Archive for the ‘About Us’ Category

September 19, 2018

Critical Infrastructure Upgrades Since 1993

Water is one of the most useful things on Earth and also one the most powerful. As the Des Moines metro area prepared to celebrate 25 years of progress from the historic Flood of 1993, residents once again witnessed firsthand the devastating force of nature during the flash flooding of late June 2018, with pockets of the metro area receiving 6 to 10 inches in a matter of hours. Tributaries of the Raccoon River and Des Moines River reached record or near-record levels. The localized flash flooding caused significant damage to many homes and businesses.

After monitoring river projections through the late evening, Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) staff began flood preparations for the Fleur Drive Treatment Plant in the early morning hours of July 1. While the Raccoon River at Fleur Drive did not reach record stages like the Flood ’93, the physical and informational changes made since 1993 have been tested numerous times:

  • Levees surrounding the Fleur Drive Treatment Plant were built up an additional 6 feet.
  • Flood gates were installed around Fleur Drive Treatment Plant and George Flagg Parkway General Office.
  • Stormwater upgrades inside Fleur Drive Treatment Plant were made to protect against internal flooding during heaving rains.
  • Access to the Fleur Drive Treatment Plant during a flood event were improved with the Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway interchange construction.
  • Critical support functions at the General Office were relocated to ensure access of important data.
  • Two additional water treatment plants – L.D. McMullen Water Treatment Plant at Maffitt Reservoir and Saylorville Water Treatment Plant – were built to create redundancy in our water treatment capabilities.
  • Three Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) wells were also constructed to provide redundancy.
  • Real-time river data from United States Geological Survey, National Weather Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were made available. The availability to this important data is invaluable to staff for emergency planning and preparation.

(photo of Fleur Drive Treatment Plant flood gates during 2008 flood)

With these critical infrastructure upgrades, Des Moines Water Works is able to remain committed to providing safe, affordable and abundant water service, even in times of crisis.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in About Us, Flooding, Infrastructure September 10, 2018

Gallery ‘Flooding Station’ 100 Years Old

Des Moines Water Works Fleur Drive Treatment Plant has the option of three different sources of raw water. The first and best source is a shallow groundwater collection system called the Infiltration Gallery. The Gallery system is a three-mile long, porous pipe constructed with concrete rings. The gallery runs parallel to the Raccoon River in Water Works Park from SW 46th Street to Fleur Drive. It collects naturally-filtered water from the sand and gravel of the river valley. The concrete rings are four and five feet in diameter and two feet long and are held slightly apart so water can trickle into the pipe. The Gallery system at Des Moines Water Works dates back to 1884, when the first 260 feet was constructed. By 1910, over 6,000 feet of Gallery had been excavated and placed in service.

Prior to 1910, when Des Moines’ water supply was deficient, trenches were dug in nearby sandbars or whole surfaces of sandbars were cleaned off to allow them to flood at a shallow depth and augment the water supply to the Gallery. After Gallery extensions were made in 1910, “emergency filters” were also constructed to collect water for infiltration. Thus began the construction of the current ponds in Water Works Park to augment the water supply to the Gallery.

During the drought of 1916 and after, extremely low water levels were artificially increased using a temporary pumping station to pump water from the Raccoon River onto a low-lying area. About five million gallons per day (mgd) were pumped onto the ground to flood an area of about four acres. Since this worked so effectively at increasing water supplies in the Gallery, it was decided to build a permanent pumping station at this location in 1918. It was placed into service in February 1919, and contained two motor-driven centrifugal pumps that could each pump 5 mgd. Since it was originally used to flood the land, it became known as a ‘flooding station,’ not pumping station.

One interesting fact about the Gallery flooding station is who the architect was: Norman T. Vorse. Mr. Vorse was a well-known architect of the time. He designed many Des Moines landmarks, including Court Avenue Bridge, Des Moines Municipal Courthouse (now the home of Des Moines Police Department) and Hoyt-Sherman Auditorium.

