Gov. Kim Reynolds has created an interesting distraction from Iowa’s dirty water problem.

Instead of directly confronting the issue, which is increasingly a national embarrassment, she’s proposed a contest for Iowans to create videos promoting water.

Suggested examples include showcasing a “water park, water balloon fights, natural lakes and streams, water used for business or agriculture.”

The governor wants Iowans to create two-minute videos featuring water and send them to the Iowa Finance Authority by Sept. 30.

The Finance Authority is an odd choice to run this or any contest. Regardless, Finance Authority employees will screen the videos for appropriate content, which presumably means no references to dirty water. Then they’ll put them online, where Iowans can vote for the best video.

The group with the winning video will receive a specially designed wrap for its local water tower.

All of this seems harmless, and I know the goal is to promote community pride.

Still, I can’t help but think it will backfire when people realize the contest ignores Iowa’s serious water quality issues. Those problems are evident to anyone who lives in or near Iowa or the Gulf of Mexico’s “dead zone” where farm chemicals from Iowa and other agricultural states kill marine life.

We are at the point where many of Iowa’s water attractions, including once popular lakes, streams and reservoirs, are not fit for human or pet use during much of the summer because of toxins associated with blue-green algae, a byproduct of farm chemical runoff. It’s also becoming increasingly expensive to clean up water for public consumption.

Iowa’s water problems don’t just go back years or decades, they go back generations.

We don’t like to admit it, but Iowans have been fouling the waters in this state and every place downstream since at least the 1950s.

We didn’t do it on purpose.

Our original intentions were honorable. We were told that our job was to feed the world, and we tried to do it the best way we could.

But at some point we learned that the good we were doing with more potent fertilizers and stronger pesticides was polluting the water.

As was the waste from animals we fed with those crops.

For far too long, we refused to admit that farming was slowly ruining our water. And even after we acknowledged the problems, we believed the same science that increased yields would eventually clean up our mess.

But it hasn’t.

Today, we pretty much know what’s needed, but we don’t have the will or the money to fix the problem.

To our credit, Iowa voters created a funding mechanism nine years ago when 62% approved a constitutional amendment requiring that the first 3/8ths of a cent of the next sales tax increase go into a trust fund dedicated to specific outdoor recreation uses, including improving water quality.

But the gutless wonders leading the Iowa Legislature refused to take the next step and implement the tax that would raise an estimated $188 million a year, which is several times what is currently being spent on the problem.

In fact, the nonprofit Iowa Environmental Council recently estimated that the current rate of change will require “hundreds to thousands of years” to clean up Iowa’s water.

Meanwhile, Iowa limps along spending peanuts and asking reluctant farmers to bear much of the cost by voluntarily adopting land management practices designed to fix the problem.

But give Gov. Reynolds credit. With her water video contest, she’s figured out how to put a little lipstick on Iowa’s water-quality pig.