Iowa’s climate and terrain are nearly ideal for farming, and more than 90 percent of the land suits the purpose. Much of the land, however, needs to be artificially drained to achieve maximum productivity. Most of this drainage has been accomplished with an extensive network of levees, open ditches, and underground tiles.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimated that as early as 1920 approximately nine million acres of Iowa farm land had been artificially drained or needed to be. It has been said that over 90 percent of the wetlands in the state of Iowa have been drained. The establishment and existence of drainage districts has probably contributed to the draining of the great majority of said wetlands. Drainage districts have drained some wetlands as have individual landowners who acquired outlets from a drainage district and the agricultural economy in the state of Iowa has been greatly enhanced.
The Iowa Legislature first adopted statutes describing and defining a drainage district in about 1890. The Iowa Constitution was amended in 1908 specifically providing drainage districts with the authority necessary to carry out the purposes of drainage districts as provided by statute. Drainage districts have the right of eminent domain to acquire lands for the public purpose of establishing and maintaining drainage district facilities.
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