Water Works Vs. Drainage Case Study

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This policy brief examines the Water Works v. Drainage Districts legal battle from earlier this year. The Iowa Supreme Court declared that the drainage districts were not responsible for the $80 million that Water Works paid to remove excess nitrates from agricultural runoff in the Raccoon River, which supplies drinking water to half a million Iowans 2.
Water Works claims that nitrate pollution from agricultural runoff in Sac, Calhoun and Buena Vista counties violated the U.S. Clean Water Act (CWA) 1. The 1972 CWA exempts runoff from farms, which are not considered as “point sources” of pollution 1. Water Works would like to see runoff from tile drainage considered as a point source, due to the pollution of groundwater which is protected
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nitrate pollution 1. Drainage districts are abiding by what is stated in the CWA, that farms are exempt. They proclaim that it is not feasible to consider the farms as point sources, due to difficulty in tracing the nitrate pollution back to single farms 1.
The question remains, should agricultural runoff from farms be considered a point source of pollution under the CWA?
If an amendment is made to the CWA to include agricultural runoff from tile drainage as a point source of pollution, the drainage districts will be required to develop a permitting process. Iowa legislature will need to designate authority to the drainage districts to enforce regulations to maintain safe levels of runoff from farms. Actions may include fines for those who violate regulations, installation of buffer strips, treatment facilities, and increased monitoring. These actions would be beneficial to the environment and those whose water comes from the Raccoon River. Water Works would benefit economically by this action, spending less money on treatment of drinking water. Ditches and streams that divert into Raccoon River would be much cleaner, increasing environmental value through ecosystem
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