Southern Crop

Southern Crop

Iowa Supreme Court weighs in on Federal Lawsuit over water supplier

The Iowa Supreme Court heard arguments September 14 and must now decide whether to weigh in on a federal lawsuit that pits the water supplier for 500,000 central Iowa residents against upstream farmers accused of contaminating rivers with nitrates from crop fertilizer. The case was filed by Des Moines Water Works, challenging the immunity enjoyed by agriculture drainage districts from lawsuits and whether the water utility can seek monetary damages. Water Works says it spent $1.5 million last year alone to remove nitrate from water drawn from the Raccoon and Skunk to meet federal health standards. Water Works sued three northwest Iowa counties, Buena Vista, Calhoun, and Sac, that oversee 10 agricultural drainage districts. The lawsuit is seeking to overturn a century of legal precedent that has protected the drainage systems. The lawsuit has farm groups worried. The Iowa Farm Bureau Federation and the state associations for corn and soybean growers have offered to help pay the counties’ legal bills.

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