KC McGinnis | December 7, 2016
Des Moines Water Works, the utility service that keeps Des Moines water clean in part by removing pollutants like nitrate from agricultural runoff, set a record last year for number of days it was forced to use its nitrate removal equipment.
According to the Des Moines Register, the Water Works used its nitrate removal equipment for 177 days last year, far surpassing the previous record of 106 days. The news comes amid the Water Works’ current lawsuit against three Iowa counties northwest of Des Moines which is says are responsible for the added nitrate by failing to adequately regulate runoff from local farms. The nitrate equipment costs an estimated $7,000 per day to run, an expense that’s handed down to customers resulting in higher water bills. The utility spent $1.5 million running its nitrate equipment last year.
Nitrate levels in the Raccoon River have far exceeded previous years. Data from the Iowa Water Quality Information System, a comprehensive tool developed by the University of Iowa IIHR – Hydroscience and Engineering, shows that nitrate levels in the North Raccoon River by Sac City more than doubled between 2014 and 2015, growing especially high in the winter months – from around 9 million pounds of nitrate loss per day in December 2014 to more than 20 millions pounds per day in 2015.