Regional water plan advances with Urbandale vote

By: - January 13, 2022 5:34 pm

Des Moines metro water utilities are considering whether to form a regional utility to oversee water production for the area. (Photo by Christina Felschen/Getty Images)

Two of the three major players of a proposed regional water system for the Des Moines metro area are on board. Now, attention turns to West Des Moines.

The three trustees of the Urbandale Water Utility voted unanimously Wednesday to be a founding member of the proposed Central Iowa Water Works, contingent upon a palatable agreement with other members, said Dale Acheson, general manager of the utility.

“I’m pleased that a decision has been made and we’ve determined where we are headed,” Acheson said.

Des Moines Water Works agreed to proceed with the regional utility plans last month. West Des Moines Water Works plans a vote late this month after delaying the vote from December to get more input from residents. Some are wary of ceding any control over the utility’s 21 wells and treatment plant.

Newly scheduled public forums to discuss the issue in West Des Moines are set for:

Jan. 19, 4 p.m.: During the regularly scheduled trustees meeting at the A.C. Ward Municipal Water Treatment Plant, 1505 Railroad Ave.
Jan. 24, 5 p.m.: Valley Junction Activity Center, 217 Fifth St.
Jan. 26, 4 p.m.: During a special trustees meeting that will include the vote, also at the treatment plant.

West Des Moines is a key player in the regionalization talks because it produces most of its own water. Des Moines supplies water to most of the rest of the metro area, but Altoona is also a producer.

The agreement to form a regional utility requires members to represent a “substantial majority” of the total water consumption of the area.

Urbandale was faced with a decision of whether to join the other utilities or eventually build its own water treatment plant at the cost of at least $85 million and pump water from quarries it owns. Des Moines Water Works supplies the city’s drinking water now.

An analysis the utility commissioned found that its customers might face a 50% short-term hike in their water bills to fund the project. However, the analysis said in about 20 years, their water would be less costly than the projected rates under the regional plan.

“There’s positives on both sides of the issue, and there certainly are non-financial considerations,” Acheson said.

Those include the risks of potential future regulations, newly identified water contaminants and, simply, the difference in taste between water in different cities, he said.

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Jared Strong
Jared Strong

Senior reporter Jared Strong has written about Iowans and the important issues that affect them for more than 15 years, previously for the Carroll Times Herald and the Des Moines Register. His investigative work exposing police misconduct has notched several state and national awards. He is a longtime trustee of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, which fights for open records and open government. He is a lifelong Iowan and has lived mostly in rural western parts of the state.