April 01, 2023

Only under certain circumstances

As negotiations between Creston Waterworks and Southern Iowa Rural Water Association for mutual aid agreements have stalled, rural water representatives emphasize they want the policy to be used with raw water in emergency or catastrophic situations.

Earlier this month during the Creston Waterworks board meeting, Waterworks members declined to discuss the use of raw water, water that has not been treated yet for use, continuing its stance of only wanting to negotiate treated water.

Southern Iowa Rural Water is constructing its own water treatment plant east of Creston along U.S. Highway 34, visible from Creston Waterworks’ plant. Rural water’s plant is not expected to be operational until early next year. For years prior, Southern Iowa Rural Water purchased treated water from Creston Waterworks for its customers. Water for both entities is from 12 Mile Lake. Once Southern Iowa’s plant is operational, water from Three Mile will be used.

In a Jan. 19 letter from Southern Iowa Rural Water Association Managers Brenda Standley and Jeff Rice, the association asked for the agreement to be based on emergency or catastrophic situations. Rural water explained those occurrences:

Failure of a pump station either by natural causes, like a lightning strike, or mechanical failure

Failure of power supply, or related issues, to pump station.

Failure of raw water transmission.

Contamination of Three Mile or 12 Mile lakes.

Natural event (turbidity, manganese, algae, etc.) that forces raw water not to be used for more than a day that would violate water standards.

Chemical eradication of aquatic species


Failure of dam at either lake.

Creston Waterworks General Manager Steve Guthrie said treated water can be provided by them to rural water in emergency situations.

“During times of catastrophe 99% of time we should be able to take care of them on the treated water side, and we would be better business sense,” he said. He added Summit Lake could be treated as a backup source in an emergency.

Once rural water ends purchasing from Creston Waterworks, that changes the use of 12 Mile.

“When we are by ourselves we will only be using one-third of what was available in 12 Mile. In a drought situation we will have more than enough,” he said.

In the letter from SIRWA dated Sept. 21 to Creston Water Works signed by SIRWA board chair John Walston, it stated SIRWA wanted to include raw water in discussions. “...More specifically SIRWA’s proposed mutual aid agreement includes the temporary supply of raw water to the Creston Water Works Treatment plant during disruptions of supply of raw water from Twelve Mile Reservoir, and temporary water supply of raw water to the SIRWA Water Treatment Plant during periods of interruption to the supply of raw water from Three Mile Reservoir.”

The letter continues, “the temporary sharing of raw water sources in the agreement is to put both SIRWA and CCWW in the best position to be able to provide potable water to the residents and businesses in Creston and the region served by SIRWA in the event of water shortages. SIRWA and CCWW have a long history of working together to provide potable water within the multi-county region.”

The letter explains the need to include raw water in the agreements.

SIRWA expects in the future Three Mile and Twelve Mile lakes, to need to undergo maintenance requiring water levels to be significantly lower. “Sharing raw water sources would ensure that when one water source is down, both CCWW and SIRWA will still be able to provide potable water in the region by using the other water source if necessary.”

“It is the most responsible decision to plan in advance for the treatment and distribution of water in emergency situations rather than waiting for a potentially catastrophic even to occur (particularly when the treatment plants and water sources can so easily supplement each other due to their close proximity.)

John Van Nostrand


An Iowa native, John's newspaper career has mostly been in small-town weeklies from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. He first stint in Creston was from 2002 to 2005.