Blog  /  April 2017  /  Watering the Central Plains

Blog Post Teaser

The Central Plains is the geographic name associated with the broad expanse of generally flat land with most of it covered in grasslands and dry plain regions in the United States. The states that make up this vast area of land consists primarily of Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Indiana, and Iowa with the general consensus that these states are more centrally located. One of the most common things associated with this region is the farming and ranching industries that have taken root there utilizing the flat land for crop expansion with a climate that can be consistently defined with winters that are both cold and harsh and the hot and humid summers with droughts being a common occurrence.

There has been many ongoing news stories that have circulated the Central Plains dealing with a variety of water issues, steps taken to deal with these water issues, or even problems that have popped up from trying to solve these aforementioned issues. What has been seen at the front page of many of these stories can be found in the controversial North Dakota Access Pipeline project spanning from the Obama administration to the current one. The project’s announcement sparked protests from many environmentalist groups who were concerned for the environmental impact said pipeline could have with the contamination of wetlands and water sources being a primary note of contention between the protesters and the private companies trying to develop this pipeline.

Another news story that has been prevalent in this region is the ongoing investigations in Iowa’s drinking water and the various contaminations that have been happening this past year. The worst of the contaminants has been the high level of nitrates found in multiple water supplies and the unfortunate health issues that could spring up from large amounts of consumption. The challenges associated with high levels of nitrate in drinking water have received more attention recently because of the Des Moines Water Works’ suit against three drainage districts in northwest Iowa, an area identified as a hotspot for nitrate pollution in the state and the country, according to an Iowa Environmental Council (IEC) white paper report found here. The report continued that while it is required of public water supplies to provide water that meets drinking water standards, private wells are not regularly tested and could contain concentrations of nitrate that exceeds the standards.

There are many water industry or water related companies that have been able to grow and profit because of the many issues that the Central Plains have with the development of water sources throughout the territory. Most notably, the Louisville Water Company, the Metropolitan Utilities District found in Nebraska, the Des Moines Water Works, the Central Arkansas Water and the Knoxville Utilities Board seems to be the most prevalent in the region. While the Louisville Water Company, the Central Arkansas Water, and Metropolitan Utilities District mainly focus on infrastructure opportunities such as water distribution systems, the Des Moines Water Works and Knoxville Utilities Board have seen a great rise in equipment purchases and drainage improvement. The implications for these kinds of requests being sent out for the first three is an effort on these companies for the replacement of perhaps aging water or sewer lines or the extension of existing systems and the last two are seeking the improvement of their facilities so as to avoid issues with contamination or flooding with the drainage improvements.

Some of the projects and funding found in the Central Plains can be found prominently in Iowa. More specifically, there are more projects developing now with opportunities administered by the Iowa Finance Authority. Although no funding is specified the intent is for funds to be used for the planning, design, and future development of water infrastructure such as wells and water lines meaning additional requests for contractors and engineers. There are also projects over the past year in regards to water quality with Southern Iowa Council of Governments seeking to improve this area so that small towns and/or rural areas in southern Iowa may benefit.

The Central Plains region requires the careful maintenance of its water infrastructure to continue to support the growing communities. The seasonal issues mentioned earlier along with the general dryness found in this region help explain the multiple infrastructure opportunities trending in this region. Specifically in order to keep its agricultural advantage over other regions and prepare for droughts there are quite a few bids dealing with irrigation rehabilitation, water distribution system installations, along with the extension or replacement of said systems within municipalities.  Along with these opportunities it seems that there is also the large amount of drainage improvement and stormwater management that is trending because of the seasonal changes which bring about the kind of weather that affects erosion control and retention basins used to contain water flow. Over the next three months it seems that with spring coming there will be even more drainage improvements along with water quality bids for those areas that have been facing contamination and are now taking steps to address it.