Archive for the ‘Public Policy’ Category

March 21, 2017

HF 484/SF 456 A Gamble Not Worth Taking

Legislative Overreach

  • This legislation stands in stark contrast to Home Rule (the right for local self-government).
  • Iowa Code Chapter 388, states that a city may establish or dispose of a city utility, but it is subject to the approval of the voters of the city.
  • This legislation takes the right to vote out of the hands of the citizens of Des Moines, West Des Moines, and Urbandale.
  • In a recent survey of the Des Moines metro, 88% of registered voters said that people who live in the community should have final say over whether to remove an independent utility.
  • The poll results mirror the results of the West Des Moines vote in 2003, on whether or not to dissolve its independent water utility.

Regionalization is already Underway and should not be forced

  • Safe drinking water is a public health issue, and should not be gambled.
  • Regionalization needs to be done in a thoughtful and meaningful manner.
  • Des Moines Water Works is open to and has been actively participating in regionalization discussions for the past few years.
  • It is not necessary for the legislature to create a study committee to examine regionalization because one already exists.  It’s called CIRDWC – Central Iowa Regional Drinking Water Commission.
  • CIRDWC has already completed a regionalization study, and is now in the final stages of a 20-year forecast of the water needs in central Iowa.
  • CIRDWC already provides every metro community with a seat at the table.  This legislative action would not only duplicate and confuse ongoing efforts, but also disregard the work that has already be done.

HF 484 is a mess

  • It takes the management of delivering safe and affordable drinking water from professionals and puts in the hands of politicians.
  • HF 484, as written, has no plan, no mechanism for funding, no assurance that technical experts will be involved.
  • The bill has been changed numerous times; it has had new amendments and language added and then deleted.  The 500,000 people who rely on Des Moines Water Works have been left in the dark.
  • Water utility boards were set up independent from city councils for a reason – to protect a public health necessity from politics.  Simply stated, it is an independent local water utility owned by its customers and it works, and has worked for 100 years.
Posted by: Laura Sarcone 9 Comments
Labels: , , , Posted in Board of Trustees, History, Infrastructure, Public Policy, Source Water, Water Quality, Water Treatment March 17, 2017

New Des Moines Water radio ad warns of the downfalls regarding handing over the water utility to politicians.

DES MOINES, Iowa (March 17, 2017) – In response to legislation being considered by the Iowa House of Representatives, the Des Moines Water Works began running radio ads in central Iowa this week that encourages people to contact their state legislators and ask them to oppose House File 484.

The ad, entitled “Drip,” outlines the problems with letting politicians take over this independent utility. The ad also reminds listeners of the $40 million class action the City of Des Moines lost by illegally placing additional fees on gas and electric utility bills.

The legislation pending in the Iowa House would dissolve the Des Moines Water Works and transfer the utilities assets and management over to the Des Moines city council. A recent poll conducted by Harper Polling from March 9th to 12th found that 86% of registered voters rated the quality service provided by their local water utility at excellent or good.

“There is absolutely no need to dismantle the water boards in the metro area that have decades of experience of delivering safe and affordable drinking water,“ said Bill Stowe, CEO and General Manager, Des Moines Water Works.  “Water utility boards were set up independent from city councils for a reason – to protect a public health necessity from politics.”

In addition to high marks from water quality and service, the poll also shows that voters overwhelmingly oppose the legislation. Only 15 percent of respondents favor the controversial bill, while 68 percent oppose it.   Additionally, the survey showed a staggering 88 percent of voters believe that people who live in the community should have the final say over whether or not to remove an independent utility, not the state legislature (5%).

Click here to listen to the ad.

Script of the ad:

FEMALE VOICE-OVER TALENT/SFX

Drip…Drip…Drip… (SFX)

“That sound you hear… it’s the slow drip of big government grabbing hold of another part of your life.”

“…this time…

Kids splashing at pool, pouring a glass of water, a sprinkler in the yard, and faucet or shower being turned on. (SFX)

…it’s your water.

For nearly one hundred years, the Des Moines Water Works has delivered safe and affordable drinking water… it was set up independent from the Des Moines city council for one reason – to protect OUR drinking water from politics.

… but now…politicians in the state legislature… have a bill to dismantle the Des Moines Water Works… HF 484… which would give control over to the City of Des Moines. The same city of Des Moines that has a track record of financial mismanagement and recently lost a $40 million class action lawsuit over charging gas and electric customers an illegal fee.

Don’t let the management of delivering us safe and affordable drinking water be put it in the hands of politicians.

