Archive for the ‘Water Quality’ Category

February 20, 2014

Taste and Odor Episode Due to Runoff from Recent Snowmelt

Des Moines Water Works uses both the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers as water sources. By using surface water, seasonal variations can occur. The recent warm-up in temperatures has caused increased runoff into our water supply, requiring Des Moines Water Works to use more chlorine to achieve the desired chlorine levels in the finished product.

Both rivers are currently experiencing elevated levels of ammonia. Disinfection with chlorine is more difficult when ammonia is present in source waters. Ammonia consumes chlorine, leaving it unavailable for disinfection. This requires addition of extra chlorine to eliminate the ammonia and maintain adequate disinfection. For these reasons, chlorine levels have been purposefully higher for the past three weeks. Chlorine levels in the water leaving Des Moines Water Works’ treatment plants are monitored continuously to ensure they do not exceed the maximum allowable limit set by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Finished drinking water from Des Moines Water Works is safe to consume. Some people are more sensitive to these subtle changes in taste or odors. These conditions will improve as the weather stabilizes and levels of runoff decrease.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone 4 Comments
Labels: , , , Posted in Customer Service, Source Water, Water Quality, Water Treatment December 30, 2013

Cheers from Des Moines Water Works!

cheers to waterWith the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, we should not forget another important December date. December 16 was the 39th anniversary of the signing of the Safe Drinking Water Act, a landmark law providing for the nation’s health, wealth, and welfare.

Even though drinking water in the United States is considered to be one of the safest in the world, water contamination still occurs. There are many sources of contamination, but in Iowa and for Des Moines Water Works, the primary source of contaminants (fertilizers, pesticides, livestock, and concentrated animal feeding operations) comes from land use. Make 2014 the year you engage in serious discussions locally and statewide about this growing problem. These should not be sterile discussions influenced by data and statistics – although alarming data and statistics exist. Healthy source waters and agriculture can co-exist. They must – both are critical to a sustainable future.

The presence of certain contaminants in our source water can lead to health issues, including gastrointestinal illness, reproductive problems, and neurological disorders. Infants, young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and immunocompromised persons may be especially susceptible to illness. Everyone and everything is connected to water. And, no one can afford to remain silent while water quality continues to degrade in Iowa. Seek out and understand the source(s) of your drinking water, what threats are relevant, and take action that will improve and protect these water resources. Information can be found on the DMWW website, www.dmww.com.

Holiday drinking doesn’t have to include sweet and creamy or spiked and spicy elixirs – sometimes water is all you need, especially if you serve it with good food and great conversation.  So this holiday season, celebrate with a toast to accessible, affordable and safe drinking water. And in the New Year, become an advocate for clean water in Iowa.

Cheers from Des Moines Water Works!

Posted by: Linda Kinman 1 Comment
Labels: , , , , Posted in Customer Service, Source Water, Water Quality December 2, 2013

Taste and Odor Episode

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Des Moines Water Works uses the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers as water sources.  By using surface water, there can be some seasonal variations that occur.  The treatment process should eliminate the variation in finished water, but sometimes there will be a slight change some customers may notice.  For example, there may be a slight increase in smell or taste, especially during a river’s thaw.  Although the water is safe to drink, DMWW adjusts its water treatment processes to remedy the situation. To help reduce tastes and odors in your drinking water, DMWW will make timely switches between our source waters as needed to insure the highest quality of water possible. In addition, powdered activated carbon is added at the Fleur Drive Treatment Plant. This material absorbs taste- and odor-causing compounds before settling out in the treatment process. The effective use of chlorine also destroys objectionable tastes and odors.

Some people are more sensitive to subtle changes in taste or odors. To help dissipate the taste and odor, try storing water for drinking in a pitcher in the refrigerator. If you are storing drinking water for convenient use, here are a few things to help prevent taste and odor issues.  Store water in a glass container, as plastic can impart taste or odors to the water.  Also make sure the container has a good seal.  Store in the refrigerator as water will have less flavor when chilled.  If the water has sat for a while, it may be flat.  If this is the case, pour it back and forth between containers or shake it to help aerate the water.  This will help to add oxygen to the water and remove the stale, flat flavor.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in Customer Service, Source Water, Water Quality November 6, 2013

Farming Best Practices

cover cropDid you know that Des Moines Water Works has owned about 100 acres of farm land at Maffitt Reservoir Park since 1942? In keeping with DMWW’s mission, and knowing that what we do on the land impacts the quality of our source water, we seek to adopt agricultural practices that provide protection to the water and soil resources under our ownership.

This fall, a cover crop was planted on DMWW’s Maffitt farm land. The cover crop was applied using a helicopter that planted seed in a standing soybean field. A mixture of rye (cool season grass/grain non-legumes) and hairy vetch (cool season annual legume) were planted.

Cover crops have been around for centuries, but are gaining in popularity because of their ability to control erosion, improve soil water moisture content, and the natural filtration of water through the soil profile. When the cover crop decays, it provides organic matter to produce beneficial soil organisms for soil fertility and soil health. Healthy soils improve the infiltration of water, leading to less flooding as well as reduced soil erosion and nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus) leaching. According to an Ohio State University Extension report, Using Cover Crops to Improve Soil and Water Quality (2009), a pound of soil organic matter has the ability to absorb 18–20 pounds of water, reduces nutrient and pesticide runoff by 50% or more, decreases soil erosion by 90%, reduces sediment loading by 75%, and reduces pathogen loading by 60%.

