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Des Moines Hasn’t Run Denitrification Facility This Year — But Don’t Celebrate Yet

Des Moines, Iowa — The Des Moines Water Works has not had to use their nitrate removal facility at all this year — but hold off on the celebration. They don’t think it could have anything to do with better farming practices up here in northwest Iowa.

The director of Des Moines Water Works, Bill Stowe, says pollutants from farm fields still pose a threat to drinking water in the capital city. In 2015, the Des Moines Water Works ran its nitrate removal facility for a record 177 days. That year, they sued Sac, Calhoun, and Buena Vista counties and their drainage districts, claiming that farm field runoff was causing high nitrate levels in Des Moines’ source water from the Raccoon River.

Stowe says the change between then and now isn’t because of better conservation on Iowa farms.


University of Iowa researcher Chris Jones echoes Stowe’s assessment.


Stowe says staffers have gotten better at treating water in other ways, and that nitrates – largely from farm fields – still pose a threat.


He says the utility relies on a number of different water sources depending on demand and nitrate level.

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