The Infiltration Gallery provided all the water to the Des Moines area until 1949. Increased water demand required construction of an intake on the Raccoon River in 1949, and the drought of 1977 precipitated construction of an intake on the Des Moines River in 1980. Today, the Infiltration Gallery system provides the first 20 million gallons of water each day, and a century later, the flooding station is still in use.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , Posted in About Us, Infrastructure, Source Water August 1, 2018

2018 Citizen Water Academy

Though Des Moines Water Works has successfully supplied safe, abundant and affordable drinking water to central Iowans for almost 100 years, the associated planning, production, distribution, monitoring and challenges presented by contaminated source water are not common knowledge among most citizens.  With water quality on the minds of Central Iowans, Des Moines Water Works is hosting it’s second annual Citizen Water Academy of Central Iowa in an effort to engage the public in more detail about the evolution of drinking water and understand plans for the future that meet the growing needs of our community. Last year, DMWW hosted 24 participants in the inaugural Citizen Water Academy.

The Citizen Water Academy of Central Iowa is designed to help current and emerging leaders in our community learn and appreciate our most important natural resource; the water we depend on for life.  Attendees will receive 16 hours of instruction, tour multiple treatment plants operated by Des Moines Water Works, listen to presentations from soil and water professionals, and interact with our expert Des Moines Water Works staff over the four sessions of this program.  It is our hope that participants not only come away from the Water Academy with a better understanding of their local water utility, but are also equipped to help lead the debate on important water issues now and in the future.

What to Expect

All sessions are held at Des Moines Water Works general office.

Session 1: Wednesday, October 10, 1:00-5:00 pm

Theme: Imagine a Day Without Water

Session 2: Thursday, October 25, 1:00-5:30 pm

Theme: What is the value of clean water?

Session 3: Thursday, November 1, 1:00-5:00 pm

Theme: Working to protect source water

Session 4 and Graduation: Wednesday, November 7, 1:00-5:00 pm

Theme: Putting knowledge into practice

There is no tuition, fee, or charge to apply to attend the Citizen Water Academy.  For more information on the Citizen Water Academy and to apply to be a part of the 2018 class.  For more information and to apply, visit www.citizenwateracademy.com

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Labels: , , , Posted in About Us, Customer Service January 18, 2018

Community Partnerships

Des Moines Water Works is committed to being a vital contributor to the betterment of our community.  Each year, we consider contributions and sponsorships with external organizations that advance the utility’s mission, vision and strategic initiatives.  In 2017, Des Moines Water Works provided over $13,000 to local organizations with curriculum or events designed to build awareness and appreciation for the value of water as a vital resource or build awareness for source water quality and quantity.  A few of these organizations include: Community Youth Concepts, Polk County Conservation, Water Rocks! and Whiterock Conservancy.

More information about Des Moines Water Works’ sponsorship program and an online sponsorship application is available at www.dmww.com/about-us/sponsorships. All requests for in-kind and/or financial support must be made by February 28 of each year using the online form.

Des Moines Water Works thanks its community partners working to provide education, appreciation for and accessibility of safe and affordable drinking water.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , Posted in About Us, Customers January 16, 2018

Des Moines Water Works Becomes First U.S. Water Treatment Facility Certified for ISO 50001 and Superior Energy Performance Program

Des Moines Water Works recently became the first U.S. water treatment utility to certify a plant to the ISO 50001 standard and Superior Energy Performance® (SEP) program.  The SEP program has long helped industrial and commercial organizations establish energy management systems that meet the widely respected ISO 50001 standard and achieve verified energy and cost savings.  As the first certified facility in the water sector, Des Moines Water Works’ Fleur Drive Water Treatment Plant has paved the way for similar facilities nationwide to increase efficiency, cut costs, and demonstrate responsible management of resources.

Aerial photo of Des Moines Water Works’ Fleur Drive Treatment Plant.

