Archive for the ‘About Us’ CategoryApril 7, 2014
Spring melting has caused significant water quality concerns for Des Moines Water Works, in particular ammonia present in our rivers from livestock runoff and other upstream land uses. Many customers may have noticed a chlorine taste and smell in their drinking water. Weeks of disinfection treatment has been necessary to reduce runoff impacts; however, disinfection has its own risks, including potential health risks if continued over the long term.
Des Moines Water Works aggressively and continuously monitors for the presence of drinking water contaminants. Tests indicating a “snap shot” of drinking water quality are taken often in the Des Moines Water Works system. Testing results received on March 21, 2014, show Des Moines Water Works exceeded the regulatory standard for Total Trihalomethanes (TTHM). The standard for TTHM is 0.080 milligrams per liter (mg/L), or 80 parts per billion. Des Moines Water Works’ result for TTHM during the monitoring period, which ended in the first quarter, was 0.090 mg/L in the Des Moines Public Water Supply (PWS) and 0.0926 mg/L in the Southeast Polk Rural Water District PWS.
“First and foremost, we take very seriously our responsibility to customers to provide a safe, reliable, and abundant water supply, and recognize that responsibility was not met here,” said Bill Stowe, CEO and General Manager. “Safe drinking water standards exist to protect public health – some for immediate health considerations, and others that protect against unwanted long-term effects. This exceedance falls within the second category. What is important here is that we respond with a sense of urgency to remedy the issue so it does not have the opportunity to become long-term. Our customers need to understand that there is not an immediate concern with respect to the drinking water – it remains safe to consume and customers do not need to use alternative sources of drinking water, nor use additional treatment techniques.”
Trihalomethanes are one of the most common disinfection by-products. Disinfection by-products form when chlorine used for disinfection reacts with organic matter present in the water. Some people who drink water containing Trihalomethanes in excess of the standard over many years may experience problems with their liver, kidneys or central nervous system.
The violation occurred due to the interaction between chlorine and organic matter in the water system.
“At the time of the violation, Des Moines Water Works saw elevated levels of ammonia and other organic matter in both the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers,” said Stowe.
Disinfection with chlorine is more difficult when ammonia is present in source waters. Ammonia consumes chlorine, leaving it unavailable for disinfection. This requires adding additional chlorine to eliminate the ammonia and obtain proper disinfection during the final stage of treatment. For that reason, chlorine levels have been purposefully higher since early January. Elevated levels of organic matter, at a time when chlorine is being dosed aggressively, causes the formation of the undesirable disinfection by-products.
High levels of organic matter and ammonia in the rivers are often the result of agriculture runoff, especially livestock operations and manure fertilized fields.
“Runoff into the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers has once again created significant water quality and water treatment concerns,” said Stowe. “We are completely at the mercy of what is in our rivers each day.”
“Investing in multi-million dollar capital improvements to adjust treatment processes is one viable solution to eradicate similar violations in the future, but the source of the problem remains in our rivers,” said Stowe. “This should be a call to action for all central Iowans to advocate for cleaner source water and to question if voluntary water protection measures work.”
Des Moines Water Works customers will receive the public notice required by Iowa Department of Natural Resources in their April bill statement. Copies of the notices can be found here:
- Public Notice for all DMWW full and total service customers, except Southeast Polk, south of I-80
- Public Notice for Southeast Polk customers (Runnells and Southeast Polk, south of I-80)
The regulation requires averaging the samples obtained in the last four calendar quarters. Because of the high results in the first quarter of 2014, similar notices will be sent to customers in future quarters unless and until the average falls below the standard. Customers can expect three additional notices in 2014.Labels: Des Moines Water Works, Des Moines waterworks, DMWW, Total Trihalomethanes, TTHM, water quality Posted in About Us, Source Water, Water Quality March 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.Labels: Central Iowa Regional Drinking Water Commission, CIRDWC, Des Moines Water Works, Des Moines waterworks, DMWW, Regional Water Utility Posted in About Us, Board of Trustees, Customer Service February 14, 2014
Despite an aggressive preventative maintenance program in Central Iowa, water mains around Des Moines are breaking at a record number, Cold weather and corrosion of pipes have teamed up to cause pipe failures. The extreme drop in mercury drives frost penetration to a greater depth. Deeper frost penetration causes the corroded water mains to break. With expected warmer temperatures in the coming days, it can cause the frost line to move quickly and cause breaks as well.
The American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2013 grade for America’s drinking water infrastructure was a D, which is no surprise considering Des Moines Water Works has repaired a record number of main breaks in one month: 122 breaks in January. To date, Des Moines Water Works crews have repaired 200 main breaks, with as many as 12 in a single day.
