The Iowa Partnership for Clean Water (IPCW) announced last week that Preston Daniels, former mayor of Des Moines, has joined the organization’s board of directors. Daniels joins Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett, Des Moines City Councilwoman Christine Hensley, and Plymouth County Supervisor Don Kass in leading this effort.
In addition to promoting the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy, and soil and water conservation methods used by Iowa farmers to improve water quality, IPCW focuses on regional water infrastructure and investment issues that impact both rural and urban residents in the growing Des Moines metro area. IPCW believes as central Iowa communities continue to plan for their water future, it’s important to understand the factors driving the need for expansion of the Water Works in order to develop the most appropriate, cost-effective solutions.
Regional water solution important for central Iowa
Daniels says he’s excited to join the IPCW board. “IPCW is dedicated to broadening the understanding of water and infrastructure issues in central Iowa and around the state — a mission I want to further help develop,” he says. “The partnership has brought Iowans together to promote conservation methods, urban-rural collaboration and regional cooperation among communities in the metro Des Moines area. I look forward to being a part of the conversation.”
He adds, “While I have been disheartened by the way Des Moines Water Works has picked fights with our rural neighbors, I have confidence that urban and rural residents can see the benefit in working together to continuously improve water quality and also accommodate population growth.”
Critics say Daniels ‘selling out’ to ag industry
Daniels is being criticized for joining the IPCW. Critics say he’s become an apologist for agri-industry. “As a former waterworks board member, Daniels should be able to access facts that inform his partners with the IPCW, so they might actually be able to do something for clean water,” says an editorial writer for a major newspaper.
The critic adds, “Daniels pretends to be offering a solution where all the regional interests come together to seek a framework governing the Water Works utility. But what he is really doing is denying that Iowa’s surface waters are polluted.”
Former mayor defends himself, IPCW
Daniels says Des Moines Water Works provides services to about 20 communities in central Iowa. In fact, around 60% of DMWW’s water now supplies suburban communities, rather than the city of Des Moines itself. “The governing board of DMWW, however, does not represent these regional interests,” says Daniels. “I believe central Iowa’s current and future residents deserved to have input into the decisions that will affect them. And I’ve found that regional cooperation is essential to successful growth.”
It was previously implied that solely rising nitrate levels in bodies of water that are a source for the Des Moines Water Works were to blame for increased water treatment costs. “Continued improvement in water quality is top of mind for all Iowans, especially farmers,” says Daniels. “And there is no denying that our water will always need to be treated. While nitrate levels show little change; however, population does, and it has a measureable impact on infrastructure costs.”
Central Iowa needs regional water approach
In 2016, IPCW commissioned former Des Moines Water Works CEO L.D. McMullen to review the CH2M report that served as the basis for Water Works’ overall capital improvement plan. The resulting white paper concludes that increased demand for water due to population growth in the metropolitan area is a primary factor contributing to the need for expansion of Des Moines Water Works facilities.
Additionally, when all communities in the region face rate hikes and bear the cost of unsuccessful litigation and misplaced priorities, all communities deserve to have their voices heard, says Daniels. This is why IPCW supports the further exploration of a regional water facility.
Daniels is familiar with issues facing the Des Moines metro area and has been witness to the great growth in the community over the years. He has been involved with various regional efforts over the years, including with the Metro Waste Authority and Des Moines Water Works board. His experience working with key stakeholders, along with his knowledge of regional cooperation, is a valuable asset to IPCW’s growing education efforts.
Opportunity to provide long-term solution
“I see opportunity in a new beginning for an old system,” says Daniels. “As the very water we drink is clear, so should be our intentions. We need a modern community-focused regional water facility. One that is fiscally responsible, sustainable and committed to the health, well-being and growth of our capital region.”
“Our capital region will soon reach 1 million people, and so we must prepare for the future now,” Daniels adds. “It’s time we work together for the greater good of all our communities.”