Call your State representatives today at 515-281-3221 and tell them to STOP playing politics with your drinking water, and vote NO on HF 484

Paid for by the Des Moines Water Works.

About Des Moines Water Works

Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) is a municipal water utility serving the citizens of Des Moines and surrounding communities (approximately 500,000 people). DMWW is an independently operated public utility with a commitment to leading, advocating and investing today and in the future to deliver water you can trust for life.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone 6 Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in Board of Trustees, History, Infrastructure, Public Policy, Water Quality, Water Treatment March 14, 2017

CENTRAL IOWANS RATE THEIR WATER QUALITY ‘EXCELLENT’ AND OPPOSE HF484/SF456

DES MOINES, Iowa (March 14, 2017) – More than two-thirds of registered voters in the Des Moines metro oppose legislation that would disband the independent governing boards of the Des Moines, Urbandale and West Des Moines water works, and turn over management of the water utility and its assets to their local city councils.

The poll commissioned by the Des Moines Water Works, and conducted by Harper Polling from March 912, shows 68 percent of respondents oppose House File 484, while only 15 percent favor the controversial bill that is making its way through the Iowa legislature.

“The poll confirms what we have believed all along, that the legislation is a solution in search of a problem that does not exist,” said Bill Stowe, CEO and General Manager, Des Moines Water Works.  “Metro utilities have done an outstanding job for decades of planning and implementing the supply, treatment, and transmissions projects necessary to ensure everyone in the metro has access to quality water in adequate quantities at reasonable rates.”

In addition to surveying residents’ attitudes toward proposed legislation, the poll also found an overwhelming 85 percent of respondents rated the quality of and access to water as “good” or “excellent.”   An equally impressive 86 percent of voters rated the quality of service provided by their water utility as either “good” or “excellent.”

Voters are also clear in who they believe is best qualified to manage their local water utility. A clear majority (55%), believe an independent board of trustees is better suited to manage a water utility than their local city council (23%). This is a topic that bridges political and ideological divides with majorities of Republicans (51%), Democrats (59%), and Independents (55%).

Voters also believe this is an issue that is best dealt with by local residents and not the state legislature. A staggering 88 percent of voters believe that people who live in the community should have the final say over whether or not to remove an independent utility, not the state legislature (5%).

Click the links below to view the full poll results:

17.03 HF 484 IA Toplines

17.03 HF 484 IA Crosstabs-2

17.03 HF 484 IA Key Findings

Posted by: Laura Sarcone 3 Comments
Labels: , , , , , Posted in Board of Trustees, Customer Service, Customers, Public Policy, Water Quality May 5, 2015

Clean Water Act Litigation FAQ

Drainage DistrictA major conduit of nitrate pollution in the Raccoon River watershed is the artificial subsurface drainage system infrastructure, such as those created and managed by drainage districts. Des Moines Water Works recently filed a federal complaint against the Boards of Supervisors of Sac County, Buena Vista County, and Calhoun County, in their capacities as trustees of 10 drainage districts, for the discharge of nitrate pollutants into the Raccoon River.

Why is Nitrate Pollution a Problem?

  • Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, Des Moines Water Works is obligated to meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) standards for the maximum contaminate level (MCL) in its finished drinking water. The MCL standard for nitrate is 10 mg/L. The health risks associated with nitrate contamination above MCL include blue baby syndrome and endocrine disruption. In addition to public health risks to drinking water, nitrate pollution also contributes to the hypoxic conditions in public waters, including the Gulf of Mexico’s “Dead Zone.”
  • Des Moines Water Works’ mission is to provide safe, abundant and affordable water to our customers. While Des Moines Water Works has invested millions of dollars in capital infrastructure and has developed strategies to manage high nitrate levels, record nitrate peaks in source waters have threatened and continue to threaten the security of the water supply and the ability of Des Moines Water Works to deliver safe and reliable water, while operating with fiscal discipline.
  • The current denitrification technology is outdated and cannot continue to operate with rising nitrate levels and increased customer demand. Continued high nitrate concentrations will require future capital investments of $76-183 million to remove the pollutant and provide safe drinking water to a growing central Iowa.

Why a Lawsuit?

