Water is going to have a lot to do with Greater Des Moines’ ability to live up to projections for a population of 1 million, and to attract and keep enough workers to fully staff growing businesses. Outdoor recreation, much of it centered on lakes and rivers, is a big reason many people live in this area.

There’s a $117 million plan to build whitewater courses, zip lines, canoe and kayak launches, and swimming spots in 80 areas along Central Iowa’s 150 miles of waterways. A big part of that work will be removing three dangerous dams downtown and replacing them with whitewater courses that not only will be fun for people of varying paddling skills, but also a tourist draw.

But encouraging people to use the waterways raises the question: What do we do about Iowa’s famously green and brown waters, which often have high bacteria, nitrate and, increasingly, toxic algae blooms? There is plenty of talk about cleaning them — and quite a bit of work — but how much progress are we really making?

We’ll ask a panel of experts in agriculture, environmental issues, government, business, development and recreation how we capitalize on a key moment in Greater Des Moines’ history and a chance to build on considerable momentum in the area.


  • How do we pay for the $117 million water trails program and other recreation projects?
  • How important is outdoor recreation to worker recruitment and retention?
  • How do we best position Greater Des Moines on the recreation front in a way that would attract and support a population of 1 million?
  • As we improve access to 150 miles of waterways, how do we make sure the water is safe to use?
  • Where do we get the money to significantly improve Iowa’s water quality?

  • Ingrid Gronstal Anderson – water program director, Iowa Environmental Council
  • Tom Hadden – city manager, West Des Moines
  • Kathryn Kunert – vice president, Central Iowa Water Trails Incubator board
  • Sean McMahon – executive director, Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance
  • Ted Corrigan  interim CEO and general manager, Des Moines Water Works
Date: Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019
Time: 7 a.m. networking, 7:30 to 9 a.m. program
Location: Embassy Club, 666 Grand Ave. (Ruan Center), 34th floor
Register: Click here