Archive for the ‘Value of Water’ Category

March 8, 2017

Contact the Des Moines City Council

On Monday, March 20, the Des Moines City Council is scheduled to vote on whether the city should support House File 484, a controversial bill that would eliminate the Des Moines Water Works. Call them and urge them to vote no.

Mayor Frank Cownie
City Hall Phone: (515) 283-4944
Home Phone: (515) 255-3644

Bill Gray – Ward 1
City Hall Phone: (515) 237-1623
Home Phone: (515) 274-0077

Linda Westergaard – Ward 2
Home Phone: (515) 988-4288

Christine Hensley – Ward 3
City Hall Phone: (515) 237-1625
Home Phone: (515) 255-4716

Joe Gatto – Ward 4
Home Phone: (515) 402-2626

Christopher Coleman – Ward 5
City Hall Phone: (515) 237-1622
Home Phone: (515) 276-7644

Skip Moore – At Large
Home Phone: (515) 681-9804

Why You Should Stand Against HF 484

House File 484 is a bill being considered in the Iowa Legislature  that would disband the governing boards of the Des Moines, Urbandale, and West Des Moines water works. If signed into law, these three independent utilities would be forced to turn over management and their assets to the city councils in each city.

This is a diversion

  • There is no drinking water quality crisis in the Des Moines metro area that would necessitate the state legislature stepping in.
  • The real problem is source water quality in the state. The Legislature should be focused on water quality – not local water production.
  • 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.

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.
  • Approximately 15 years ago, West Des Moines asked the citizens of West Des Moines to vote on dissolving their water board. More than 90% of the voters said no. This legislation will allow them to take over the utility without it going to the voters.
  • This is clearly an effort to bypass existing law and the will of the people.

Current version of the bill doesn’t even address regionalization

  • The amended bill doesn’t create a regional water authority, which was ostensibly the reason for the original legislation.
  • Regionalization, in and of itself, is not necessarily a bad thing. This is why a coalition of 22 metro water utilities commissioned a study in 2014.
  • House File 484 would dismantle in an instant all of our accomplishments today. The metro water utilities will find a solution to our region’s future water needs by continuing the dialogue, not dismantling what has already been done.

Why water boards were set up independently

  • 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.
  • 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, and have long histories of financial diligence that have resulted in healthy water systems at relatively affordable rates.
  • Currently, water rates are reinvested in the water system, funding imperative capital improvements – for example, over $3 million this year in water main replacement projects for Des Moines.
  • It is no secret the City of Des Moines needs new revenue sources. If assets, responsibilities and revenue are transferred to City of Des Moines, portions of water rates could be funneled to the general fund of City of Des Moines, circumventing needed infrastructure plans.
  • Takes the management of delivering safe and affordable drinking water from professionals and puts in the hands of politicians.

Why you should stand against HF 484

  • This is a solution looking for a non-existent problem.
  • The legislature is sticking its nose where it doesn’t belong.
  • The proposed legislation actually impedes the regions ability to create a regional water authority.
  • House File 484 sets a dangerous precedent for all of Iowa’s 500 independent utilities boards.
  • Legislation could impede economic growth as it puts a freeze planning and construction of new water treatment facilities.
  • House File 484 is an example of politics at its worst. This legislation is clearly retaliation for the Clean Water Lawsuit, and shows no regard to the 500,000 people who depend on Des Moines Water Works for clean and affordable drinking water ever day.
  • As we saw in Flint, Michigan, when financially strained cities make decisions for purely economic reasons, the results can be catastrophic.


Posted by: Laura Sarcone 2 Comments
Posted in Board of Trustees, Customers, Value of Water, Water Quality November 7, 2016

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.

This year, Des Moines Water Works has been pleased to provide $20,000 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:

