Archive for the ‘History’ CategoryFebruary 7, 2013
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.Labels: Des Moines Water Works, Des Moines waterworks, DMWW, Lime Softening, soft water, Water Softening Posted in About Us, History, Water Treatment September 12, 2012
In 1935, Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) started to consider storing Raccoon River water as an alternative water source when river levels were low. Following substantial drought conditions in 1939 and 1940, DMWW identified a sight for construction of a reservoir.
In 1942, Neumann Brothers Construction of Des Moines received the bid and surveying and construction began immediately. With the assistance of DMWW’s Grounds staff, Neumann completed construction of the lake and dam nearly a year and a half later. It was named the Dale Maffitt Reservoir in honor of the then General Manager of Des Moines Water Works. In 2000, DMWW began operating the L. D. McMullen Water Treatment Plant at Maffitt Reservoir in effort to produce enough water for Des Moines and surrounding areas’ growing population.
In addition to the land used for the lake itself, DMWW purchased hundreds of acres surrounding the lake, in an effort to protect the watershed and ultimately the drinking water to the best of its ability. Today, Des Moines Water Works owns and maintains nearly 1,500 acres in and around the reservoir and river.
The park is a nature lovers dream. Fishing, picnicking, and hiking are favorite pastimes at Maffitt Reservoir. For the general public’s convenience, several docks that extend nearly 20 feet into the lake are located along the shore. A nature trail of approximately 4.5 miles leads hikers around the lake.
In 2001, DMWW constructed permanent restrooms, installed wild flower areas and seal coated the park roads. Dale Maffitt Reservoir and Park is truly a hidden gem in the Des Moines area.
Maffitt Reservoir Park is located southwest of Des Moines – take Army Post Road west, across Interstate 35 and follow the signs.
Maffitt Reservoir Park hours are 7:00 am-8:00 pm (Standard Time) and 6:00 am-9:00 pm (Daylight Savings Time). For a complete list of park rules and regulations, visit http://www.dmww.com/parks-events/maffitt-reservoir/
Photo by Christopher A. Knisley – Freelance Wildlife Photographer
A recognizable landmark in Water Works Park is the weathered white barn just northwest of the general office building. The old barn is probably most well-known for serving as a rustic backdrop for numerous photo shoots over the years.
The barn was built around 1900 to shelter the horses that were owned by the water utility for farming operations. In those days, crops of wheat, alfalfa, corn, timothy, and clover were grown on the water supply grounds. In 1924, farming operations were discontinued on the grounds, so most of the horses and farm equipment were sold, retaining only those necessary for maintenance of the grounds.
Most recently, Water Works Park maintenance equipment has been stored in the barn and it is now the home to a large number of bats and mice.
Questions have been received from the public about the 100+-year old barn which has had its share of flood damage. Originally, plans had been to renovate it, but several years ago it was discovered that the barn has suffered significant termite damage that precludes putting any money into it. It is hoped that approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can be received to relocate a section of the earthen levee near the barn and grounds shop building making room for new Water Works Park maintenance facilities on the dry side of the levee, and the current barn and shop building would be dismantled, with as much of the material salvaged as possible.Labels: Des Moines Water Works, Des Moines waterworks, DMWW, Water Works Park Posted in Flooding, History, Parks June 18, 2012
As long as Des Moines Water Works has been in existence, protecting the water resources from pollution and assuring an adequate supply of water well into the future has been utmost importance. Thanks to the utility’s founding fathers – not to mention employees throughout the years – the growth of Des Moines Water Works has kept pace with the expanding needs of the community.
In 1884, the company began constructing an infiltration gallery system that would use groundwater from the Raccoon River. The infiltration gallery was the only water source at the time.
By 1919, the water supply grounds covered approximately 470 acres.
In 1925, when the Board of Water Works Trustees purchased 334 acres of land south of the Raccoon River, west of S.W. 30th Street, General Manager Charles Denman stated that the newly acquired land would insure a potential water supply large enough for a city twice the size of Des Moines.
Gradually, additional land (now known as Water Works Park) bordering the Raccoon River on both sides, extending to 63rd Street (city limits) was purchased to protect the source water and to extend the infiltration gallery.
In April of 1933, Water Works Park was opened to the public. At that time, the water supply grounds covered 1,400 acres. (Today, it spans 1,500 acres.)
Foreseeing a need for an emergency source of water, construction of a water storage reservoir near the Raccoon River southwest of Commerce began in 1943 (Maffitt Reservoir). Dale Maffitt, General Manager, was quoted in the Des Moines Tribune as saying it will insure an adequate water supply for Des Moines for many years to come.
