This year’s flooding may set back the state’s efforts to improve sewers in Iowa. Five years ago as part of an effort to clean up Iowa waterways, the state began identifying communities which did not have sewer systems. Dennis Ostwinkle of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources says their goal each year is to help a dozen cities begin building or connecting to a wastewater treatment facility.
But now, there’s a competition for scarce resources as communities that were flooded and saw heavy damage to their sewers seek state help. "They could be going after the same pots of money to try to fix their problems," he says. "…If Des Moines wants to borrow couple of hundred million or something, certainly that would impact the amount of money that could be loaned overall."
Patti Cale-Finnegan coordinates the Department of Natural Resources program which decides which communities get state grants for sewer construction. "With the floods, we have new needs in those existing systems and so with limited funds, you know, they may be a higher priority than the unsewered communities who are just getting started," Cale-Finnegan says.
Without state or federal grants, a new sewer system can cost a city’s residents up to $120 a month. With government grants, city-dwellers could see their share drop to $40 a month.