Submitted by: Jay Byers,president and CEO of the Greater Des Moines Partnership, and Steve Gaer, former West Des Moines mayor and COO of R&R Realty Group

We live in a community experiencing significant momentum. Central Iowa continues to grow in both residents and amenities, and we are nationally recognized as a great place to live and work. This growth is intentional. It is the result of our collective ability to work together as one region. Whether you live in Des Moines or Waukee, Ankeny or Norwalk, or anyplace in between, we are one community. Our ability to think with a regional mindset has led to transformational success in our community.

This year marks one of the most important metro-area partnerships to date – a regional drinking water entity called Central Iowa Water Works (CIWW). The collaboration for this initiative began in 2017 with all of the affected stakeholders participating in discussions. This will be one of the most important quality-of-life aspects to ensure adequate, affordable and safe drinking water for all of us, which will also provide an economic development advantage for our community.

Coming together as a region has long been part of the fabric of Central Iowa. Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) has provided drinking water to multiple communities across the metro for decades. In 1934, Urbandale entered into the first contract with DMWW, and since then many other communities have signed similar agreements.

Since that initial agreement for services almost 90 years ago, the Des Moines metro has changed significantly. In the past two decades, our community has been the fastest-growing major metro in the Midwest and is now home to more than 700,000 people. Countless businesses have expanded and relocated to the metro, including large data centers, manufacturers, insurance and financial services headquarters, warehouses and distribution centers, shopping complexes, and the list goes on.

Through it all, DMWW engineers worked with city officials in growing communities, developers, and its partner drinking water utilities and boards to appropriately lay out the water service grid and construct the water treatment and storage facilities that were needed and will be needed to provide water to new developments and our growing communities.

While this partnership has served all of us well, the time has come to create a regional drinking water production utility in order to ensure that we have the water we need at the lowest possible cost. The leaders of DMWW, West Des Moines Water Works and Urbandale Water Utility have demonstrated bold and thoughtful leadership in developing a framework and draft agreement to create CIWW. This drinking water production utility will be governed by a new board made up of representatives from each community and utility that chooses to join CIWW during this creation phase.

CIWW is designed to give every participating community a seat at the table in discussions, so we have the most cost-effective and efficient way to manage the production of drinking water. It is projected this regional model will provide the quantity of water needed while also minimizing future cost increases with collective purchasing and joint decision-making. This plan ensures protection of our water system in case of a power outage, flood at a treatment plant, during drought conditions or another natural disaster. Strategically locating treatment plants throughout the region provides a backup system that ensures our drinking water needs will be met where growth occurs.

To date, the following entities have passed a resolution supporting participation in the development of the CIWW Agreement: Altoona, Ankeny, Bondurant, Clive, DMWW, Grimes, Johnston, Norwalk, Polk City, Urbandale Water Utility, Waukee, West Des Moines Water Works and Xenia Rural Water District. Currently, these utilities and communities are reviewing the draft agreement and providing feedback and comments. The goal is to finalize the agreement this year and seat the new CIWW board in 2023.

We came together after the 1993 flood to make significant investments in the facilities that supply drinking water to all of us in this region. Now, almost 30 years later, we are again coming together to create a new framework, board and entity that will protect this critically important natural resource and ensure we meet the water demands of our rapidly growing region.