Here's a little bit of irony for you. Des Moines Water Works officials are suing Buena Vista County over the quality of water we send on to Des Moines, and to defend us, we've hired an expert law firm - from Des Moines.
It is of course no shocker that three rural Iowa counties and their drainage districts are being sued; Water Works has been threatening for a couple months.
I do wonder, however, what they hope to get out of it. If their aim is to get stricter environmental laws or enforcement, why aren't they suing the state?
If they are hoping to rake in a huge stack of money, why are they targeting a handful of farmers in a drainage district and three boards of supervisors out in rural Iowa, when they could be suing the huge corporations that produce ag chemicals?
Of course, it is easy to sympathize with the Des Moines residents. They want safe water to drink, and we would be just as concerned as they are if we were in their shoes.
But it seems odd to focus their anger over their water on three counties in northwest Iowa. You'll notice they are not suing their own county, which also drains into the river water they use.
If I was a Des Moines resident fearing whether my water was safe to drink, I'd be asking some pointed questions of my own Water Works board and city officials. Starting with why there is no better option that taking drinking water out of a river.
I grew up along the Des Moines River. Plenty of fun to splash in, but you didn't have to be a water quality engineer to know you didn't want to drink out of it. It's not an aquifer, it's a river. It collects and carries, it's the nature of the thing. Spent summers as a young teenager along the Mississippi. Waved at the captains of garbage scows making their way up from the Gulf. In high water periods, you could see the bloated carcasses of cows floating. I've had some awesome catfish dinners, but I don't think I'd wash it down with a big glass of that river. We're not far from the Missouri, which if I recall my Crayolas correctly, is at times a shade of burnt umber. I doubt if you could see your hand six inches under the surface. When mud's up, you wouldn't drink that water, you'd chew it.
The Water Works people have done a slick job of convincing Des Moines to blame farmers in northwest Iowa for what they are drinking, but is it our job to police Des Moines' drinking water? Isn't that what the Water Works is for? Don't they have a nitrate removal system - why aren't they using it, or if necessary, replacing it? Are Des Moines residents really okay with a quarter-million bucks being shoveled off to lawyers?
If the Water Works really wanted to work with the counties to cooperatively improve the river quality - why did not a single member of the board in Des Moines show up when our supervisors tried to meet with them They want a lawsuit. They want TV cameras.
Look, there's not a person in BV County who would not like to see the Raccoon River cleaner, every one of those farmers included. We're willing to do our part. But it doesn't happen in 60 days.
Our counties are in no position to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars of the public's money to lawyers to fight this out in court for years - nor would that make the rivers any cleaner.
There is already a promising headwaters pilot project funded for the north part of the Raccoon in our county. There is more we can, and should do. But it won't be done in a courtroom. We could achieve more working together than we will with Iowans fighting Iowans. It should be about the environment, not city v. country.