Archive for the ‘Water Quality’ Category

May 16, 2013

Customers Pay When Others Pollute

In response to Iowa Farm Bureau Federation’s environmental policy adviser, Rick Robinson’s “State Rules Wouldn’t Fix Nitrates” letter to The Des Moines Register on May 13.

Nitrate Removal FacilityThanks to a capital investment made years ago and the dedicated work of our employees Des Moines Water Works continues to meet the needs of the 500,000 customers in the twenty communities we serve. However, the extreme levels of nitrates found in our water supply this year poses a significant threat to our customers. We feel it is time for Iowans to engage in a serious discussion about this growing problem.

Nitrate levels in both the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) nitrate standard (10 mg/l – determined as the level protective of public health) this spring. There were more nitrates in those rivers last week than there were all of last year combined.

Des Moines Water Works relies primarily on the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers as sources for Central Iowa’s drinking water. Because unprecedented nitrate levels have affected both rivers concurrently, Des Moines Water Works activated its Nitrate Removal Facility last Friday to keep finished drinking water below EPA standards. This facility, constructed in 1992 for $3.6 million, costs $7,000 per day to operate. Ratepayers fund the cost of constructing, maintaining and operating this facility.

We agree with one thing Rick Robinson of Iowa Farm Bureau Federation wrote, “if we all do our part – farmers, homeowners, businesses and communities – we will have a positive impact on Iowa’s watershed.” Where we diverge is that we do not believe everyone is doing their part to protect Iowa’s waterways.

Des Moines Water Works had the foresight to build a denitrification facility. DMWW has not had to operate it since 2007, but this is largely because DMWW has invested millions of additional dollars in additional treatment options to provide denitrification since 2007. It is misleading for a person to suggest the denitrification facility’s lack of use during recent years is proof nitrate levels have been lower than they have been in past years. DMWW has been able to avoid the costly operation of the facility because of other actions and investments it has made.

The heart of Des Moines Water Works’ mission is protecting public health. We can no longer work quietly while source waters continue to be severely polluted by upstream land practices. This should not be a sterile discussion influenced only by data and statistics—although ample alarming data and statistics exist. Nitrates pose serious health risks. It is increasingly costly for Des Moines Water Works to remove nitrates through treatment processes to meet necessary EPA standards.

There is simply no disputing surface water is significantly impacted by certain types of land use – the primary land uses in our upstream watersheds are agricultural related. Chemical fertilizers applied to fields are exacerbated by field drainage tiles, allowing run off to reach rivers and streams quickly and without the benefit of natural filtration and, this year, plant uptake.

In addition to exceptional levels of nitrates, high levels of ammonia and phosphorus, algae blooms, and increasing levels of bacteria are all deteriorating water quality in Iowa. The recently published Nutrient Reduction Strategy supported by many prominent State leaders, including Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land StewardshipIowa Department of Natural Resources, and the Governor’s office, is inadequate in that it lacks regulation, goals, measurable outcomes, or timelines for reducing agricultural (non-point) discharges. We advocate regulation through EPA-endorsed numeric standards by watershed—an approach with local emphasis that considers the current state of each watershed and does not force a one-size-fits-all approach.

Facing the reality of the degrading water quality and open meaningful discussion to identify solutions is long overdue.

Iowans should demand state leaders address improving and protecting owa’s water sources. State funding to support monitoring of nitrate pollutants should not be stripped away from the flood center of Iowa, an objective guardian if Iowa’s rivers and streams. Without significant action, Des Moines Water Works will be forced to continue treating degraded source waters, and our customers will continue to pay for that extensive treatment in their rates. With bold and innovative action, Des Moines Water Works believes healthy source waters and agriculture can co-exist. They must—both are critical to Iowa’s future.

Respectfully Submitted,

Water Works Board of Trustees:

Graham Gillette, Chair

David A. Carlson, Vice Chair

Leslie A. Gearhart, Trustee

Susan R. Huppert, Trustee

Marc R. Wallace, Trustee

and

William G. Stowe, Des Moines Water Works CEO & General Manager

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in Board of Trustees, Source Water, Water Quality 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: http://iowarivers.org/education/river-stewards/.

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
515-724-4093
rlehman@iowarivers.org

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 April 3, 2013

Bicycle Fundraising Event for Clean Water

WaterRideOn 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.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in About Us, 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 October 25, 2012

Where Does Your Water Come From?

Des Moines Water Works Fleur Drive Treatment Plant has the option of three different sources of raw water.  The first and best source is a shallow groundwater collection system called the infiltration gallery. It is a three-mile long, porous pipe constructed with concrete rings. This runs parallel to the Raccoon River in Water Works Park, and collects water from the sands and gravels of the river valley.  The ponds in the park are also there to help recharge the gallery.   It provided all the water to the Des Moines area until 1949.

