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This Lawsuit Has Put Big Ag On The Defensive In A Major Way
A pending Iowa case could set a new national precedent for water pollution stemming from farms.

Three highly agricultural counties — Buena Vista, Calhoun and Sac — named in a controversial lawsuit brought by the Des Moines Water Works.

The lawsuit, which was filed in 2015, claims that nitrogen-rich water flowing off the area’s farms pollutes the Raccoon River, which, along with the Des Moines River, provides drinking water for half a million people. The water authority wants the counties to pick up the dramatically higher treatment costs for the water. The counties, who want the case dismissed, counter that there’s no proof that agriculture is directly responsible for the nitrates.

The case has thus far been upheld, though it won’t be brought to trial until next June. Meanwhile, both sides are digging in for a pivotal Iowa Supreme Court hearing on the matter set for September.

If the water utility wins the suit, it would mark the first time in the U.S. that agribusiness is forced to pay for water pollution, potentially setting a precedent with nationwide ramifications.