Iowa Partnership for Clean Water Comments on Des Moines Water Works’ Conflicting Infrastructure Claims

February 29, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa, February 29, 2016 – In response to the recently announced shifts in rhetoric and strategy on the part of Des Moines Water Works (DMWW), the Iowa Partnership for Clean Water (IPCW) again strongly urges the utility to pursue alternatives to its costly and divisive lawsuit.

Des Moines Water Works CEO Bill Stowe recently noted in the Des Moines Register, “Our consultants have recommended a number of strategies that don’t involve completely replacing but improving the current [nitrate removal] facility.” DMWW is now considering a five-year improvement plan, which totals $241m. They attribute $70m of this to nitrate removal measures, however a Black & Veatch engineering study on the DMWW website notes the replacement cost of the Fleur Nitrate Facility is about $9.2m. Both figures are notably lower than the original $180m estimated by the utility when it announced the lawsuit.

Des Moines Water Works also has changed its stated reasons for pursuing a lawsuit several times since it was filed in 2015. On different occasions, it has attributed the lawsuit to a sound business decision, a commitment to the environment and water quality, protection for Des Moines Water Works ratepayers, and more. DMWW’s 10 percent rate hike, which will take effect later this spring, was originally attributed to decreased consumption and general operations and maintenance costs, not new nitrate-removal equipment, although the two are highly intertwined in recent media coverage.

IPCW applauds DMWW’s recent action that will decrease by half the amount of nitrates the utility introduces back into the water after treatment; this type of effort is a step in the right direction. If the ultimate goal of the lawsuit is to truly increase water quality and ensure a safe drinking water supply, DMWW should acknowledge the progress being made and support efforts to enhance the science-based Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

“The leaders at DMWW have struggled to articulate a clear vision for infrastructure improvements that best serve the public,” said Des Moines City Councilwoman and IPCW board member Christine Hensley. “Instead, they pursue costly litigation that has created a divide amongst rural and urban communities, where there should be collaboration to address water quality issues. I am very interested in the prospect of a regional water treatment facility that would better represent the interest of all DMWW customers and bring balance to the decision making process for infrastructure updates and policy initiatives.”

“I’ve said it before: Bill Stowe needs to get his story straight,” says Plymouth County Supervisor and IPCW board member Don Kass. “I understand that infrastructure needs are costly and are crucial to maintaining safe drinking water. That is a core initiative of any public water utility and should be taken seriously. Unfortunately, infrastructure enhancements at DMWW are long overdue. However, addressing existing infrastructure needs under the guise of water quality and nutrient reduction is simply misleading to the ratepayers and the public at large. Iowa farmers are making steady progress on nutrient reduction and understand the importance of conservation, but progress is being stifled by this looming litigation.”

ABOUT IOWA PARTNERSHIP FOR CLEAN WATER

Iowa Partnership for Clean Water (IPCW) is a 501c4 organization dedicated to broadening the understanding of agriculture, as it pertains to clean water and conservation initiatives within our state. IPCW brings together active voices within Iowa to promote the environmentally responsible practices that Iowa farmers employ to ensure the health and safety of all Iowa citizens.

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