Water Treatment

Renovated Water Plant Protects Human and Aquatic Life

Located on the east bank of the Iowa River, the University of Iowa’s water plant is a trusted source of potable water for the University and for the surrounding hospital and clinics. Proper maintenance of the plant is vital to its continued efficient, sustainable, and safe operation. This project focuses on replacing the water intake portion of the plant, which includes a pump house on the river bank and the intake structure that sits in the river close to the bank.

A new intake structure and pump house will be erected upstream of the existing one, which was built in 1962. New piping will be installed to convey water into the plant. The new water intake is designed to minimize disruption to the riparian ecosystem, with particular focus on preserving the habitat of the Higgins eye pearlymussel (Lampsilis higginsii), an endangered species native to this region. Among the environmental benefits of the improved intake design will be a reduced impact on water flow around the intake components.

Land development along the Iowa River has made the pump house more susceptible to flooding. Flood-hardening measures will enable the facility to meet FEMA flood elevation requirements. The upgrades will also improve the facility’s aesthetic appeal, allowing it to blend more harmoniously into the waterfront landscape.

The upgrades will also deliver operational efficiencies and cost reductions. For example, plant staff currently spend many hours each winter manually de-icing and cleaning the intake screens to ensure optimal water flow into the plant. Automating this process will not only save time but also improve the safety of plant staff. The new intake is also designed for better protection from debris floating downriver, which will reduce repair costs during the useful life of the intake mechanisms. The upgrades are expected to be completed in early 2024, after passing all relevant permitting and environmental reviews required by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.