Archive for March, 2014March 17, 2014
Local and national experts agree that water rates are on the rise, in part due to deteriorating infrastructure and rising debt among utilities. The Central Iowa Regional Drinking Water Commission (CIRDWC), a body of elected and appointed officials from central Iowa formed by 28E agreement to provide water system planning for the entire region, is proposing a study be performed by an independent consultant to evaluate the feasibility whether a regional water production utility can provide better service and accommodate future demand. The estimated $250,000 study could show whether merging area water production utilities, most of which already receive at least a portion of their water from Des Moines Water Works, could result in lower rate increases and better service in the future.
The main driving factor of the study is to assure central Iowans have reliable sources of water and it is being produced at a reasonable cost. A regional model has the potential for several other benefits, including:
- Financial savings by spreading overhead costs, engineering costs and other expenses over a larger customer base
- Improved long-term planning about where new treatment plants should be built and how to address potential water shortages
- A more representative government structure
“It is smarter for the region to combine its production operations and expand together, rather than individual cities investing in their own treatment facilities at greater cost to consumers and without coordinated planning,” said Bill Stowe, CEO and General Manager, Des Moines Water Works.
Stowe pointed to the Wastewater Reclamation Authority as a model for successful collaboration. The organization includes 17 local municipalities, counties and sewer districts. The City of Des Moines is the operating contractor, but membership to the governing board is based on population.
The proposed study will focus on the potential outcomes of combining drinking water treatment and production services and assets, but not distribution. If efforts to establish a regional utility do move forward, the responsibility of delivering water to customers and setting distribution rates would remain with individual cities and water providers.
A Request for Qualifications will be issued this spring to identify a consultant to complete the study, which could take six months to complete. As a preliminary step, the feasibility study will identify what options are available and does not mean a regional water production utility will ultimately be pursued.
Iowa weather is nothing if unpredictable. If conditions turn unfavorably dry and hot this summer, Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) remains concerned about water quality and the quantity of water resources available for drinking water supplies. To prepare for seemingly unpredictable conditions, Des Moines Water Works has developed a Water Shortage Plan to guide utility activities and communications in the event a drought persists this summer.
What does this mean to you as a DMWW customer? It means you may be asked to reduce water consumption, particularly in regards to irrigation.
So that customers do not experience quality, availability, or pressure issues during periods of extreme water demand, this plan has several progressive stages that begin with DMWW requesting that customers voluntarily reduce turf irrigation by 25%. If demand continues to exceed 80% of DMWW’s capacity to produce quality drinking water, the plan progresses to more restrictive stages outlining a mandatory prohibition on all turf irrigation and sprinkler systems. Enforcement at this latter stage may also carry consequences, such as the termination of water for turf irrigation and/or an escalated water shortage rate structure. If conditions turn extreme and water supplies are critically impaired, the water shortage rate structure allows for winter usage (March, April, May usage) throughout the summer, and any usage over that winter baseline will be charged at four (4) times the normal water rate.
The complete plan can be viewed here, or in person at Des Moines Water Works’ General Office, located at 2201 George Flagg Parkway, in Des Moines.
With the help of all customers becoming wise water users and working together, Des Moines Water Works can effectively and efficiently use the available water supply to provide Water You Can Trust for Life.