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Indiana Agricultural Law Foundation February 2017 Issue
InAgLaw Hdr

Des Moines Water Works Case Update – Partial Ruling

John Shoup
John Shoup

On January 27 the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that under the Iowa Constitution, Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) cannot win damages for alleged nitrate pollution against the drainage districts of three Iowa counties. DMWW sought monetary and injunctive relief from the upstream drainage districts on claims arising from the cost to remove nitrates from drinking water. This case has received national attention and is viewed as potentially having significant impact on agriculture.

The court’s decision, however, did not deal with the remaining claims DMWW has brought under the Clean Water Act (CWA) and Iowa Code Chapter 455B. Those claims continue to be considered by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa. The court’s ultimate resolution of whether discharges containing nitrate pollution from drainage districts are “point sources” triggering a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (or “NPDES”) permit will be closely followed by INAgLaw.

As a general review of the DMWW matter, on March 16, 2015, DMWW initiated a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court under the CWA against 13 drainage districts situated in Buena Vista, Calhoun and Sac counties. The defendant drainage districts are located in the North Raccoon watershed, which leads to the Raccoon River, which is upstream from DMWW.

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