By using cover crops and reducing reliance on agrichemicals for crop production, we help protect the health of family and friends and reduce water quality concerns arising from non-point pollution attributed to farming practices. At a time when the Raccoon and Des Moines River watersheds suffer from serious degradation due to nutrient contamination, this shift in agricultural systems can play a significant and positive role in revitalizing Iowa’s river systems. For more information about cover crops, visit Practical Farmers of Iowa at http://www.practicalfarmers.org/programs/Field-Crops_cover.php or Midwest Cover Crops Council at http://www.mccc.msu.edu/.

Posted by: Linda Kinman No Comments
Labels: , , , , , , Posted in Environment, Maffitt Reservoir, 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 July 25, 2013

Chilling in Water Works Park

RAGBRAI riders love our water stationsApproximately 10,000-12,000 RAGBRAI riders and their support teams camped overnight in Water Works Park July 23, 2013.  One cyclist was overheard remarking that Water Works Park was “by far the coolest camp” he’d experienced in his 16 years of riding.

While riders and campers enjoyed the nature of the park and the close community it provided, the “hot” commodity was a chilled water station where bicyclists could fill  their reusable water bottles with ice cold tap water.  Recently designed by Des Moines Water Works staff, the water station connects to any water supply and utilizes ice to cool the tap water flowing through a 100’ coil to four bottle filling faucets. Chilled water was extremely popular as the riders are accustomed to drinking lukewarm tap water all day long.

Two additional water stations were strategically positioned in the campground to provide thousands of gallons of water for the campers’ needs.  Riders were extremely appreciative of the plentiful supply of water allowing them to clean up and board a bus to experience the festivities in downtown Des Moines.

Cyclists and their support teams got an early start July 24 and by mid-morning, few traces remained of the epic camp-out the night before.  From all accounts, cyclists enjoyed their stay in Des Moines and the hospitality offered by the entire community.  In return, DMWW thanks RAGBRAI-ers for being great stewards of Water Works Park.  Come back and enjoy!

Posted by: Pat Ripley No Comments
Posted in Des Moines Water Works Park, Uncategorized, Water Quality May 31, 2013

2013 Consumer Confidence Report

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Des Moines Water Work is committed to delivering safe, affordable and abundant drinking water to our customers. Safe drinking water is treated water that has been tested for harmful and potentially harmful substances and has met or exceeded drinking water quality standards set by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the State of Iowa. The EPA sets drinking water standards to define the limits of contaminants considered safe for drinking water. These levels are based on studies of the health effects associated with each contaminant and include a sufficient safety margin to ensure that water meeting these standards is safe for nearly everyone to drink.

The Consumer Confidence Report is an annual water quality report that helps customers understand the quality and safety of tap water provided by Des Moines Water Works. The current Consumer Confidence Report is now available on Des Moines Water Works’ website at http://www.dmww.com/upl/documents/library/ccr2013.pdf.

If you would like a printed copy of the Consumer Confidence Report mailed to you, please contact a Customer Service Representative at (515) 283-8700. If you have any questions about your drinking water, please contact Des Moines Water Works at (515) 283-8700.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , , Posted in Customer Service, Customers, Water Quality May 23, 2013

Managed Irrigation Requested, Even as Drought Conditions throughout Central Iowa Improve

Des Moines Water Works is asking metro area customers – residential and commercial – to manage seasonal irrigation for the next several weeks, even as drought conditions throughout the state continue to improve.

Due to the recent historic nitrate concentrations found in the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers, Des Moines Water Works is not currently pulling water from either river.  The utility is able to meet current demand by relying on other water sources, including Maffitt Reservoir, Crystal lake and aquifer storage wells.  If demand increases, Des Moines Water Works will have no choice but to start taking water from the heavily polluted rivers, and may be unable to remove nitrate in a manner that keeps up with high demand.

“Although drought conditions are no longer an immediate threat to Central Iowa, increased nitrate levels from agricultural run-off, coupled with high demand, puts Des Moines Water Works in a difficult position,” Bill Stowe, CEO and General Manager, Des Moines Water Works. “With the assistance of all metro customers using water wisely, Des Moines Water Works can effectively and efficiently use the available water supply to provide safe drinking water that does not violate nitrate standards.”

Wise use of water is defined as identifying efficient lawn irrigation practices, taking advantage of technological advances to eliminate waste, as well as being alert to and repairing leaking household fixtures or other large water consumption appliances in homes and businesses.

Wise water best practices for residential and commercial irrigation use include:

  • Avoid lawn watering, whether from an in-ground sprinkler system or manual sprinkler, during the day time hours of 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.  Evaporation from the sun is highest during this time period and less water is absorbed into the soil, meaning more water must be used to get the same effect than if watering is done outside these hours.
  • Shift watering to no more frequently than the ODD numbered days of the week if your house address ends with an ODD number and EVEN numbered days if your house address ends with an EVEN number.  For example, if your house number is “1521,” it is suggested that you water on the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, and so on days of the month.
  • Test the irrigation system each spring to ensure there are no leaking sprinkler heads and that each head is properly directing its spray onto the turf and landscape.
Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in Conservation, Customer Service, Customers, Water Quality 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