Obviously, planning for the future didn’t end in the 1940s. Within the last 12 years, two additional water treatment facilities have been constructed. The L. D. McMullen Water Treatment Plant at Maffitt Reservoir began operation in 2000. Today, this water plant serves customers in southwest Des Moines, parts of Xenia and Warren Water Systems, Waukee and parts of Clive, Urbandale and West Des Moines. The Saylorville Water Treatment Plant went online in 2011 serving customers north of Des Moines. Long-range plans have been developed, future demand has been projected, and staff continues to prepare for the future, assuring there will be an adequate supply of water.Labels: Des Moines Water Works, Des Moines waterworks, DMWW, Histsory of Des Moines Water Works Posted in About Us, History, Infrastructure, Maffitt Reservoir, Saylorville Water Treatment Plant, Source Water, Water Quality June 7, 2012
The year 1932 found the country well into a major depression. Due to loss of jobs, many people in Des Moines were unable to pay their water bills. Furnishing free water on a discriminatory basis was forbidden by state law, and funds of the Board of Water Works Trustees could not be used as a means of unemployment relief. Therefore, when a water bill was not paid, the water had to be cut off. The mayor, the city health department and others urged the Board to establish a policy of leniency in reference to discontinuing water service in certain cases where the consumer was unable to pay.
A plan was developed whereby consumers were permitted to “work out” their water bills.
The weekly payroll vouchers of the Des Moines Water Works during the years of 1932-1935 showed long lists of names, with earnings listed as $3.20. Sometimes more than 100 names appeared with this amount, indicating a day’s work at 40 cents an hour for each person.This rate was not unreasonable, in view of the fact that the highest hourly rate paid to any regular Water Works employee was 85 cents an hour, for a 48-hour week.
At that time, a minimum water bill was $1.00 per quarter; the normal family bill was $2.25 per quarter.
In a Des Moines Register article, dated November 26, 1933, under a headline of “Projects in Des Moines Enable 4,500 to Pay Water Bills” were pictures of a rustic bridge, a roadway with new guard rails, and a stone bridge. A story of Water Works’ program resembling the Civil Works Administration plan followed. Consumers also helped lay water mains, inspect hydrants, and plant trees and shrubs in the “water works preserve” (now known as Water Works Park).
Economic conditions improved in 1935, and by September the list was very short, and finally “working out the water bill” was no longer necessary.Labels: Des Moines Water Works, Des Moines waterworks, DMWW, Great Depression, History of Des Moines Water Works Posted in About Us, Customer Service, History, Parks March 29, 2012
Thanks to those before us, the early history of Des Moines Water Works was chronicled in several books of typewritten pages up until 1971, which was the centennial year of the founding of the company. The priceless books of yellowed pages provide a glimpse into significant occurrences in years past. Sources of information for those history books included scrapbooks of newspaper clippings, official records of the Board of Water Works Trustees, and the memories of various individuals.
The following entries may not pertain to the most momentous events, but they were notable. And as brief as some of the notations are, they tell the whole story.
September 1922: “An article titled “Des Moines Municipal Pumping Station” appeared in the magazine National Engineer. The article, illustrated by large pictures of the new steam turbine-driven centrifugal pumping unit, boiler feed pumps, and coal crane and pits, was written by A.T. Luce, engineer and superintendent of the Des Moines Municipal Water Plant.”
November 16, 1922: “The General Manager was instructed to furnish the Board with an itemized statement of the cost of operation and maintenance for the various automobiles used in connection with the Water Plant. This report shows that the Water Plant owned 22 trucks and roadsters, purchase dates varying from 1913 to 1922, a Dodge Coupe purchased in 1922, and a Peerless, purchase date not indicated.”
May 15, 1924: “To discontinue paying wages in cash and to pay by check.”
July 17, 1924: “Board to discontinue farming operations on water supply grounds.”
December 5, 1929: “News story in Des Moines Tribune quoting Mr. Denman (DMWW General Manager) as saying that too many people were still getting water by waving the pump handle up and down instead of connecting to the city water mains.”
March 5, 1931: “Directional sign for aviators to be painted on top of new water tower.” (Hazen tower)
February 8, 1939: “The General Manager was authorized to purchase three horses to be used on the water supply grounds.”
December 31, 1956: “Year 1956 was Iowa’s driest on record.”
July 8, 1959: “Water Board sells the locomotive.” (In 1956, a steam engine was purchased by DMWW to serve as a backup to the boiler. According to “old timers” in Water Production, the locomotive’s boiler was never fired.)
August 25, 1960: “Water Works laboratory testing 10,000 elms on Water Works property for Dutch elm disease.”
August 14, 1963: “Four boys turn on 47 fire hydrants in the night.”