  • Water Rocks! – An award-winning education program through Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Water Rocks! helps students, teachers and parents learn the science of water quality through music. Des Moines Water Works provided $4,500 to Water Rocks! in order to bring their exciting program into Des Moines elementary and public schools.
  • Walnut Creek Watershed Coalition – Des Moines Water Works awarded $3,000 for the annual Walnut Creek Cleanup and Watershed Festival, as well as educational kiosks throughout the watershed that provide current water quality parameters, including nitrate, phosphorus, pH, turbidity and bacteria.
  • Community Youth Concepts – Des Moines Water Works provided $3,000 to the Youth Volunteer Corps of Des Moines program in order educate youth on the importance of responsible water use. Students learned about silting, erosion, and the public responsibility for watershed management. Teens participated in hands-on service learning related to conservation efforts that will restore wetlands and benefit Iowa’s native wildlife and plants.
  • Raccoon River Watershed Association – Water recreationalists, hikers, birders, hunters and fishermen/women are just a few on a long list that enjoy the land and water along the Raccoon River. Des Moines Water Works awarded the Raccoon River Water Association $3,000 for its annual conference, “Life in the Raccoon,” that educates and promotes the many aspects of the vast and complex Raccoon River Watershed.
  • Practical Farmers of Iowa – Des Moines Water Works awarded Practical Farmers of Iowa $650 to support their annual conference that educates farmers about on-farm practices that will benefit all Iowans through improved water, soil and communities. Practical Farmers of Iowa has been showcasing Iowa farmers’ on-farm innovations that work toward building a strong, sustainable agricultural system in Iowa for over 30 years.

67In addition to monetary donations, this year, Des Moines Water Works donated three water fountain and bottle filling stations to Des Moines Public Schools. These water fountains were placed in Cowles, Goodrell, and Park Avenue elementary schools.  Providing the water fountain and bottle fillings stations promote the availability of Des Moines’ quality tap water to the many students, staff and parents at each school building, and reduce the amount of bottled beverages consumed and improperly discarded in landfills.  Each water station has a ticker display that lets users know how many plastic bottles have been eliminated by using the bottle filling feature.

Finally, you may have seen a Des Moines Water Works’ mobile water station at a recent event, festival or charity. Des Moines Water Works has provided a mobile water station to more than 20 events this year, including Downtown Farmers Market, Des Moines Arts Festival, 80/35 Music Festival, and the Iowa State Fair. These mobile water stations encourage visitors to bring their own reusable water bottles to events in order to stay hydrated and eliminate bottled beverage waste.

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

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , Posted in About Us, Education, Environment, Value of Water November 24, 2014

Investment in Aging Water Infrastructure and Degraded Source Water

PumpsIn setting water rates and the proposed budget for 2015, the Board of Water Works Trustees has demonstrated a continued commitment to investing in Des Moines’ aging water infrastructure and providing safe water to customers, despite increasingly poor quality of source waters.

“While Des Moines Water Works has a long history of substantial reinvestment in water infrastructure, the aging of our assets and our increasing concerns about the impacts of climate change requires even greater investment going forward,” said Bill Stowe, Des Moines Water Works CEO and General Manager. “The degradation of our infrastructure is evidenced by the increasing number of main breaks, and affects our mission to provide a quality and reliable service to our customers.”

The Board of Water Works Trustees believe in a funding philosophy of “pay as you go,” where improvements and replacements are funded through rates and not funded by debt, all while maintaining reasonable water rates in relation to the rest of the country.

The proposed Des Moines Water Works’ 2015 calendar year budget includes rate increases for Des Moines, total service, and wholesale water customers. The rate increases include a 7% increase for Des Moines and total service customers and a 5% increase for wholesale customers, namely suburban customers who purchase water from Des Moines Water Works to resell to their residents. The 7% rate increase is only for the water portion of the monthly bill, not city services that Des Moines Water Works collects for city agencies. For a typical four-person household inside the city of Des Moines, the 7% increase equates to an additional $1.65 on a customer’s monthly water bill.

Certain service areas, such as unincorporated Polk County, have greater capital needs to combat an aging system and accommodate growth. Beyond a 7% increase in rates, those customers will have an additional $1.50/thousand gallon fee that will fund significant capital improvements in the service area.

The 7% increase for Des Moines customers is fundamental to supporting operations and a healthy capital reinvestment program, including facilities necessary to adequately treat source waters that continue to degrade.

“Delivering safe and reliable water to our customers is a capital intensive responsibility,” said Stowe. “Even while working efficiently, the costs for treatment and distribution of water continue to rise. To not invest in critical water infrastructure and capital improvement projects would be irresponsible.”

In addition to investment in the aging infrastructure, the 2015 rates reflect the nearly $1 million Des Moines Water Works spent in 2013 to reduce nitrate concentrations found in Des Moines Water Works’ source waters to a level below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s safe drinking water standard.