Increased water demand required construction of an intake on the Raccoon River in 1949, and the drought of 1977 precipitated construction of an intake on the Des Moines River in 1980.

Des Moines Water Works selects its source of water each day, and sometimes can change throughout the day, due to water quality and the ability to treat different substances present in the source water.

Some of the challenges Des Moines Water Works is faced with in selecting the best source water include:

  • Availability:  The first choice would be the gallery, but most days there is not enough capacity to supply all the water needed, so a second source is needed to supplement the gallery.
  • Algae and bacteria:  These can cause treatment challenges, such as plugging filters or taste and odor issues.
  • Nutrients:  Some of these are naturally-occurring in the environment, but most are man-made.  They can be from sources such as agriculture, livestock, or wastewater treatment.
  • Other:  Turbidity (cloudiness of the water), hardness (dissolved minerals in the water), organic material (plant decomposition) or taste and odor.
  • Episodic events:  There may be an accidental spill or chemical release into the river.
  • Cost:  The gallery and Raccoon River are available at the Fleur Drive Treatment Plant, but the Des Moines River has to be pumped five miles from the intake to the plant.  This adds additional cost when Des Moines Water Works must use the Des Moines River.

Many of the challenges Des Moines Water Works sees changes daily, so monitoring is done continuously.  Evaluating the source water and determining what is the best available and at the cost is to treat that source ensure Des Moines Water Works can deliver water you can trust for life.

Posted by: Jeff Mitchell No Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in Customer Service, Customers, Infrastructure, Source Water, Water Quality, Water Treatment October 17, 2012

40th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act

Forty years ago, in the midst of a national concern about untreated sewage, industrial and toxic discharges, destruction of wetlands, and contaminated runoff, the principal law to protect the nation’s waters was passed. The Clean Water Act (CWA) set a national goal “to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters,” with interim goals that all waters be fishable and swimmable.

The Act embodied a new federal-state partnership, where federal guidelines, objectives and limits were to be set under the authority of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, while states, territories and authorized tribes would largely administer and enforce the CWA programs, with federal technical and financial assistance. In Iowa, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources is delegated to administer the CWA.

The Act also gave citizens a strong role to play in protecting and restoring waters. Ways you can support and become involved in improving and protecting water quality in your watershed:

  • Start or join a watershed improvement and protection group
  • Organize a river, stream or lake clean-up event
  • Get trained as an IOWATER volunteer
  • Get school kids, churches, civic organizations involved in education, projects and programs
  • Talk with policymakers about your support for watershed funding and programs – City Councils, County Supervisors, Legislators and others
  • Write letters to the editor of  your local newspaper about what good water quality means to you
  • Talk with family and friends about the importance of clean water

We must work together to protect clean water in Iowa for our families and future generations. Everyone has an impact on the water and we are all responsible for making a difference. Water is worth it.

To learn more about the Clean Water Act, visit: http://water.epa.gov/action/cleanwater40/

Posted by: Linda Kinman No Comments
Labels: , , , , , Posted in Environment, Source Water, Water Quality October 16, 2012

Manure Application to Soybeans

Des Moines Water Work’s primary water sources are the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers. Land use in the Raccoon and Des Moines River Watersheds is overwhelmingly agricultural. About 1.7 million of the 2.3 million acres in the Raccoon watershed is cultivated for corn and soybeans. Land covered by perennial vegetation is nearly non-existent outside urban areas. Much of the corn-soybean system requires constructed drainage (agricultural tile drainage) to maximize yields. Manure and commercial fertilizers applied to crop land are transported during rainfall events as either run-off or discharged to a river through a tile drainage system. All of these factors have resulted in various consequences for water quality and challenges for drinking water utilities.

Today, the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) will meet to discuss whether or not to continue to ban manure application to soybean crops. Manure is a source of nutrients used in combination with or in place of commercial fertilizer.  Nutrients in water are necessary for healthy watersheds; however, in high concentrations they can adversely affect aquatic life and human health. For a drinking water utility, increasing nutrient loads can cause difficult and costly challenges at the source, in the treatment process, and at the tap. Monitoring trends in the Des Moines and Raccoon River since 1974 show the ever-increasing trend of nitrate-nitrogen (a nutrient) loading and concentrations. Without a comprehensive, measurable state nutrient standard and strategy these conditions will be perpetuated.

