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The water utility serving 500,000 customers in central Iowa says it has spent more than $1.5 million since December to remove nitrate from the water to keep it within safe drinking limits.

Des Moines Water Works draws some water from the Des Moines and Raccoon rivers, both of which have had nitrate levels above the 10 milligrams per liter allowed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in recent months.

Water Works CEO Bill Stowe says he's preparing plans that include spending up to $183 million for new nitrate removal equipment that can keep up with higher levels coming from farms.

The utility is suing three upstream counties claiming farm drainage tiles contribute to high nitrates.

Farm groups campaigning against the lawsuit did not immediately reply to messages.

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