Within the proposed 2015 budget, 16% of the utility’s capital budget will be spent on improvements to naturally reduce rising nitrate levels in source waters. This includes the use of sand quarries and gravel pits that naturally filter nitrate – a longer term investment and more cost effective solution in comparison to operating and expanding the expensive nitrate removal facility.

New water rates will go into effect April 1, 2015. A complete listing of Des Moines Water Works’ 2015 water rate structure is available at

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in Infrastructure, Rates, Value of Water, Water Quality October 10, 2014

Des Moines Water Works’ Role in Fire Protection

As National Fire Prevention Week concludes, we look at Des Moines Water Works’ role in assisting fire crews with fire protection of the community, as seen during a major fire earlier this year in downtown Des Moines.

It was shortly after 1:00 a.m. on March 29, when Des Moines Water Works received a call from Polk County Emergency Management. They alerted Water Works that fire crews would be using multiple hydrants and a large amount of water to fight a structure fire in downtown Des Moines.

Christopher Gannon/The Des Moines Register

It was the 115-year-old downtown Des Moines building that housed an iconic Younkers department store and the popular Younkers Tea Room for decades. The building, which was undergoing a $37 million rental and retail renovation that was to be a cornerstone for redevelopment along Walnut Street, was equipped with a construction standpipe, but the fire alarm and sprinkler system installations were not yet complete.

The rare, three-alarm fire required massive amounts of water to fight the fire and control damages.

At the height of the fire, Des Moines Fire Department was coordinating a total of 18 trucks on the scene, with several trucks each pumping 1,500 gallons of water per minute, for close to five hours.

An estimated total of eight million gallons of water was used from the beginning of the firefighting, around 1:00 a.m. Saturday, well into Sunday.  That is equivalent to the amount of water demanded by an entire community (similarly sized to the city of Ankeny) in one day at the peak of irrigation season in the summer.

To accommodate the hike in demand, Des Moines Water Works had to draw water from the Raccoon River, process, and then pump the water at a higher rate than a typical early morning in March. The increase in demand caused no system failures.

Des Moines Water Works facilities within the city of Des Moines are designed and constructed with extra capacity specifically intended to provide fire protection. In fact, fire protection demand is often what determines the size and location of the facilities that will be installed.

The minimum pipe diameter used for water mains in the City of Des Moines is 8-inch.  This is more than large enough to provide domestic service, but the larger size is necessary to provide fire protection.  The same is true for storage facilities and pumping stations around town. All are sized and located specifically to ensure adequate fire protection.

While many of us drive or walk past fire hydrants without much thought, Des Moines Water Works takes great pride in the installation and maintenance of the 9,600 fire hydrants in Des Moines and surrounding communities, which provide an essential function in adequate fire protection for the community.

Insurance Service Office, Inc. (ISO) regularly conducts evaluations which they refer to as Public Protection Classification surveys. The survey is a measure of a community’s capabilities related to fire protection. In 2010, a survey was conducted in Des Moines. The water supply received a score of 37.19 out of 40 and a Class 1 rating, or the highest possible rating. This shows that the water system in Des Moines is well positioned to provide adequate fire protection to its customers.

Christopher Gannon/The Des Moines Register

The Younkers fire was an extraordinary event that unfolded in real-time via social media. No persons were injured and the efforts by firefighters to control the damages caused by the fire have allowed the remaining portions of the building to continue to be redeveloped, including the beloved Tea Room.


Photos by Christopher Gannon/The Des Moines Register.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , , Posted in Infrastructure, Value of Water November 20, 2013

Finding the Leaks

Finding leaks early helps reduce the level of damage that a larger main break might cause. Leak detection also helps keep production costs down, which in turn has a positive impact on our customer’s water rates.

DMWW began its leak detection program in 1983.  At the start of the program, DMWW’s unaccounted for water (total pumpage minus billed) was at 15 percent.  Today, DMWW’s unaccounted for water is 7-9 percent.

Water Distribution’s staff performs an annual leak survey of the distribution system.  In addition, leak survey and follow-up activities are conducted for other metro area communities, plumbers, contractors and property owners.

The leak detection team uses a highly sensitive electronic sounding device to listen for leaks.  The leak surveyor systematically works his or her way through the distribution system sounding valves, blow-offs and hydrants, searching for leaks.  When a leak sound is discovered, the leak surveyor records the leak in DMWW’s geographic information system (GIS) software.  These leaks can be as small as pinholes in the pipe or as large as a split main.

