treatment plants on creative Clean Water Act compliance options.