Water treatment facilities across America increasingly face aging infrastructures and rising costs.  According to the Electric Power Research Institute, U.S. water and wastewater treatment and distribution systems purchase nearly 70 billion kWh annually (about 1.8 percent of U.S. electricity consumption).  Low-cost operational changes enabled by an energy management system can sustainably reduce operating costs to enable reinvestment in infrastructure or control rates.

Des Moines Water Works has taken a pro-active step in good stewardship of energy and ratepayer dollars by implementing a comprehensive energy conservation and management program.  Energy costs are a significant portion of the utility’s operational budget, so focusing on developing and implementing an energy management system is a crucial step in this stewardship.

Des Moines Water Works worked closely with U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to implement ISO 50001 and SEP.  The utility has pursued energy-saving strategies for decades, but in 2014, the utility raised the bar by joining the SEP pilot for the water/wastewater sector.  In 2016, Des Moines Water Works joined DOE’s Better Plants program and set a goal to increase energy efficiency 25% utility-wide by 2026.  In the following year (2017), the utility joined the Better Plants Challenge, which involves a commitment to share their solutions.

ISO 50001 and SEP helped the utility establish a formal structure to embed energy management processes and reporting into normal business procedures, ensuring the retention and growth of energy savings over time.  By implementing a rigorous energy management system certified to ISO 50001 and Superior Energy Performance, Des Moines Water Works’ Fleur Drive Water Treatment Plant increased its energy performance 2.7% in a single year and is now well-equipped to continuously build on those savings in the years ahead.

ISO 50001 has empowered employees at Des Moines Water Works to incorporate energy-saving actions in day-to-day operations, for example:  taking into consideration how and where energy is used, the cost of energy, and its impact on water rates.

“This new culture of managing energy performance will help the Des Moines Water Works expand its energy and cost savings to benefit the environment and our water customers,” said Bill Stowe, Des Moines Water Works CEO and General Manager.  “The certification is a clear indication to Des Moines Water Works customers and employees that we will lead in providing about good stewardship of natural resources, improving energy performance, and reducing carbon emissions.”

Posted by: Laura Sarcone 2 Comments
Labels: , , , Posted in About Us, Green Initiatives, Infrastructure January 8, 2018

Des Moines Water Works’ 2018 Legislative Priorities

Des Moines Water Works believes meaningful water quality legislation that protects the health of Iowans should be Iowa Legislature’s number one priority; not “pass what we have, and move on.”  Passing legislation and then crossing our fingers and hoping it works is no way to address our water quality issues in our state.  It is also fiscally irresponsible at a time when the state budget has serious constraints and adds to the public health crisis for all Iowans, rural and urban.   Des Moines Water Works will advocate for the following priorities in 2018:

  1. Make the Raccoon River Watershed a Top Priority
    • The watershed provides drinking water to 500,000 Iowans  (one-sixth of the state’s population).
    • Address urgent water quality problems: escalating nitrate concentrations – data show levels have been climbing for decades.
    • Stop pollution that causes serious health threats: blue green algae (cyanotoxins).
    • Fully fund and support subwatershed WMAs (Watershed Management Authorities) that are already formed – North Raccoon, Beaver Creek, Walnut Creek WMAs.
  2. Create Adequate, Sustained Funding Mechanism to Clean Up Iowa Water
    • Adequate and sustained funding mechanism for a targeted, holistic approach to water quality, that includes accountability and measures of progress.
    • Stop pollution where it starts and make the watershed safe for all residents.
    • Funding must not pit conservation/water quality against other vital state services.
    • Require water quality monitoring at the watershed level to ensure effective use of public funds with public access to the data
  3. Give Explicit and Specified Authority and Responsibility to Drainage Districts
    • Require consideration of environmental impacts before new tiling.
    • Give authority to require, monitor and enforce mitigation at edge-of-field.
    • Require water quality monitoring at the district level.
  4. Local Control of Drinking Water
    • Local solutions must be created collaboratively at the local level.
    • A one-size fits all approach for public health issues is bad politics. Home Rule is the best policy for drinking water.
    • Ensure economic growth, public health and supply, by leaving drinking water governance to local water experts.
Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in About Us, Public Policy, Water Quality October 16, 2017

