Muscatine Power and Water is the community’s municipal utility. Commonly referred to as MPW, the utility provides local electric and water service, as well as cable television and Internet service.
The evolution of MPW begins in 1876 when the first water company to serve the city, Muscatine Water Works, opened. Muscatine Water Works, a privately held business, secured a 25-year franchise to furnish water to the city. It utilized a pump house on Chestnut Street to draw water directly from the Mississippi River. Eleven miles of water mains and more than 100 fire hydrants were installed throughout the city by 1900.
Seeking a safer water supply, the Muscatine City Council, with the backing of a community referendum, purchased Muscatine Water Works in 1900. The new municipal utility purchased land from the Hoopes family on the Muscatine Island. Six years later, a new pumping station was completed on Maple Grove Road. Water was drawn from the island’s clean aquifer via multiple wells instead of the Mississippi River. Early water rates were $6.00 a year for homes with four rooms. By 1916, water meters had been installed throughout the city and a 250,000-gallon water tower was in use near Kindler Avenue and Cook Street.
Citizens Electric Light and Power Company formed in 1890. Within a year, the first Muscatine generation plant was built at the corner of Front Street (Mississippi Drive) and Pine Streets, and the electricity produced could power 1,600 incandescent lights. The utility vacated this plant in 1892 after a fire at nearby Stein Lumber Company. The plant later moved to near Front and Oak Streets, and the company went through a series of name changes until it ceased operations in the 1920s. During its heyday, Citizens Electric Light and Power Company also offered gas service, reportedly selling gas stoves at cost and providing free connection service. The original plant at Front and Pine subsequently housed a series of button companies, a produce operation, and a vermin trap factory. It is now home to J and K Button Company.
In 1922 Muscatine’s voters approved a $350,000 referendum to establish a municipal electric utility, and a Board of Directors was immediately formed. Money generated from the newly approved bond sale was used to build a power plant adjacent to the municipal water facility on Maple Grove Road. The plant went online in 1924, and former Muscatine mayor Joseph Miller was issued the municipal utility’s first electric meter.
State legislation made it possible for the two municipal utilities to merge into Muscatine Power and Light in 1929. The name was changed to Muscatine Power and Water in 1967. By 1997, MPW operated three coal fired generating facilities and had become the largest municipal utility in Iowa – serving over 10,000 customers. The same year, the community overwhelmingly passed a referendum enabling MPW to offer cable television and internet service. In 2000, the utility’s 100th anniversary, annual water consumption was 9-billion gallons via 125.5 miles of pipe, 29 wells, and over 1000 fire hydrants.