DES MOINES, Iowa — Despite a spate of heavy rains and flooding in recent years, Iowa officials have little idea how much it would cost to protect homes, schools, factories and infrastructure, let alone how to pay for it.

Iowa cities and towns have compiled $1.4 billion in plans to protect themselves from flooding, according to the Des Moines Register ( ). The plans call for buying homes and businesses near rivers, building levees and flood walls, and better protecting utilities.

But the state hasn’t aggressively pushed for wetlands, detention ponds and other upstream structures that can significantly reduce flooding risks.

Iowa state Sen. Rob Hogg, a Cedar Rapids Democrat, said some lawmakers have discussed the need, but the message got lost amid intense budget fights over education, health care and other funding needs.

“If you can’t reach agreement over funding the basics, it’s really hard to get to the next level, to discuss funding water management,” Hogg said.

Iowa researchers are assessing the impact of upstream flood mitigation efforts and determining the costs, said Larry Weber, director of the University of Iowa’s Institute of Hydraulic Research —Hydroscience & Engineering.

But work to reduce flooding has taken a back seat as the state focuses on finding money for water quality. Des Moines Water Works has filed a lawsuit against three northern Iowa drainage districts over high nitrate levels.

The state also is under pressure to cut the nutrient losses that contribute to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, an area about the size of Connecticut that’s unable to support aquatic life each summer.