Plans to bring rural water to SW Cass County dry up due to lack of interest


April 25th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

Plans for the Southern Iowa Rural Water Association (SIRWA) to bring a dependable supply of water to parts of southwestern Cass County have dried up, at least for now, because of wetter weather over the past couple of years, a fairly good supply of private wells, and because of a general lack of interest in the project. That was the word today (Wednesday) from SIRWA officials, who spoke before the County Board of Supervisors.

SIRWA inspector Max Crawford said the $7-million dollar project is on-hold for now, because they weren’t able to acquire enough participation in two separate studies which began late last Spring.

In order to qualify for a $5.4-million USDA grant to make the project feasible, Crawford said there needed to be a good majority of the people participating. He says there were 335 customers in the second area they studied, with 166 indicating they were interested in hooking-up to rural water, or 49.6-percent. Crawford said that wasn’t good enough. He says they needed at least 277 sign-up’s or 70-percent participation from the approximate 385 rural homesteads in the area. Follow-up efforts included door-to-door contacts, publishing meetings in local papers, and phone calls. Still, Crawford says the response was not what they’d hoped for. 

Beth McDermott, who lives in the area, said meetings which were held on the project were not sufficiently publicized, and therefore resulted in low turnout. Crawford said it wasn’t for a lack of trying to get the word out through print and broadcast media. McDermott, who would like to subscribe to rural water, mailed out more than 300 letters herself, to area residents trying to spur interest. Crawford said SIRWA also tried repeatedly to contact residents, but it got to the point where some people who had been contacted multiple times and refused, were getting annoyed. He said after reviewing the amount of time and money spent on pre-engineering land options for water tower sites and the conducting of surveys…nearly $120,000…and only receiving 49% interest from the residents and land owners, the SIRWA Board said no more money would be invested in the project. 

He said efforts to find other ways to bring dependable water to residents of the area, some of whom desperately want it, will proceed, but it may not be SIRWA who provides that service, and it may take up to 10-years for any progress to be made.