116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
MARION — The Marion Water Department is buying land for more wells that will open the door to additional development, building a fourth water tower and constructing a $2.8 million facility to remove iron from drinking water.
The iron removal facility, to be complete by August at 2351 31st St., acts as a large filtration system for the nearby wells, said Water Department General Manager Todd Steigerwaldt.
“It’s not going to soften the water, but it will remove some of the hardness in the iron product out there,” he said.
The new project is funded by water sales, Steigerwaldt said. The department’s office at 3050 Fifth Ave, which is also the site of one of the city’s three water towers, used to be home to another iron-removal facility that went out of service in 2010.
“It was low producing and poor water quality. To upgrade that facility to modern standards would’ve been more costly for the volume we needed,” Steigerwaldt said. “That one could only pump 240 gallons per minute. The new one can pump 600, so it made more sense for the infrastructure to construct a new one.”
The water department does not receive taxes or funds from the city and is funded by sales of water to residents and businesses. It’s annual budget is about $7 million.
“We have to manage our growth needs to serve the community the best we know how to,” Steigerwaldt said. “We know we have challenges and we are addressing those challenges, but those come with an economic cost to the department and community.”
The water department already increased rates by 5.4 percent for the typical residential customer and, on average, 9.5 percent for commercial and industrial customers which went into effect last year. The increase was due to rising energy costs, loan payments and the construction of the iron removal plant. The department says the impact on the average residential water customer is about $1.16 per month.
Steigerwaldt said over the next few years, the department will invest in new wells on the southern, northern and eastern areas of Marion as development continues to expand in all three directions.
New wells are needed to improve water pressure in those areas. Northern Marion has lower water pressure than the rest of the city, according to water department maps.
“We meet all drinking water standards. But it means that you’re not going to be able to have five people in your house use different showers all at once or you’re not going to be able to run multiple irrigation sprinkler systems at once,” Steigerwaldt said. “It’s about the availability for quantity, not quality.”
The department already has land purchased on the east side of Highway 13 for future wells and has contracted to purchase 20 acres north of the city for the future as well.
“We’re actively staying ahead of growth,” Steigerwaldt said. “We’re getting the land, doing the test wells and we’ve also been replacing our old water mains to limit breaks, including in the Uptown streetscape project.”
The department also purchased a station in 2018 for $850,000 that has helped raise the water pressure on the east side.
The department is looking to construct its fourth elevated water tower near Hunter’s Ridge on Marion’s northside, which would cost about $3 million. That project could be operational in the next five years. The newest tower, located off 35th Street, was built in 1992.
Marion Community Development Director Tom Treharne said as the areas with less water pressure are able to increase their capacity over the next few years, the potential for even more growth increases.
“There are issues with going too vertical when you don’t have the pressure. Ranch homes are great, but if you want to rezone for three-story apartment buildings or even two-story homes, developers may have to look at their own pressurized systems and most don’t want to do that,” Treharne said.
Treharne said as the pressure increases, the city will be able to see more development opportunities and he estimates that the city will see a lot of smaller lots with two-story homes in those areas of the city as well as more multifamily developments.
“We’ve already seen that uptick with multifamily that we haven’t seen in this city before and that will continue at that scale we’ve never seen before,” he said. “The more water pressure and sewer capabilities, the more opportunity for these developments.”
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