Jan 25, 2023 - News

Des Moines' $50M water nitrate fix-it plan

A photo of the Des Moines River.

The Des Moines River during near-flood conditions in 2013. Photo: Charlie Neibergall/AP

Des Moines Water Works is considering a $50+ million plan to build wells north of the metro to help remediate struggles with high nitrates, CEO Ted Corrigan tells Axios.

Why it matters: The project would be a big investment that could influence future water rates and help reduce the utility's operation costs.

Catch up fast: Nitrates are naturally occurring compounds that can be harmful when excessive in drinking water. .

  • Fertilizers, wastewater treatment plants and septic systems are common water nitrate contributors.

Zoom in: DSM Water Works operates its nitrate removal facility when levels are high, which can cost upwards of $10,000 a day to operate.

  • The facility ran 405 days in the last 10 years, costing nearly $5 million, according to utility data requested by Axios.

What they're saying: Water Works has for years recognized the need for additional nitrate removal capacity as the utility grows, Corrigan said.

  • Radial collector wells, which use a natural filtration process, could offer a long-term and efficient solution for up to 25 million gallons of water a day, Corrigan said.
  • The wells would simultaneously help the utility avoid growing problems with algae blooms.

What's next: The project has been added to the utility's overall $362 million five-year capital improvement plan but its review is ongoing.

  • If plans move forward, the wells would likely be constructed on public land along the DSM river and with cooperation of the Army Corps of Engineers, Corrigan said.

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