Des Moines Water Works Inaugural Citizen Water Academy

Des Moines Water Works hosted 24 participants (including metro area County Supervisors, Public Works Directors, public health professionals, and business, neighborhood and education leaders) for the first session of the Citizen Water Academy on October 12; which coincided with a nationwide initiative called, “Imagine a Day Without Water.”  While most people understand that water is important, many still take it for granted.  It is our hope that participants not only come away from the Citizen Water Academy with a better understanding of their local water utility, but are also equipped to help lead the discussion on important water issues in our community.

The concept of a Citizen Water Academy is not one that was born here at Des Moines Water Works.  It is something Des Moines Water Works CEO and General Manager Bill Stowe was made aware at a conference among his peers of the largest water utilities in the country.   The San Diego County Water Authority has been offering its Citizen Water Academy since 2014.  They had a need to better educate the public and community leaders about water management during a severe drought.  While the challenges in Des Moines are different than those in San Diego, we too have a need to better educate and engage the public that depends on us for safe and abundant drinking water.

Des Moines Water Works has successfully supplied drinking water to central Iowans for nearly 100 years; however, the associated planning, production, distribution, monitoring and challenges presented by deteriorating source water are not common knowledge among most citizens.  The Citizen Water Academy is designed to help current and emerging leaders in our community learn and appreciate our most important natural resource, the water we depend on for life.  Participants will receive a total of 16 hours of instruction, tour multiple treatment plants operated by Des Moines Water Works, listen to presentations from soil and water experts, and interact with expert Des Moines Water Works staff over the four sessions of the program.  The goal of the Citizen Water Academy is to arm citizens with data and information to better understand the workings of a drinking water utility.  Additionally, participants learn some of the challenges Des Moines Water Works faces on a regular basis in delivering safe, affordable and abundant drinking water to over 500,000 people in central Iowa.

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Labels: , , , , Posted in About Us, Customers August 9, 2017

Citizen Water Academy of Central Iowa

Though Des Moines Water Works has successfully supplied safe, abundant and affordable drinking water to central Iowans for almost 100 years, the associated planning, production, distribution, monitoring and challenges presented by contaminated source water are not common knowledge among most citizens.  With water quality on the minds of Central Iowans, Des Moines Water Works is launching a Citizen Water Academy of Central Iowa in an effort to engage the public in more detail about the evolution of drinking water and understand plans for the future that meet the growing needs of our community.

The Citizen Water Academy is a free, four-session crash course about the history, use and management of water in the Central Iowa region.  The Academy is designed to help current and emerging leaders in our community learn and appreciate our most important natural resource, the water we depend on for life.  Attendees will receive 16 hours of instruction, tour multiple treatment plants operated by Des Moines Water Works, listen to over 15 presentations from soil and water experts, and interact with our expert Des Moines Water Works staff over the 4 courses of the program.  It is our hope that participants not only come away from the Academy with a better understanding of their local water utility, but are also equipped to help lead the debate on important water issues now and in the future.

For more information on the Citizen Water Academy and to apply to be a part of the inaugural class, visit www.citizenwateracademy.com  For specific questions, contact Jennifer Terry, at (515) 283-8706 or terry@dmww.com.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , Posted in About Us, Education, Health, History, Infrastructure, Public Policy, Source Water, Value of Water, Water Quality, Water Treatment May 22, 2017

2017 Utility Goals

Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) staff has identified areas of focus for the utility in the coming year, each of which is believed to move the utility in the direction of greater efficiency, better security and planning, or improved employee health.  Quarterly updates will be reported to the Board of Water Works Trustees and published on www.dmww.com.

