Water Shut Off List: Does It Exist in Des Moines?

7 Replies

I'm a wholesaler here in DM and I tried to call the water company to get a list of properties that have their water shut off. I was told flat out they do not carry that information, but I'm skeptical and don't quite believe it yet. As I understand it, water companies, especially publicly owned ones, DO carry this information. Does anyone from Des Moines know if this list exists or not, and should I keep trying to procure it from the water company?

My reasoning behind wanting this list is to get a good list of vacant properties. 

They have that information.


But ask yourself this: why would a big, quasi-public entity give that information out to the public?  The potential for abuse is tremendous and they would be potentially liable if someone took advantage of information they provided.  It would also reflect badly on them.  Where is the benefit to them?  

@Matt Fisher As I understand it, if they are a public entity, they are subject to the Freedom of Information Act and must provide it. 

Des Moines Water Works is a quasi-government agency.  I can't say for sure that they are bound to  FOIA as I'm no expert, just a former Gov't employee...  If they are, and they don't want you to have it, consider that they might want not act with the speed you need or provide it in an easily accessible way.  And the request process may be cumbersome. Also, there are certain privacy rules that may prevent them from sharing that.  Could you FOIA request everyone in Des Moines SSN number?  

Why don't you go in and talk to them, I find they are very helpful in my projects.  I wouldn't start with demanding a FOIA request lol.

There are two reasons DMWW is unable to fulfill your request. First, public information requests falling under Chapter 22.2 of Iowa Code pertain to existing information that is considered a public record. A comprehensive list of properties that are delinquent on their water bill does not exist. The law does not compel a public entity such as DMWW to create or compile such information, but only to provide an existing public record if it already exists.

Even if such a list were available, Section 388.9A of Iowa Code states in part, “…public records of a city utility or combined utility system, or a city enterprise or combined city enterprise as defined in section 384.80, which shall not be examined or copied as of right, include private customer information. Except as required pursuant to chapter 476, “private customer information” includes information identifying a specific customer and any record of a customer account, including internet-based customer account information.” The information you have requested relates to specific customers’ accounts, and would therefore, not be subject to the open records law.

Following ... looking for multi-family deals in "nicer" areas to fulfill demand I'm having. Easy access to I-35/80 preferable. Numbers must make sense to me.

Thanks for doing the legwork there @Braidon Cottrell !  You summarized what I was thinking with actual laws!  

I would think that even with that list, you'd have to weed through a LOT of BS. I couldn't imagine how many people across Des Moines get their water shut off each week but still live there.

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