July 13, 1965: “Water Board to be represented at ground breaking ceremonies for Saylorville Dam on July 17.”
January 24, 1966: “Fleur Drive to be widened.”
February 17, 1970: “Snowmobiling not approved for Water Works Park or Maffitt Reservoir.”
We hope you have enjoyed this glimpse into Des Moines Water Works’ history. Do you have any early memories of Des Moines Water Works?
Photo of steam locomotive #1678 taken by Richard Ikenberry.Labels: Board of Trustees, Des Moines Water Works, Des Moines waterworks, DMWW Posted in About Us, Board of Trustees, History March 8, 2012
In the early years of Des Moines Water Works, an ornamental pool was a very popular public attraction. Located inside the Fleur Drive Treatment Plant – just south of the pumping station, Water Works Park visitors were welcome to visit the pool and stroll around the grounds.
The pool was built in the early 1920s, when the pumping station was being constructed. The dirt from the excavation of the pool was used to raise the elevation of the pumping station.
Each corner of the pool was adorned with a large brass frog with water spouting from its mouth. The decorative frogs were designed by sculptor Florence Sprague, an instructor in Drake University’s Art Department.
Shortly after completion of the pumping station, The Des Moines Tribune published pictures of the interior and exterior of the new facility in June 1923. A photograph of the pool was included with this caption: “Utility and Beauty – this beautiful bit of artistry does not adorn the gardens of some multimillionaire’s estate – it is to be found on the grounds of the Des Moines Municipal Water Plant.”
The pool became affectionately known as the goldfish pond after a retiring business owner donated some goldfish. When donated, the goldfish were small but grew to be six inches and weighed one pound each.
In the 1970s the pool was filled in because it was structurally unsafe. And since then, access to the treatment plant has been restricted to the general public for security reasons. To this day, nothing has been built on top of the old goldfish pond. It remains a “green space” in the treatment plant.
Two of the four brass frogs from the pond are now on display at Des Moines Water Works’ museum inside the Fleur Drive Treatment Plant. Who has the other two brass frogs remains a mystery …Labels: Des Moines Water Works, Des Moines waterworks, DMWW, Florence Sprague, Water Works Park Posted in About Us, History, Parks February 17, 2012
The Arie Den Boer Arboretum, Dale Maffitt Reservoir, Denman Woods . . . have you ever wondered about the history behind the names? Namesakes of property and facilities owned by Des Moines Water Works include former general managers, Board of Trustees members, and employees whose strategic visions helped the water utility evolve into the industry leader it is today.
Charles Sing Denman’s 37-year career began in 1896 when the water company was privately owned. He was the first general manager, appointed in 1919, when the water company became municipally owned. During his tenure, the water system experienced tremendous growth and many of the facilities in use today were constructed under his direction. As a testament to his love of nature, the western tract of land that extends along both sides of the Raccoon River in Water Works Park was designated as Denman Woods. A concrete bench was erected in his memory in 1937 inside the Fleur Drive treatment plant, which was moved to its current location at Water Works Park in the late 1970s when the Charles Sing Denman Memorial Garden was dedicated.
In 1928, Arie den Boer, a horticulturist, was hired to beautify Water Works’ grounds and create a park, which was opened to the public in 1933. Mr. den Boer introduced several hundred varieties of crabapple trees and won numerous prestigious awards for his work in horticulture. The crabapple arboretum was named in Mr. den Boer’s honor when he retired in 1961, after serving as grounds superintendent for 33 years.
The water tower at 48th and Hickman is a memorial to Allen Hazen who designed the tower and unexpectedly died in 1930 before construction was completed. Mr. Hazen was a prominent New York engineer of international reputation and a pioneer in the area of water treatment.
Dale L. Maffitt was the general manager when 650 acres southwest of Des Moines were purchased in 1942 to construct a dam and water storage reservoir to be used as an emergency water supply. The 200-acre impounding reservoir and surrounding area was named for Mr. Maffitt after his death in 1955, following 41 years of employment, 22 of which he led the utility as general manager.
Henry Nollen and Norman Wilchinski were long-term Board of Trustees members, both of whom served on the first water board of 1919. Two water storage facilities built in 1955 were named after them. The Nollen Standpipe is at 26th and Hull and the Wilchinski Standpipe is at SE 9th and Pleasantview Drive.
The Tenny Standpipe at Merle Hay Mall, which was built in 1959, is a tribute to Morris K. Tenny. A 44-year employee, Mr. Tenny held the positions of chemist and assistant manager, prior to serving as general manager for 13 years. He was instrumental in the growth of the Water Works.
Maurice King’s employment with the Water Works spanned nearly 43 years. The Maurice A. King Intake and Pumping Station facility on the Des Moines River was named after Mr. King who served as General Manager from 1968-1977.
