Western Suburbs Consider Supplying Own Water

West Des Moines and Waukee could start supplying their own water if an $84,000 study the two cities approved Tuesday shows it's doable.

“Where we are, as a region is, we have adequate supplies for today to meet our needs. But that's not true for the future,” said Diana Wilson, General Manager, West Des Moines Water Works.

Right now the two cities - like the rest of the metro suburbs - rely on Des Moines Water Works for water treatment but the demand is only going up as these cities expand.

"3.6 million gallons is our purchase capacity, and if we exceed that, then we have a penalty for the next year. We have 10% penalty on the cost of our water, and so we want to have more purchase capacity and not have that penalty,” said Tim Moerman, Waukee City Administrator.

And Waukee expects its needs to triple by 2035 It's a similar outlook for West Des Moines, too.

“Our historical peak is a little over 16 million gallons a day. Our 2040 projected peak is over 25 million gallons per day,” said Wilson.

West Des Moines produces and treats 70 percent of its own water from surrounding wells at its water works plant. The other 30 percent is purchased from Des Moines water works, which draws water from the Raccoon River.

“If the study finds both Waukee and West Des Moines can get their remaining water needs from the river themselves, the cities may join forces in treating their own water for a cheaper price.

“We're confident that through the study process, that through discussions with us, that all of us will collectively come to the agreement that regional water production is in everybody's benefit," said Bill Stowe, General Manager, Des Moines Water Works.

Stowe says it's a bad move to address water needs town-by-town. He also says a regional treatment approach keeps costs down, and while consumption rates are projected to increase over time, conservation efforts will also improve.

“We'll have more people, but each person will probably use water more effectively in 20 years than we are today, just like today we are using less on a per-capita basis than we did 20 years ago," said Stowe.

The city of Urbandale is also looking into building its own water works plant. It would draw water from the Des Moines River if so. Right now, it's assessing if it's cheaper to go that route or to stick with Des Moines Water Works.