The 10 year average for total main breaks in a year is 290. On average, half of the main breaks occur in the three winter months of December, January and February. The total number of main breaks in 2013 was 342. The highest number of breaks in one year was 365, set in 1988.
The average cost of a main break is around $5,000-7,000 for labor, materials and equipment. This does not account for the loss of water at a main break. The 2014 budget for emergency repairs is approximately $1.5 million. So far in 2014, Des Moines Water Works has spent approximately $1 million in repairing water mains. Any impact of this year’s main break experience will be analyzed when determining the 2015 water rates.
Though largely out of sight and out of mind, Des Moines Water Works operates and maintains more than 1,300 miles of underground water mains distributing finished drinking water to homes and business in Des Moines and surrounding communities. The pipes in the distribution system are made from cast iron, concrete and plastic and also vary in size, from half-inch diameter service lines to 48-inch diameter transmission mains. Pipes installed between 1940 and 1960 are leading to most of the main breaks in Des Moines. The oldest pipe (circa 1900), which can be found in Downtown Des Moines, is some of the best in the distribution system.
“While every main break is different, fixing it quickly and safely are top priorities,” said Bill Stowe, CEO and General Manager, Des Moines Water Works. “Our goal is to minimize disruption to our customers who live, work and commute in the area.”
Des Moines Water Works invests millions of dollars each year in infrastructure improvements. The 2014 capital improvements budget includes $2.2 million for water main replacement within the Des Moines water distribution system. These funds will be used to replace water mains that have reached their useful life expectancy – water mains with a high occurrence of breaks.Labels: Des Moines Water Works, Des Moines waterworks, DMWW, main break, Main Breaks Posted in About Us, Customers, Infrastructure January 8, 2014
Des Moines Water Works, in partnership with Polk County Emergency Management, has begun using CodeRED for emergency communications to the public. CodeRED is a mass notification service that alerts residents to various emergencies via recorded telephone, text or e-mail alerts. The alerts are geographically targeted and can include emergencies like water outages, boil water orders, and important public health notifications. The program is being piloted for Des Moines Water Works customers in Polk County.
Customers do not need to do anything to enroll in the customer notification system, but Des Moines Water Works does ask that customers have current phone number(s) on file. Update your account profile online at www.dmww.com with your current phone number (select log-in or create a new account at the top of the page) or call a DMWW Customer Service Representative at (515) 283-8700 to ensure your phone number on file is up-to-date. Personal information will be safeguarded and used only for emergency notifications. You can also create or update your contact information directly on the Polk County CodeRED website at https://public.coderedweb.com/CNE/33A099CF3F14.
Recipients’ Caller ID will display an (866) 419-5000 phone number. If you miss the call, simply dial the number displayed on your Caller ID to hear the last message delivered. The CodeRED system provides Des Moines Water Works the ability to quickly deliver emergency messages to targeted areas or all residents of Polk County.
Have you ever wondered where your money goes when you pay your water bill?
The Center on Sustainable Communities, Des Moines Water Works, Greater Des Moines Partnership, Metro Waste Authority and MidAmerican Energy will honor six organizations with Environmental Impact Awards at a luncheon on Wednesday, May 15, 2013. The awards program will take place from 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the Raccoon River Park Nature Lodge, 2500 Grand Avenue, West Des Moines.
The Environmental Impact Awards were established in 2011to recognize organizations and leaders who exemplify environmentally sustainable practices. The 2013 Award Winners are:
Built Environment (presented by Center on Sustainable Communities)
Business (presented by Greater Des Moines Partnership)
Civic (presented by Metro Waste Authority)
- Government Body: City of Des Moines Parks and Recreation
- Non-governmental Organization: Iowa Legal Aid
Two organizations will receive special recognition for excellence in water management and energy efficiency at the May 15 luncheon. These excellence awards are provided by Des Moines Water Works and MidAmerican Energy, respectively.
Tickets for the luncheon are $25 per person and registration is available online at www.icosc.com.Labels: Des Moines Water Works, Des Moines waterworks, DMWW, Environmental Impact Awards Posted in About Us, Conservation, Environment April 3, 2013
On May 11, The Move Project will host The Water Ride, a bicycle ride that raises funds for clean water projects in Africa. Starting and ending at Mullets, riders have the option to ride 20, 40 or 85 miles.
The Move Project is a non-profit organization that focuses on the alleviation of poverty, freeing slaves, providing shelter to the homeless and food and water to those without access to these life essentials. Des Moines Water Works is The Water Ride’s sponsor this year, covering all costs associated with the ride.
