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Where does your drinking water come from? New sign initiative aims to help public awareness

An ISU study initiated by the Iowa DNR shows many people want to know more about local waterways—including where they are and why they need to be protected.

DES MOINES, Iowa — A new initiative is underway across the state, aiming to educate the public about where their drinking water comes from.

Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) decided to put up signs marking drinking water sources based on the results of an Iowa State University study.

The study found 77% of participants surveyed are concerned about local water quality and 79% think creek signs are an effective educational tool.

Credit: Iowa State University/Iowa DNR

Dr. Jacqueline Comito, an Iowa State professor who co-led the study, said the signs are not the only solution, but a step in the right direction.

"I do think they play an important role, but they're not a silver bullet," Comito said. "They can't be an end in and of themselves. That would be too easy."

"It's a great first step, and awareness is the first step really to get people to care about their water," said Steve Hopkins, the nonpoint source coordinator for the Iowa DNR.

As of Wednesday, there's only one sign up in Des Moines, at the corner of MLK Parkway and Fleur Drive.

The choice to use the "Drinking Water Source" sign came after the study looked at a few different options for addendums to the signs.

Credit: Iowa State University / Iowa DNR

DMWW also said water bills will be increasing effective April 1. A spokesperson said that is at least partially due to an increased level of contaminants that must be removed.

"When the quality of water in our rivers deteriorates, the cost to treat that water increases," said Jennifer Terry, DMWW external affairs manager. "For example, it costs us up to $10k/day to run the nitrate removal facility, and those costs are ultimately borne by our customers."

Credit: WOI

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