Des Moines Water Works Reports Record-High Nitrate Levels

Blog, Environmental Issues, Health

Des Moines Water Works general manager William G. Stowe recently wrote a letter to the editor in the Des Moines Register explaining that nitrate levels in the water are at record highs…again.

In 2013, Des Moines Water Works found that the nitrate levels in both the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers were at a record high and caused ratepayers an extra $1 million in treatment costs to reduce the nitrate concentration. In addition to the added cost, consumers’ tap water safety was compromised. With the September 2014 nitrate levels setting another record, it is likely that the 500,000 consumers who depend on Des Moines Water Works for clean, safe water will suffer the same consequences as last year.

Where does nitrate come from?

Nitrate is a naturally occurring compound in the soil and is essential to all life forms. Nitrate can become harmful, however, if concentration levels exceed 10 mg/L in water. Many variables contribute to nitrate concentration, including weather and erosion. But human interference is contributing to higher nitrate levels at a steadily increasing rate. Fertilizer runoff as well as leakage from septic tanks and sewage are among the main contributors to nitrates in drinking water. Stowe expresses his frustration in his letter with Iowa policy failing to implement regulations for contributors to rising nitrate levels, such as industrial agriculture and artificial drainage systems.

What are the health risks?

When levels are higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s recommended value of 10mg/L, nitrate can cause methemoglobinemia, otherwise known as blue baby syndrome. Methemoglobinemia is an oxygen-depriving condition where nitrate turns into nitrite in the body and gets absorbed in the bloodstream. The nitrite causes hemoglobin, responsible for transporting oxygen in the blood, to convert into methemoglobin, which cannot transport oxygen as effectively. Infants are especially at risk of methemoglobinemia because their stomach acid is not as strong as it is in older children or adults to prevent an increase in bacteria that convert nitrate to nitrite. While infants are more susceptible to methemoglobinemia, pregnant women, adults with reduced stomach acidity, and people deficient in the enzyme that changes methemoglobin back to normal hemoglobin should be cautious about the amount of nitrate they consume.

How we serve you better

At Crystal Clear Water, we don’t have to wait for Iowa to pass legislation regulating contributors of water contaminants—we have our own high-quality standards. Since 1975 we have provided Des Moines area homes and businesses with water coolers and filtration systems that adhere to the top standards of the International Bottled Water Association. Plus, we’re setting records of our own—we received the Excellence in Manufacturing Award for yet another year. Crystal Clear Water even purifies water exclusively for babies to ensure your little ones receive the best water to kickstart healthy development. You can view our Baby Water Report here.

Crystal Clear Water promotes healthy living by striving to make water America’s drink of choice. That said, concerns for water safety should not prevent people from drinking more water, which is why we are committed to providing purified, healthy water that also tastes great. We deliver bottled water to homes and offices in Altoona, Ames, Ankeny, Clive, Des Moines, Johnston, Norwalk, Pleasant Hill, Urbandale, Waukee, West Des Moines and surrounding areas. We’ll even install a whole-home water treatment system.

You never have to wonder how high the contaminant levels are in your water again. Give us a call and start drinking safe, great-tasting water today.