My water letter addressing HF 316/484 in the Iowa House

Letter to the Editor: Why try to fix something if it ain’t broke?

Lee S. Tesdell, Slater, IA

March 8, 2017

Water is a personal issue for me. When I lived in Amman, Jordan, tap water was generally safe, but it flowed in the pipes only once a week. In Saudi Arabia we could not drink the tap water and boiling did not make it safe. My employer provided potable water from a desalination plant.

So the first thing I read when I got here to Xiamen, China 12 days ago, was familiar: “Be careful not to spoil your trip to Xiamen by drinking the tap water, ….” Source:

A couple of days after arriving I read some news from Iowa in regards to House File 316/ HF 484, which would disband Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) in favor of a regional water utility controlled by local municipalities and proposed by Jarad Klein of rural Keota; to be honest, I think Klein is trying to fix a system that is not broken. Here in Xiamen, China, the system is broken; (I buy bottled water and boil the water out of my tap) in rural Slater, Iowa, where I live and drink DMWW water, it’s not.

DMWW guarantees my rural water is adequate and safe water at a reasonable price. I pay about $20.00 a month for between one and two thousand gallons of water for household use. My own well supplies the barn.

Clearly, House Bill 316/HF484 targets Bill Stowe, the “Des Moines Hippie”, as one of my good friends calls him, and the lawsuit against the county boards of supervisors of Sac, Buena Vista, and Calhoun counties. Due to high levels of nitrate from tiles in those counties, DMWW has to run expensive equipment during peak nitrate flows to purify the water for me and about half a million customers in central Iowa. I have a sneaking suspicion that to find out the names of the big boys behind this legislation, we have to “follow the money”; I can guarantee you it is not the majority of customers of DMWW.

Leaving aside personal vendettas, this really does get down to the core issue of improving our water quality. We know certain facts through current research: we have excess nutrients in our watersheds, we contribute to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, and a number of our own watersheds are impaired. We also know that most of the excess nutrients, mainly nitrates and phosphorus, enter our watersheds from our farm ground in Iowa but that there are solutions: cover crops, buffer strips, no-till, prairie strips, saturated buffers and reduced fertilizer applications.

Like Klein, I am the 5th generation to live on land in Iowa that my immigrant ancestors settled 150 years ago, so I appreciate the history of agriculture, soil health, and water quality in Iowa. On my farm in the Fourmile Creek watershed, I have implemented some of those solutions; I know what comes out of one of my farm tiles because the Iowa Soybean Association regularly checks both the water in and the water out of my woodchip bioreactor installed on that tile; three years of data shows that I reduce the nitrate level by 47%. Our other conservation measures, research shows, decrease the nitrate and phosphorus leaving my farm: cover crops, no-till, and buffers in the Fourmile Creek watershed.

Frankly, Klein and his colleagues would move us farther down the road to better water (and that really is the important goal here) by dropping this attempt to disband DMWW and support legislation that funds robust conservation measures throughout the state.

The “Des Moines Hippie” keeps my water safe, abundant, and affordable. What needs to be fixed? Nothing that I can see.





One Response

  1. Well said!


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