The Des Moines Water Works is planning to sue three northwest Iowa counties that it blames for high nitrate levels in the Raccoon River.

The utility’s board of trustees voted unanimously last week to send an intent-to-sue letter to the Sac, Buena Vista and Calhoun county boards of supervisors, which oversee drainage districts in those counties.

The litigation seeks to force the counties to get Clean Water Act permits for alleged discharges from agricultural drainage tile systems.

"What we would want to see is the state and federal government consciously regulating those programs," said Bill Stowe, CEO of Des Moines Water Works.

Farmers at the meeting said lawsuits aren’t the answer to solving Des Moines’ water quality...