Shortly after DMWW filed a lawsuit arguing drainage districts in three northern Iowa counties should be responsible for the quality of water they release, an agriculture industry-funded group began paying for television ads attacking DMWW’s leaders. Politicians in the General Assembly filed bills to penalize Des Moines for what Gov. Terry Branstad said was DMWW’s "war on rural Iowa." These ads, statements and political machinations were initiated to punish DMWW for raising the water pollution issue. No one can reasonably argue any of these actions forwarded constructive discussion.
The change in the balance of power at Iowa’s Statehouse has re-energized some who wish to protect narrow interests by thwarting DMWW’s lawsuit and its efforts to protect our most precious shared natural resource, water. One such punitive measure being revived by obstructionists is a bill aimed at effectively dismantling DMWW. This bill passed the Iowa House last year but died in the Senate. Those pushing a bill to rewrite Iowa Code Section 388.1 and other similar bills are doing so to halt the federal water pollution lawsuit, not to address any other matter.
DMWW is the regional supplier of safe, affordable drinking water for central Iowa. Established nearly 150 years ago, the people of Des Moines are both DMWW's primary customers and its owners. Today, water systems throughout the region are supplied by DMWW, meaning most every person in the area’s suburban communities, cities and counties drink DMWW water. We are committed to continuing to seek ways to collaborate, manage more efficiently and equitably govern. But don’t be fooled. The bill mentioned above is not an effort to govern better, it is a questionable maneuver designed to strip an asset from the people of Des Moines. Should it pass, it too will land in court. This bill is vindictive politics at its worst.
The issue is Iowa’s water quality. A few supported by narrow interests are trying to use the politics of division to distract. I love Iowa, and I firmly believe it and we are better than this. What we face is not a war between urban and rural interests. We are all on the same side as Iowans and as Americans. Let us agree to work together to protect water. We should argue about what path to take and then agree to use science and facts to help us decide together which route to take. Now is not the time for political retribution and obstruction. Now is the time to find common ground. Now is the time for progress.
This entry was first published in the print edition of the Des Moines Register and The Gazette in Cedar Rapids. This link, The Gazette in Cedar Rapids, is an editiorial that followed my essay.
Graham Gillette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org