All waters in Iowa are “public waters and public wealth” of its citizens and is for the beneficial use of all citizens. It is also the policy of the State of Iowa – delegated to the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission – to protect existing water uses and to protect and maintain the physical, biological and chemical integrity of all waters of the state. Making a decision on whether manure should be applied to soybeans is again representative of the piecemeal approach to nutrient management that will not effectively decrease non-point source nutrient contributions to Iowa’s surface and ground water resources.

Des Moines Water Works provided comments to EPC commissioners strongly urging them to take this opportunity to support development of comprehensive nutrient management strategies and standards. Standards that protect Iowa’s water resources, promote economic development, and enhance the quality of life necessary to attract workers and jobs to the state. And most importantly, establish the target so many producers and the public have requested.

It is not Des Moines Water Works’ intent to tell people how to farm or what they can and cannot do on their land. But it is our intent, to rigorously advocate for establishing a comprehensive nutrient strategy, setting numeric nutrient standards, and the aggressive reduction of non-point source nutrient contributions to Iowa’s surface and ground water resources.

Des Moines Water Works and the drinking water industry ensures that the investment the public has made in them results in all Iowans having access to safe drinking water. We believe every Iowan who drinks a glass of water should recognize the importance of our water resources to sustaining life and the critical connection between our water resources and food production, an existence and connection that should occur without degradation of our water resources.

Producers are able to make all the decisions on his or her land, but those decisions are having dramatic consequences that impact others. Integrated solutions on a watershed scale and involvement of all stakeholders in the planning and implementation process is critical to generating change. Whether you live in an urban, rural or something in-between, we are all part of the watershed and whatever we do in our daily lives impacts water quality in the watershed.

Posted by: Linda Kinman No Comments
Labels: , , , , , , Posted in Environment, Source Water, Water Quality September 12, 2012

Des Moines’ Hidden Gem: Maffitt Reservoir Park

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

Posted by: Scott Atzen 1 Comment
Labels: , , , , Posted in History, Maffitt Reservoir, Parks, Source Water July 30, 2012

New Raccoon River Watershed Alliance

Des Moines Water Works through the Central Iowa Regional Drinking Water Commission Assisting Dallas County Board of Supervisors in Formation of a Middle-South Raccoon River Watershed Alliance

The State of Iowa has authorized local governments to address flooding and management of water and soil resources in watersheds across the state through the formation of local alliances. An alliance is formed through a 28E agreement (contractual agreement between governmental organizations) with representatives appointed by city, county and soil and watershed conservation districts (SWCD) within the watershed. An advisory body with landowners and other groups will also be part of the process.  The watershed alliance has no taxing authority and no impact on the authority of a city, county, or SWCD to conduct its business. Instead, the alliance will educate, coordinate and leverage resources for the betterment of the watershed.

The Middle-South Raccoon River Watershed Alliance is working within the following vision and mission statements:

Vision: A regional alliance with resources to lead, and support improvements in soil protection, flood management and water quality.

Mission: To facilitate regional collaboration that will identify strategies and goals to educate the public, reduce the risk of flood events, and leverage resources for improved soil and water quality protection.

As outlined by legislators in Iowa Code the alliance can:

  • Educate residents
  • Identify sources of funding to institutionalize the Watershed Management Alliance
  • Assess flood risks
  • Assess options for cutting flood risk
  • Monitor state & federal flood risk planning activities
  • Assess water quality
  • Leverage funding of multiple partners
  • Allocate state and federal moneys available for water quality and flood risk reduction programs and implement best management practices
  • Implement the Raccoon River Master Plan
  • Enter into contracts and agreements

Source: Iowa Code Chapter 466B, Subchapter III

The Middle-South Raccoon River Watershed Management Alliance has just recently been selected to partner with the Iowa Flood Center (IFC) on a multi-year project to monitor, plan, and implement watershed projects aimed at improving soil and water resources and the adverse impacts of flooding. Phase I will focus on the Middle Raccoon River watershed. The IFC formally announced the partnership June 22, 2012, in Redfield, IA.

The landscape of the Middle-South Raccoon River Watershed is located in the best of rural Iowa, where community is tied to the tradition of farming and outdoor recreation. The benefits gained from the partnerships in the Middle-South Raccoon River watershed is a place where agriculture, communities, recreation, and Iowans thrive and prosper.

Posted by: Linda Kinman No Comments
Labels: , , , , , , , Posted in Environment, Flooding, Source Water, Water Quality June 18, 2012

Founding Fathers’ Foresight

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.

Posted by: Pat Ripley No Comments
Labels: , , , Posted in About Us, History, Infrastructure, Maffitt Reservoir, Saylorville Water Treatment Plant, Source Water, Water Quality