Owned by the citizens of Des Moines and managed by a Board of Trustees, Des Moines Water Works is independent from the City of Des Moines. But it wasn’t always that way.
The Des Moines Water Company was formed in 1871 as a privately owned company. In 1898, the City tried to purchase the company but the citizens voted it down. The vote eventually passed in 1911, but the sale wasn’t finalized. It was not until 1919 that a favorable vote of the citizens brought about public ownership by the City. The water company was organized as a public utility under the Code of Iowa, and the name was changed to Des Moines Water Works. At that time, the population of Des Moines was about 125,000, and there were 23,210 water services.
In 1923, the legislature removed the Board of Water Works Trustees from the City Council’s supervision. At that time, it became law that the Board would have the same powers as the City Council with the exception of levying taxes, and members would be appointed by the Mayor, subject to approval by the City Council. The Board is responsible for appointing the chief executive officer/general manager who is accountable for operation of the utility in accordance with law and Board policies.
In summary, Des Moines Water Works is an independently operated public utility with a commitment to providing quality water in reliable quantities to approximately 500,000 people in the Greater Des Moines area.