After lengthy litigation, seven months ago the courts dismissed the Des Moines Water Works lawsuit against 3 northern Iowa drainage districts. Although the lawsuit was set aside, the problem of polluted waterways in Iowa continues.
The issue breaks down into 3 parts:
The first is a question all ratepayers in the Des Moines metro need to ask and it is this. Is our drinking water safe? The answer given by all the experts that I can find is an unequivocal YES! Not only is it safe, it meets or exceeds all federal standards and in some cases those standards are examined 3 times per day. By the time water leaves the plant headed to homes and businesses it has gone through rigorous cleansing processes run by a deep bench of highly qualified employees. Those processes are expensive and that is a large part of what the suit was about. Who pays for all that clean up? Right now it’s the ratepayers of central Iowa.
The second issue that is important going forward is should there be changes to the Water Works ownership and governance structure? Currently there are ongoing discussions with the Water Works board of directors and staff with representatives of communities in the metro that the Water Works serves, but which have no ownership. Those discussions seem logical as the dramatic growth in the metro continues. Hopefully good ideas on restructuring ownership will be forthcoming. The one thing I hope is that state government stays out of it. If there ever was a reason for local control of the metros own destiny this is it.
Lastly, we need to keep in mind that the really big issue is a national one, but is an issue of which Iowa is at the center. That issue is the pollution of the Mississippi, its tributaries and, of course, the dead zone larger than the state of New Jersey in the Gulf of Mexico. This pollution is absolutely unacceptable and is brought about primarily, but not exclusively, by massive amounts of fertilizer nutrient runoff coming from Midwestern farmland.
Even though the previous statement is absolutely true I am not one that wants to leave it to only farmers to fix it. Yes, they grow the crops that require the nutrients, which cause the problem, but we the public eat the food, and spread the chemicals on our yards as well. Therefore it is a societal problem and must be fixed by a consortium of governments, private enterprise, scientists and farm interests. The impact upon the shrimping industry, algae filled estuaries and gulf state tourism is large and they are certainly stakeholders as well. Since it truly is a national issue one would think the federal government would help to find a resolution, but given the current political climate that’s probably wishful thinking.
The bottom line is on issue one we are doing great, on issue two it is coming along and on issue 3, looks like it will be a while.