Location: Near Rockwell City, Calhoun County, Iowa
Featuring: Ben Sulzberger and Lexi, students, Ames High School
“These wetlands created extremely rich soil,” Ben observes, “which farmers desire, but they can’t plant in what is essentially a swamp so they continuously drain this land to lower the water table for their corn and soybeans to grow. It’s estimated that 9 million acres in Iowa have been drained for agriculture.”
Students at Iowa’s Ames High School wanted to learn more about their water, so they spent a year traveling around their state to learn about water use. This is what they learned about the use of drainage ditches in Iowa: Iowa used to have a lot of wetlands, which are low-lying areas saturated with water, carved by glaciers that used to cover much of the state. These wetlands created extremely rich soil that is desirable to farmers. However, farmers cannot plant directly into what is essentially a swamp, so they continuously drain the land, using a drainage ditch, in order to lower the water table so that their corn and soybeans (staples of Iowa agriculture) can grow. It is estimated that nine million acres of farmland in Iowa are drained wetlands.