Follow-up involves sounding the structures where a leak sound was found during the survey.  The Field Service Technician must determine if the leak is actually on the valve, hydrant, or the main.  A leak correlator and outstation sensors are used to run scans on the water main to pinpoint the location of a leak.  The leak can usually be pinpointed within one to two feet of its actual location. Identified leaks are then turned over to a repair crew.

Advance pinpointing of leaks and main breaks saves Des Moines Water Works $30,000 to $50,000 each year in labor costs.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , , Posted in Infrastructure, Value of Water April 25, 2013

Master River Steward Program

DSC_2146Here’s an exciting opportunity for river enthusiasts! Plan to participate in Iowa Rivers Revival’s “Master River Steward Program” in the Des Moines/Raccoon River Watershed.  This will be Iowa Rivers Revival’s second year offering this program. The eight week course, beginning  May 14, will focus on riverine systems, including skills to paddle and navigate rivers, restore aquatic habitat, improve water quality, and understand policies related to floodplains, river protection and restoration.

The “Master River Steward Program” will build on a network of river experts in various partner agencies and organizations. It will help adult learners collaborate to protect and improve Iowa’s rivers, so that current and future generations can enjoy these resources. Visit Iowa Rivers Revival’s website to view an outline of last year’s program:

Registration Cost: Participants will pay a fee of $50 which will include program materials. Participants will be expected to attend each session and there will be “homework” assignments following each class – materials will be provided.  Please register by April 30, 2013.

Feedback from 2012 Pilot Participants:

  • “Great class, thoroughly enjoyed each and every session.”
  • “Great leadership. Great resources/readings. Great speakers. Great group.”
  • “Really enjoyed class. Had zero expectations coming in. Was surprised by the amount of river experience/Project AWARE tie in. Really enjoyed meeting such passionate people. Each week gave me something to think about and discuss with co-workers.”
  • “This was a fantastic program. I came in with no expectations, but left every night excited to share what I learned with others… Thanks so much for putting this together. I will become active in the stewardship of rivers at a far greater level due to this program.”

Funding for this program has been provided by Metro Waste Authority, Des Moines Water Works, DNR IOWATER, Polk County Conservation Board and Iowa DNR River Programs.

For more information and to register, contact:

Rosalyn Lehman, Executive Director
Iowa Rivers Revival
PO Box 72, Des Moines, IA 50301

Iowa Rivers Revival (IRR) is Iowa’s only statewide river education and advocacy organization committed to protecting one of our most precious natural resources – our rivers and streams. Since 2007, IRR has been working to engage individuals, organizations, communities and our government leaders in river awareness, responsibility and enjoyment in an effort to improve and enhance the condition of Iowa’s waterways – ensuring a quality, safe and lasting resource for future generations.

Posted by: Linda Kinman No Comments
Labels: , , , , , , , Posted in Environment, Source Water, Value of Water, Water Quality May 9, 2012

2,000 Students Celebrate Water

It’s National Drinking Water Week!  Students will learn and celebrate Iowa’s most valuable resource – water – at the 16th Annual Iowa Children’s Water Festival.  The Iowa Children’s Water Festival, sponsored by Iowa Association of Water Agencies (IAWA), brings over 2,000 fifth grade students from 40 schools across the state of Iowa to a free, fun, educational day filled with learning experiences all related to some aspect of water.  All activities will be held on the Des Moines Area Community College-Ankeny Campus on Thursday, May 10, 2012, beginning at 9:30 a.m. and concluding at 3:30 p.m.

The Iowa Children’s Water Festival is designed as an opportunity for the youth of Iowa to enjoy a fun-filled day, learning about all the aspects of water, including water quality, wise-water usage practices, safety and recreation.  Students participate in hands-on learning activities, presented by a variety of water professionals, representing government agencies, environmental organizations, higher education and private businesses.

“We want Iowa’s youth to understand what they and others do in their daily lives, directly impacts water resources,” says Laura Sarcone, Festival Coordinator. “If we want to continue to have an adequate and safe supply of water, we must become better ecologists at an early age.”

The Festival is coordinated by several local and state agencies, including Des Moines Water Works, DMACC, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Department of Agriculture – Rural Development, Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities, Iowa Rural Water Association and West Des Moines Water Works.

