Des Moines residents can expect their water bills to go up 10 percent in April. It comes as the state’s largest water utility is in the middle of a lawsuit with three northern Iowa counties.
Des Moines Water Works CEO Bill Stowe says the utility has removed more nitrates from the city’s water supply of the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers in the last year than any other.
The biggest cause comes from fertilizer used in large scale agriculture. The utility is involved in a lawsuit with three northern Iowa drainage districts, claiming they’re responsible. Stowe says he understands a 10 percent increase to water bills will be tough on rate payers.
“It becomes more difficult to clean the Des Moines and Raccoon River and deliver it safely under increasing regulatory requirements to our consumers," Stowe says.
Both the Governor and the Iowa Farm Bureau say nitrate removal should not be regulated. Instead they say it should be left up to farmers to implement environmental practices.
Stowe says updating their system to remove nitrates will cost around $80 million.
“I’m particularly disappointed in the last year that we haven’t had political leadership from either party in Iowa to step forward and move this towards some kind of negotiated settlement," Stowe says. "We believe we’re going to prevail in a court of law."
"If we don’t [previal] we believe there will be big public policy consequences from that,” Stowe says.
A federal trial date is set for August in Sioux City.