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Des Moines faces extreme measures to find clean water

Des Moines is considering a drastic measure that, as a rule, large cities just don’t do — resorting to wells to find clean water.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Editor's note: The above video is from June 16.

For years, Des Moines Water Works has tried to force or cajole farmers upstream to reduce fertilizer runoff, which leaves the rivers with sky-high nitrate levels, but lawsuits and legislative lobbying have failed.

Now, Des Moines is considering a drastic measure that, as a rule, large cities just don’t do — resorting to wells to find clean water. Small communities and individuals use wells, but metro areas the size of Des Moines have always relied primarily on rivers and lakes for the large volumes of water needed.

It's frustrating for utility officials but they say they have little choice. 

Farmers acknowledge they need to help reduce nitrates but say voluntary efforts will be more effective than government regulations.

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