Students participate in hands-on learning activities, presented by a variety of water professionals, representing local and national government agencies, environmental organizations, higher education and private businesses.  The activities are designed to teach children about water in a learning-intensive, yet festive and fun environment.

The Iowa Children’s Water Festival is designed as an opportunity for the youth of Iowa to enjoy a fun-filled day, learning about all the aspects of water, including water quality, wise-water usage practices, uses, safety and fun.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , Posted in Education, Value of Water March 12, 2012

Water System Improvements for Quality Drinking Water

The 2012 capital improvements budget for Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) includes $6.4 million for water main and new feeder main projects.  Of that amount, $2.8 million is budgeted for water system improvements 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.  These funds are also used to replace small water mains (4-inch diameter and smaller) that do not provide adequate flows for fire protection. DMWW typically budgets between $1.5 and $3 million each year to replace these worn out and undersized water mains.

This is just one of the many efforts DMWW undertakes to ensure that infrastructure is replaced to ensure delivery of quality drinking water in the quantities that our customers need.

Posted by: Gary Benjamin No Comments
Labels: , , , Posted in About Us, Customers, Infrastructure, Value of Water January 24, 2012

Predicting Water Demand

You may not be thinking about where your water will come from in the year 2030, but Des Moines Water Works is.

The forefathers of Des Moines Water Works did a tremendous job planning for and building the infrastructure of the utility to meet the water needs of the City of Des Moines and metro area prior to 1960.  The planning effort has been regionally focused over the last 30 years.  The implementation of these early planning efforts and a continued planning mindset to this day has produced water utility assets that serve the region very well.  These past planning efforts serve to reinforce the importance of long range planning in the infrastructure intensive nature of the water utility business.

In planning for the water utility for the next 20 years, we must first estimate the water needs of the region for this future time period.  The Water Works completed this planning effort in 2008 and 2009, which included analyzing customer water use trends coupled with population forecast for the region to produce forecasted total water needs.  The results predicted there will be continuing water efficiency gains which will lower somewhat the overall per customer water use.  All new home and business water use fixtures require less water today as a result of required efficiency improvements mandated by Federal Legislation in 1992.  However, the Des Moines region is predicted to see continued modest growth in population and in business and industry such that overall water needs are estimated to increase slightly.  It is important for Des Moines Water Works to plan for a slight increase in water needs in order to evaluate the adequacy of source water supplies, which can take many years to develop.

As one can imagine, a water utility must have sufficient source water supplies so as not to inhibit regional growth.  Des Moines Water Works’ planning revealed that the current source supplies are very adequate for the next 20 years, except during a severe drought event that could require mandatory water use restrictions, such as limiting outdoor irrigation and other non-essential uses.  With a greater awareness by most everyone of being “green” and more new construction striving to attain some form of LEED certification or at least following a more conservation ethic, DMWW’s source water supplies could well be adequate for the next 50 years.

Posted by: Randy Beavers No Comments
Labels: , , , Posted in Conservation, Environment, Green Initiatives, Value of Water October 10, 2011

New Water/Wastewater Curriculum at DMACC

This fall, Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) began offering a new curriculum at its Ankeny campus.  Thanks to a joint effort between an industry-wide committee (including American Water Works Association-IA Section, Iowa Water Environment Association, Iowa Rural Water Association, Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities, and Iowa Department of Natural Resources), this new curriculum has been designed to help educate a future workforce to fill the large number of openings expected in the water and wastewater industries due to retirements.

There will be three areas of study: water, wastewater, and a combination water/wastewater embedded in a larger two year AAS Degree industrial program.  There will be three levels of education available; a Degree, a Diploma, and a Certificate of Specialization.  By embedding into a larger industrial program, DMACC won’t have the pressure of keeping numbers of water/wastewater students up in order to keep the program alive (which has been an issue in previous programs across the state).  When the number of students allows it, the water/wastewater program will be offered by other community colleges around the state.

The curriculum will be “in class” and “web-based” to reach both traditional and non-traditional students.  The web-based students will attend one day of concentrated classes a week on campus.  This allows students who are working, to take classes while continuing their employment.  

DMWW assisted DMACC with the program and course design and will assist the instructors with assessment review.  Des Moines Water Works is excited to have this new water/wastewater curriculum available to our employees and future employees.


Posted by: Jenny Puffer 3 Comments
Labels: , , , , , Posted in Employees, Value of Water, Water Treatment