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Axios Des Moines

Suburbs reject regional water takeover

By Jason Clayworth,


Des Moines metro governments would transfer ownership of tens of millions of dollars' worth of water infrastructure systems under a final draft proposal to create a regional entity that was made public last week.

Why it matters: There's ongoing debate about whether the plan involving up to a dozen central Iowa communities or utilities would create efficiencies or result in unnecessary costs for residents.

  • Altoona and Bondurant have already rejected the idea.

Catch up fast: The proposed Central Iowa Water Works ( CIWW ) would create a regional entity to tackle water quality and quantity challenges.

  • Des Moines Water Works (DMWW), Urbandale and WDM utilities became negotiating entities of the CIWW about 18 months ago via non-binding resolutions that regionalization advocates said would facilitate further public review.

Details: CIWW would not replace existing metro water boards or departments, but would take from them ownership of more than three dozen facilities like pump stations, wells and river intakes.

  • Each utility or community member would supply water it purchases from CIWW to its individual customers, set its own water rates, operate its local distribution systems and provide customer service.

Zoom in: Under the agreement, DMWW would design and build a $159M water treatment expansion project at Saylorville Lake. Costs would be shared by CIWW's members based largely on projected future needs.

Driving the news: Bondurant, which currently purchases its water from DMWW, is moving forward with an $18+ million aqua independence plan that could include its own treatment facilities.

  • The City Council unanimously approved a nearly $811K purchase agreement last week for just over 12 acres, a move to try and ensure it has adequate water in a cost-effective manner.

Meanwhile, Altoona's City Council also recently decided to maintain independent control of its water system rather than join CIWW, public utilities director Daniel Scott tells Axios.

  • Construction for a $25 million water project to boost its water production will begin next year and take about two years to complete.

What they're saying: Former Sen. Jack Hatch and former DMWW board member Dave Carlson tell Axios the proposal sets residents up to help pay for expansions that DSM doesn't need, could lead to higher water rates and result in less desirable park facilities.

The other side: Regionalization would more equitably share operation and maintenance responsibilities, especially as suburban water usage grows, Ted Corrigan, DMWW's CEO, tells Axios.

  • DSM customers would see slightly lower rate increases over time than would otherwise be anticipated without the CIWW, per Corrigan.

What's next: The first of at least seven public meetings about the final proposal starts at 6:30pm Thursday at Valley Junction Activity Center, 217 5th St. in WDM.

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