“This event is powerful in that 100% of the funds raised on this ride will go directly to providing clean water to a community in Africa. Having access to clean water affords individuals and families the opportunity to receive an education, work and live a healthier life,” said Sam Mahlstadt, co-founder of The Move Project.
“The Water Ride elevates our community’s awareness of the inaccessibility of water in other countries, as well as celebrates our local drinking water quality,” said Bill Stowe, CEO and General Manager, Des Moines Water Works. “The Water Ride is a great way to culminate our National Drinking Water Week festivities and emphasize the value of drinking water to a community’s overall health.”
Sign up by going to www.thewaterride.eventbrite.com by May 3, to receive a t-shirt at the event.
“When I took a summer off last year to ride my bicycle across America for clean water projects in Kenya, I realized how easy it is to tie in a passion to benefit others. If riding a bike for half a day could transform a community, there’s no question about signing up,” said Emily Boyd, co-founder of The Water Ride.Labels: Des Moines Water Works, Des Moines waterworks, DMWW, The Move Project, The Water Ride Posted in About Us, Water Quality, Water Treatment April 1, 2013
Des Moines Water Works celebrates public health during National Public Health Week (April 1-7, 2013), a time to recognize the contributions of public health and highlight issues that are important to improving our nation. In a world where an estimated 3 million people die every year from preventable waterborne disease, our water systems allow us to drink from virtually any public tap with a high assurance of safety. Each community water supply meets rigorous federal and state health protective standards.
Drinking water quality has a major influence on public health. Improvements in drinking water quality have dramatically improved the public’s health in the United States. However, some old challenges remain and new ones are emerging. Access to plentiful healthy source waters treated for drinking water are becoming limited by the increased presence of contaminants, new and more stringent regulations, and aging infrastructure. The public costs to safeguard our drinking water supply will be high without changes in land use that prevents the continued increase of contaminants from reaching our water sources, but the costs associated with failing to do so are likely to be much higher.
Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) is committed to protecting public health by assessing water quality in the Raccoon and Des Moines River watersheds and mitigating the public’s exposure to contaminantsthrough treatment.We work with landowners to help identify appropriate barriers for controlling contaminants that do not focus on expensive treatment processes, but rather consider a range of options that may result in improved water quality and in our ability to ensure quality drinking water after treatment. This is a holistic approach of managing water resources from our source to your tap.
For 40 years, the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) has been the regulation by which drinking water utilities adhere to, to protect public health. When the SDWA became law in 1974 it required the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set enforceable standards for health-related drinking water contaminants. The SDWA has been reauthorized in 1986 and 1996. In fact, the drinking water industry is one of the most regulated industries in the United States. In addition to meeting EPA drinking water standards, DMWW is proactively monitoring emerging contaminants that may require regulations in the future.
Protecting public health is the reason that the drinking water industry exists. The public health effects of current and future contaminants is the motivation behind the need for sustainable infrastructure, skilled operators, technical expertise, leadership and improvement and protection of the Raccoon and Des Moines River watersheds.
In 1927, the Des Moines Federation of Women’s Clubs petitioned to the Board of Water Works Trustees to install a municipal water softening plant to save customers money spent on soap and wear and tear on clothes. For the next 20 years there were arguments for and against construction of such a facility and then World War II delayed progress of this project until 1947.
A lengthy feature article titled “City to Enjoy Soft Water in Two Years” appeared in The Des Moines Register in November 1947. It described the advantages of soft water and the method of treatment that would be used, and mentioned that cost of the operation of the plant might have to be financed through a raise in water rates. The state health department engineer was quoted as saying the usual experience is that the added cost of soft water is equaled by the saving in soap alone. He also mentioned additional savings, such as longer life of boilers and water heaters.
In December 1949, the filter and lime softening plant went into operation. It consisted of two underground basins, each with a four million gallon capacity, and the filter building which housed the laboratory, chemical feed operations, and eight filters. The filters resemble small swimming pools, each of which contains 100 tons of gravel and 130 tons of sand and holds approximately 50,000 gallons of water.
In the underground basins, lime is mixed with water to remove minerals and kill bacteria. Then the water was pumped to the filters, where it was cleaned by passing through layers of gravel and sand.
In 1958, the capacity of the filter plant doubled when two lime softening basins and eight filters were added.
The filter and lime softening processes are vital to treating the public water supply and are still being used today.
View this important video about Des Moines Water Works’ locate program, water infrastructure and treatment process.
Video produced by Iowa One Call.Labels: Des Moines Water Works, Des Moines waterworks, DMWW, Iowa One Call, Water Treatment Posted in About Us, Customer Service, Customers, Water Treatment