  • Des Moines Water Works filed a complaint in Federal District Court – Northern District of Iowa, Western Division, on March 16, 2015.
  • The complaint seeks to declare the named drainage districts are “point sources,” not exempt from regulation, and are required to have a permit under federal and Iowa law.
  • The complaint states that the drainage districts have violated and continue to be in violation of the Clean Water Act and Chapter 455B, Code of Iowa, and demands the drainage districts take all necessary actions, including ceasing all discharges of nitrate that are not authorized by an National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.
  • In addition, damages are demanded to Des Moines Waters to compensate for the harm caused by the drainage districts unlawful discharge of nitrate, assess civil penalties, and award litigation costs and reasonable attorney fees to Des Moines Water Works as authorized by law.
  • Des Moines Water Works’ mission is to provide safe, abundant and affordable water to our customers. Des Moines Water Works is fighting for the protection of customers’ right to safe drinking water. Through this legal process, Des Moines Water Works hopes to reduce long-term health risks and unsustainable economic costs to provide safe drinking water to our customers, via permit and regulation of drainage districts as pollutant sources.
  • Continued insistence from state leaders that the voluntary approach of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy is working does not give solace to the 500,000 central Iowans who must now pay to remove pollution from their drinking water.

Why Sac, Buena Vista, and Calhoun Counties?

  • Buena Vista, Calhoun, and Sac Counties are in the Des Moines Lobe. There are hundreds of drainage districts in these three counties. Under Iowa law, drainage districts are responsible for constructing, administering, and maintaining drainage infrastructure. Within each drainage district, a network of pipes and ditches move groundwater and agricultural pollutants quickly into our drinking water sources.
  • Recent water monitoring by Des Moines Water Works at 72 sample sites in Buena Vista, Sac, and Calhoun Counties have shown nitrate levels as high as 39.2 mg/L in groundwater discharged by drainages districts. This is 4 times the federally required Safe Drinking Water regulatory limit of 10 mg/L.
  • Laws require that “point sources” discharging into rivers must have permits under the NPDES.  Because drainage districts transport nitrate pollution through a system of channels and pipes, they should be recognized and held accountable like every other “point source” contributor. NPDES permits have been successful nationwide in controlling pollution caused by industrial waste and sanitary sewer discharge.
Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , , Posted in About Us, Board of Trustees, Public Policy, Source Water, Water Quality August 21, 2013

Environmental Protection Commission Visits Des Moines Water Works

photo 2On August 20, the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) held their regularly scheduled monthly meeting at Des Moines Water Works (DMWW). Prior to the business meeting, Commissioners Couser, Rastetter, Sinclair, Smith, and Ver Steeg, Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) staff, and representatives from environmental and agricultural organizations toured Des Moines Water Works’ Fleur Drive Treatment Plant to gain a better understanding of the treatment process. DMWW staff provided the Commissioners an insight into the condition and challenges of source waters used for drinking water for the more than 500,000 people in central Iowa.

Challenges expressed by DMWW included everything from high nitrates to flood events. However, most questions and comments stemmed from the exceptionally high nitrate levels this year. DMWW staff emphasized that even if nitrate levels are currently low, the combination of nitrates and phosphorus in the rivers and increasing temperatures will again challenge DMWW due to algae blooms. Algae can cause taste and odor problems and require additional filter maintenance, which slows the treatment process and reduces production capacity.

The EPC is a panel of nine citizens who provide policy oversight over Iowa’s environmental protection efforts. EPC members are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by vote of the Senate for four year terms.

Posted by: Linda Kinman No Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in Public Policy, Source Water, Water Quality, Water Treatment April 1, 2013

Water’s Role in Public Health

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.

Posted by: Linda Kinman No Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in About Us, Health, Public Policy, Water Quality April 9, 2012

Protecting Customer Identity

Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) understands the crime of stealing someone’s personal identifying information for the purpose of using that information fraudulently is concerning. To ensure DMWW customer’s personal information is safe, we worked with other drinking water utilities in the state to pass legislation to protect your personal identity. Senate File 2058 was passed by both houses of the legislature and signed into law by the Governor. The legislation allows DMWW to keep information “identifying a specific customer and any record of a customer account, including internet-based customer account information” confidential.

Protect yourself from identity theft by:

  • Shredding all of your important papers.
  • Making sure you do not throw anything away that someone could use to get your personal information.
  • Being careful at ATM’s and using phone cards to protect against people who can get access to your pin number.
  • Having all of checks delivered to your bank – not at your home address.
  • Not putting checks in the mail from your home mailbox.
  • When you order a new credit card or your previous card has expired, keep track of the time and contact the credit card company if it does not show up within the appropriate time.
  • Put passwords on all of your accounts.
  • Memorize your social security number and passwords so you are not carrying them with you.
  • Make a list of all your credit card and bank account numbers with customer service phone numbers, and keep it in a safe place.
Posted by: Linda Kinman No Comments
Labels: , , , , , , Posted in Customer Service, Customers, Public Policy March 19, 2012

Des Moines Water Works Urges Congress to Link Farm Assistance to Water Quality

Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) and the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) are urging Congress to link conservation compliance requirements and federal farm subsidies and/or crop insurance to efforts by farmers to minimize negative water quality impacts of their operations, AMWA and a coalition of water utility, conservation and environmental organizations said in a policy statement released last week at a press conference in Washington, D.C.