The L.P. Moon Storage and Pumping Station facility was named in recognition of a former long-term Board member, Louise P. Moon. Located in Clive, this west side facility was placed on-line in 1996. Ms. Moon currently serves as Windsor Heights’ representative on the Central Iowa Regional Drinking Water Commission, of which Des Moines Water Works is a member.
In May of 2000, the Water Treatment Plant at Maffitt Reservoir, a 25 million gallon per day facility, began operation using nine radial collector wells for its main water source, but also drawing from Maffitt Reservoir for additional water resources. In 2007, it was renamed in honor of L.D. McMullen, a 30-year employee who served as general manager from 1985-2007 and was instrumental in construction of the water treatment plant.
We are proud of these visionaries and their contributions to Des Moines Water Works and the community.Labels: Board of Trustees, Des Moines Water Works, Des Moines waterworks, DMWW, Water Works Park Posted in About Us, Employees, History, Parks January 19, 2012
Owned by the citizens of Des Moines and managed by a Board of Trustees, Des Moines Water Works is independent from the City of Des Moines. But it wasn’t always that way.
The Des Moines Water Company was formed in 1871 as a privately owned company. In 1898, the City tried to purchase the company but the citizens voted it down. The vote eventually passed in 1911, but the sale wasn’t finalized. It was not until 1919 that a favorable vote of the citizens brought about public ownership by the City. The water company was organized as a public utility under the Code of Iowa, and the name was changed to Des Moines Water Works. At that time, the population of Des Moines was about 125,000, and there were 23,210 water services.
In 1923, the legislature removed the Board of Water Works Trustees from the City Council’s supervision. At that time, it became law that the Board would have the same powers as the City Council with the exception of levying taxes, and members would be appointed by the Mayor, subject to approval by the City Council. The Board is responsible for appointing the chief executive officer/general manager who is accountable for operation of the utility in accordance with law and Board policies.
In summary, Des Moines Water Works is an independently operated public utility with a commitment to providing quality water in reliable quantities to approximately 500,000 people in the Greater Des Moines area.Labels: City of Des Moines, Des Moines Water Works, Des Moines waterworks, DMWW Posted in About Us, Board of Trustees, Customers, History March 7, 2011
Water towers are something most of us probably don’t think about until we see one on the horizon. To Des Moines Water Works (DMWW), water storage facilities are a vital part of the infrastructure and a significant part of the utility’s history. DMWW owns and maintains numerous water storage facilities. From a technical standpoint, water storage facilities are divided into three categories: water towers, standpipes and ground storage. Water towers are basically large storage tanks on legs. Standpipes are simply tall vertical tanks. Ground storage reservoirs are shorter but larger diameter storage tanks that sit on or slightly below ground.
Des Moines’ first water storage facility was constructed in 1891 at 17th Street and Crocker. Made of steel with a lacy ironwork railing and spiral stairway, it held 530,000 gallons of water. It was torn down in 1939 after 40 years of service.
The Hazen Tower at 4800 Hickman is the oldest and technically, the only water tower in Des Moines. Constructed of concrete and steel in 1930-1931, the 110 foot tower, which holds 1.7 million gallons (mg) in its elevated tank, was named after Allen Hazen who designed the tower. A prominent New York engineer and pioneer in the area of water treatment, he died before construction was completed. For many years, a large arrow was painted on the top of the tower to point the way to the airport for pilots.
In 1955, two standpipes were built and named after long-term Board of Water Works Trustees members. The Nollen Standpipe at 26th and Hull is Des Moines’ largest, with a capacity of 4.2 mg. The Wilchinski Standpipe at SE 9th and Pleasantview Drive stores slightly more than 2 mg.
Probably the most familiar is the Tenny standpipe because of its location near Sears at Merle Hay Mall. Construction of this 4.1 mg water storage facility was completed in 1960 and named after Morris K. Tenny, who served as the General Manager of DMWW from 1955-1968.
Water storage facilities outside the city of Des Moines which are owned and operated by DMWW include two towers in Southeast Polk with a combined capacity of 0.7mg. The smaller tower (0.3 mg) located at 6538 NE 12th Ave., is scheduled to be removed the summer of 2011. Other facilities in Polk County include the Polk County Ground Storage Tank on NE 14th St. which holds 5 mg; the L.P. Moon Ground Storage Facility (named after a former Board member) in Clive stores 6 mg and the Shared East Side Elevated Storage Tank, which holds 2.5 mg, was built in 2009-2010, bordering between Pleasant Hill and Altoona. (Interestingly enough, Pleasant Hill’s logo is on the south side of the facility and Altoona’s is on the north side).