  1. Customer:  Develop a plan to implement a new billing and customer information system that offers enhanced customer service offerings. Begin implementation in 2017, expected to conclude in 2018.
  2. Technology:  Ensure the security of electronic payments made by customers by implementing Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliant payment solutions by June 30, 2017. These changes may include changes to fees and transaction
    limits that will be communicated in advance to customers.
  3. Financial:  Contract an outside consultant to review DMWW’s approach to determining costs by service area (known as the Cost of Service study, which is the basis for rate making decisions), evaluate recommended changes, and develop a plan for implementing adopted changes.
  4. Employee:  Reduce employee OSHA recordable injuries to no more than 9, which is 75% of the industry average.
  5. Planning:  Complete long range planning and update the utility’s 5-year capital improvement plan to ensure a reliable, abundant, and affordable water supply to the metro area through 2040.
  6. Operations:  Optimize operations at DMWW’s newest plant, Saylorville Water Treatment Plant, by designing and installing additional Reverse Osmosis (RO) membranes.
Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , Posted in About Us, Board of Trustees, Customer Service, Customers, Saylorville Water Treatment Plant May 8, 2017

Des Moines Water Works Remains Focused on Source Water Protection

Des Moines Water Works has chosen not to appeal its Federal Clean Water case. The United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa issued its ruling on March 17, dismissing all of Des Moines Water Works’ claims against the Boards of Supervisors in Sac County, Buena Vista County and Calhoun County.

In March 2015, Des Moines Water Works Board of Trustees filed a federal lawsuit against the Boards of Supervisors in their capacities as trustees of 10 drainage districts. The complaint alleged the named drainage districts are point source polluters as defined by the Clean Water Act and Iowa Code Chapter 455B, and called for the drainage districts take all necessary actions to comply with the Clean Water Act. In addition, Des Moines Water Works demanded damages in an amount required to compensate for the harm the drainage districts caused by their unlawful discharge of nitrate.

“As an independent water utility, the sole focus of Des Moines Water Works is to provide safe and affordable drinking water to the 500,000 Iowans we serve. Water quality is an issue that we take very seriously, and the conclusion of the lawsuit will not change that,” said Bill Stowe, CEO and General Manager, Des Moines Water Works. “While many in the agriculture community and state political leadership took issue with the lawsuit, nobody objected to the facts showing drainage districts are polluters. The risks remain and demand immediate accountability to protect our state.”

The ruling dismissing the case did not dispute the assertion that drainage districts cause water quality problems in the Raccoon River Watershed. Rather, the court indicated that Des Moines Water Works may well have suffered an injury, but the drainage districts lack the legal ability to redress that injury.

According to Stowe, “Policy and law must keep pace as public health and water quality concerns demonstrate both risk and cost to water consumers; that includes 100-year old Iowa Code dealing with drainage districts and implementation of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.”

The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy estimates that 92% of nitrate in Iowa’s water comes from unregulated sources, namely agriculture, and 8% from regulated sources, such as sewer systems. Without proper funding and water quality data to measure progress, the Nutrient Reduction Strategy cannot produce the 45% nitrogen reduction goal. The court’s ruling noted this argument, and concluded these are policy issues the Iowa Legislature should resolve.

“Central Iowa will continue to be burdened with expensive, serious and escalating water pollution problems; the lawsuit was an attempt to protect our ratepayers, whose public health and quality of life continue to be impacted by unregulated industrial agriculture,” said Stowe. “These serious problems have been placed squarely on the shoulders of our state legislators. The old, business-as-usual, voluntary-only approach will never result in the 45% nitrogen reduction. We hope that, rather than wasting valuable time and resources crafting legislation designed to punish Des Moines Water Works for filing the lawsuit, our legislators can create bold laws that address water pollution. True source water protection is vital to our customers and community.”

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Labels: , , , , , Posted in About Us, Board of Trustees, Customers, Source Water, Water Quality