In the midst of a bitter legislative fight over who should control the Des Moines metro’s water supply, local residents strongly back the Des Moines Water Works’ ability to stay independent, a new poll finds. Harper Polling, in a survey sponsored by Water Works, found that only 15% of Des Moines metro voters support the Republican proposal to dismantle the water utility’s board.
During this session rural Republican legislators have pushed to dissolve the Des Moines Water Works board and create a regional water association that includes West Des Moines and Urbandale. This has largely been seen as a retaliation for Water Works’ lawsuit against three Northwest Iowa counties over the amount of nitrates their farms put into the water supply that affects Des Moines. Opponents worry it inserts more politics into decisions over water quality as the utility would now be at the mercy of local elected officials instead of an independent board.
“The poll confirms what we have believed all along, that the legislation is a solution in search of a problem that does not exist,” Bill Stowe, the head of the Des Moines Water Works said in a press release. “Metro utilities have done an outstanding job for decades of planning and implementing the supply, treatment, and transmissions projects necessary to ensure everyone in the metro has access to quality water in adequate quantities at reasonable rates.”
Respondents also said they’re happy with water quality levels in the Des Moines area. 56% rated it as “excellent,” with 29% saying it was “good.” Moreover, 55% of those polled said they preferred their water utility to be operated by an “independent board of trustees” rather than a “city council,” which 23% were in favor of.
The poll covered the entire metro area, with only 38% of the respondents coming from Des Moines proper.
It’s all one more indication that the legislation to break up the board remains deeply unpopular within Central Iowa, where the interest over the matter is highest. Democrats have already registered their opposition to the plan, but Polk County Republican legislators will have a difficult choice in how they vote. Will they stand with their party or their local constituents?
by Pat Rynard