Eastern Iowa Airport launches crowdfunding campaign for water quality projects

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) -- The Eastern Iowa Airport launched a fundraising effort Tuesday to fund water quality projects in both Linn and Johnson County.

The Eastern Iowa Airport is leading an initiative called Wings 2 Water, with the goal of improving water quality locally and globally (Aaron Hosman/KCRG)

The airport currently farms over 2,000 acres in an environmentally friendly way. That is one of the motivators that led to Wings 2 Water, a water quality initiative. Airport officials said they hope other airports across the county adopt similar plans.

“Really, it’s all about a grassroots effort to drive at this issue and begin to make a difference," Marty Lenss, director of the Eastern Iowa Airport, said. "Let’s quit talking about it and get stuff done."

The effort raises money through the airport to support environmental conservation projects in both Linn and Johnson County.

Wings 2 Water aims to reduce nutrient runoff, restore local water quality and eliminate the so-called "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico. The dead zone is an uninhabitable area of water in the Gulf of Mexico caused by nutrient pollution.

“Right now, we’re losing a lot of soils and the contaminants that go with those soils into our rivers, streams and other bodies of water and so one of our key components is to trap those sediments on our landscape, allow our plant communities to utilize those nutrients,” Brad Freidhof, member of the Johnson County Conservation Board, said.

The Wings 2 Water initiative starts inside the airport. When one of the nearly three million passengers that utilize the airport attempts to connect to Wi-Fi there, they must first watch a short video on the importance of water quality. Passengers can also round up to donate on purchases inside the airport or donate online.

“As soon as you click donate now, it takes you to either Johnson or Linn County, so the dollars, one hundred percent of that donation goes to those counties for the two projects that are listed under each county,” Lenss said.

The Eastern Iowa Airport is located in the Cedar and Iowa watershed which eventually leads into the Mississippi River watershed. Lenss said he hopes the other 185 airports within the Mississippi watershed join their effort.

"If we can roll this network, Wings 2 Water, out within that watershed through airports and our natural marketplace terminal, we can really make improvements towards ultimately the Mississippi and the dead zone goal,” Lenss said.

Freidhof said the effects of polluted water runoff are not just a local problem and have national consequences.

“This isn’t a 'you,' this isn’t a 'me,' this is an 'us' type of initiative," Freidhof said. "All of us are impacted by water quality, drinking water, recreation areas and so it takes an effort by all of us to improve water quality so we can all enjoy it."

Wings 2 Water has a $250,000 dollar goal to fund conservation projects in Linn and Johnson County this year. They announced on Tuesday that, through donations, they’ve raised over $130,000 dollars.