Under the banner of the “Healthy Waters Coalition,” AMWA and other groups also called on Congress to prioritize nutrient runoff control as a primary goal in watersheds impaired by nutrients and to facilitate monitoring of nutrient reductions as part of ongoing state and federal water quality monitoring programs. Lawmakers are currently working to put together the 2012 Farm Bill, so the policy statement is intended to shape their work on the Conservation Title.

Speaking at a press conference marking release of the report, AMWA Executive Director Diane VanDe Hei stressed the importance of keeping nutrient pollution out of drinking water sources, where it can increase treatment costs for downstream drinking water utilities and pose public health threats if not properly removed. While drinking water systems will always do what is necessary to keep their finished water safe, VanDe Hei said, “the most effective solution is to keep excessive nutrients out of source water in the first place.”

The complete policy statement is available on AMWA’s Legislative Information webpage at www.amwa.net/cs/leginfo (scroll down to category – Farm Bill Reauthorization, March 2012).

Contact Senators Grassely and Harkin to let them know you support water quality in the 2012 Farm Bill.

 

Posted by: Linda Kinman No Comments
Labels: , , , , , , Posted in Public Policy, Source Water, Water Quality January 16, 2012

DMWW Talk to Legislators About Water

Water Day at the Iowa State Capitol is January 17, 2012, and Des Moines Water Works will be there on behalf of the approximately 500,000 people in DMWW’s service area.

Every Year, DMWW sees Water Day as an opportunity to talk with legislators from Central Iowa and across the state about improving and protecting water resources in the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers, the sources of water for DMWW drinking water. Reducing nutrients, bacteria, and algae blooms in our source waters helps protect public health and contain the cost of treating drinking water for our customers.

This is also an opportunity to discuss protecting the utility’s $352 million of infrastructure from flood events – infrastructure owned by the citizens of Des Moines. In 1993, the Fleur Drive Treatment Plant was flooded and DMWW was not able to provide drinking water to customers for approximately 10-14 days. Since 2008, more than 65-feet of river bank have been lost at the L.D. McMullen Treatment Plant well field site, putting several wells at risk for damage. More frequent (and intense) rainfall events and expeditious movement of water off the landscape through tiling, have exacerbated flooding. The connectivity of surface water, ground water and soils exist on all levels and need to be managed as a system. The power of moving water, whether a raindrop or a torrent of flood water, can be better managed in Iowa.

Posted by: Linda Kinman No Comments
Labels: , , , , , , , Posted in Customers, Environment, Flooding, Infrastructure, Public Policy, Water Quality April 5, 2011

Raccoon River Watershed Master Plan

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has contracted with the Missouri & Mississippi (M&M) Divide RC&D and Agren, both located in Carroll, Iowa, to develop a comprehensive watershed plan for the Raccoon River.  Agren, Inc. was founded by brothers Tom and Stan Buman in 1996 as a private consulting firm dedicated to helping agriculture find profitable solutions to environmental challenges. The master plan will guide management efforts with a focus on improving water quality in the Raccoon River watershed. 

Agren facilitated “expert panels” to evaluate both agricultural and urban stormwater best management practices (BMP). Following the expert panel events, the potential water quality impacts of recommended practices were estimated by Iowa State University scientists. More than 80% of the land use in the watershed is dedicated to row crop agriculture, so initially the implementation plan will concentrate on agricultural BMPs. Consideration is also being given to various incentives and funding sources for implementation of the recommended practices.

This month, another panel focused on what a watershed management organization should look like to ensure the master plan is implemented when completed. Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) participated on the panel. Discussion consisted of what the barriers are to effective watershed management, what type of watershed authority could overcome the barriers, and evaluation of scenarios for watershed management. Throughout the discussion it was apparent that DMWW will continue to be a key partner in managing the Raccoon River Watershed.

Recommendations best suited to protect the source of drinking water for approximately 500,000 people in central Iowa and restore and maintain an environmentally and economically sustainable landscape. These recommendations will be compiled into a comprehensive Raccoon River Watershed Master Plan. Public comments on the plan will be solicited this spring, with the final plan development completed by June 2011.

Posted by: Linda Kinman No Comments
Labels: , , , , , Posted in Environment, Public Policy, Value of Water, Water Quality