Archive for the ‘Source Water’ Category

August 24, 2017

Purple Martin Lake Water Resource Area Opens for Public Use

The metro’s newest recreational area is open for outdoor enthusiasts. On Thursday, August 24, Des Moines Water Works, along with Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the City of West Des Moines and the Friends of Walnut Woods State Park held a grand opening of Purple Martin Lake Water Resource Area, located off Army Post Road, southwest of Walnut Woods State Park.

Purple Martin Lake Water Resource Area is owned by Des Moines Water Works and was a former sand, rock and gravel quarry that now serves dual purposes of drinking water source for Des Moines Water Works customers and recreational use.  The area will offer hiking, jogging and walking, along with all non-motor recreation on the water, similar to Maffitt Reservoir.

“The former quarry provides an operational benefit to Des Moines Water Works’ ability to produce safe, affordable and abundant drinking water to 500,000 central Iowans; however, it was recognized early on the inherent benefits of the property.  Des Moines Water Works appreciates the initiative and dedication of Iowa Department of Natural Resources staff to manage the property as an extension of Walnut Woods State Park.  This partnership is consistent with Des Moines Water Works goal of stewardship of public land, and will additionally provide an opportunity to highlight the story of water,” said Bill Stowe, CEO and General Manager, Des Moines Water Works.

Through an agreement with Des Moines Water Works, the DNR will manage Purple Martin Lake Water Resource Area and the area surrounding the lake as an extension of the DNR’s neighboring Walnut Woods State Park.

“We are thrilled to oversee this new hub for outdoor recreation. This area will provide one more option locally to get outside and enjoy the great resources Iowa has to offer. It is a top priority for the DNR to provide great areas like this to help attract newcomers outdoors to enjoy nature,” said Chuck Gipp, Director, Iowa DNR.

The area is named after the Purple Martin bird species and has several Purple Martin birdhouses and an area for visitors to view the birds. The name came about and project came to fruition through collaboration among the Des Moines Water Works, Department of Natural Resources, City of West Des Moines and the Friends of Walnut Woods State Park. The Purple Martin is the largest North American swallow but their populations are undergoing long-term declines in many parts of North America.  Purple Martins rely almost entirely on human-supplied housing and IDNR had grant money for the installation of a number of Purple Martin houses.

The area will be open daily from 6:00 am – 10:30 pm.

Directions From Interstate 35 and/or Hwy 5:  From Interstate 35 take exit 68 (Hwy. 5).  From Hwy. 5 take exit #102 (35th St.) for Walnut Woods State Park.  Drive North to Army Post Rd.  then turn left (west) on Army Post Rd.  to SE 42nd St.  Continue west on Army Post Rd. for .4 miles to the entrance to Purple Martin Lake.

From Interstate 235 take exit for 63rd St./Hwy. 28 south.  Take Hwy. 28/63rd St. south (crossing Grand Ave. & Park Ave.) to Army Post Rd./Willow Creek St.  Turn right/west on Army Post Rd./Willow Creek St. to Veterans Pkwy. Turn left/south on Veterans Pkwy then turn right again(west) on Army Post Rd. go west on Army Post Rd. to SE 42nd St continue on Army Post Rd. for .4 miles to entrance to Purple Martin Lake.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in Conservation, Parks, Source Water August 9, 2017

Citizen Water Academy of Central Iowa

Though Des Moines Water Works has successfully supplied safe, abundant and affordable drinking water to central Iowans for almost 100 years, the associated planning, production, distribution, monitoring and challenges presented by contaminated source water are not common knowledge among most citizens.  With water quality on the minds of Central Iowans, Des Moines Water Works is launching a Citizen Water Academy of Central Iowa in an effort to engage the public in more detail about the evolution of drinking water and understand plans for the future that meet the growing needs of our community.

The Citizen Water Academy is a free, four-session crash course about the history, use and management of water in the Central Iowa region.  The Academy is designed to help current and emerging leaders in our community learn and appreciate our most important natural resource, the water we depend on for life.  Attendees will receive 16 hours of instruction, tour multiple treatment plants operated by Des Moines Water Works, listen to over 15 presentations from soil and water experts, and interact with our expert Des Moines Water Works staff over the 4 courses of the program.  It is our hope that participants not only come away from the Academy with a better understanding of their local water utility, but are also equipped to help lead the debate on important water issues now and in the future.

For more information on the Citizen Water Academy and to apply to be a part of the inaugural class, visit www.citizenwateracademy.com  For specific questions, contact Jennifer Terry, at (515) 283-8706 or terry@dmww.com.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , Posted in About Us, Education, Health, History, Infrastructure, Public Policy, Source Water, Value of Water, Water Quality, Water Treatment June 12, 2017

How much longer will Iowa keep ignoring source water quality?

Listen to news reports about water quality efforts in Iowa, and you might start to think that no one wants to admit there’s a problem with Iowa rivers, lakes and streams.

Take, for example:

  • State legislators failed to pass any water quality legislation to protect the public health of Iowa citizens last session despite saying that it was a top priority.
  • Recent reports indicate that, in the past seven years, a whopping 750,000 conservation acres in Iowa have been ripped up and put back into production—to the detriment of water quality efforts and costing Iowa taxpayers $760 million in environmental benefits.Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey asserts that enrolling a paltry 3% of Iowa farmers in a cover crop program indicates “exciting momentum” for the voluntary-only Nutrient Reduction Strategy.
  • Iowa Partnership for Clean Water (a front for Iowa Farm Bureau) claims population growth is the major driver for expansion of Des Moines Water Works’ Nitrate Removal facility.

Water experts know, however, nitrate levels in Iowa’s waterways regularly exceed the public health threshold. Despite building the world’s largest Nitrate Removal Facility in 1992, adding off-river storage, treatment ponds and two additional water treatment plants, the costs and difficulty to remove nitrate from source water continue to escalate.  Rising nitrate concentrations in the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers now require Des Moines Water Works to plan for several nitrate management projects in order to comply with the drinking water standard. The first project is the design then construction of an expanded Nitrate Removal Facility that will double treatment capacity from 10 million gallons per day (mgd) to 20 mgd.

Think Downstream – It’s time to confront the very real issues facing Iowa’s polluted waterways.

  • The responsibility for cleaning up agricultural water pollution from tile outlets has been placed squarely on the shoulders of our state legislature. Environmental impacts must be considered.
  • A plan must be formulated for the Nutrient Reduction Strategy that includes a timeline, benchmarks and water quality metrics to assess progress. Start with the Raccoon and Des Moines River Watersheds.
  • Establish a sustainable, adequate funding source that incorporates state, federal and private money and methodically targets and solves pollution problems in the Raccoon and Des Moines River Watersheds.
  • Adopt a set of basic standards of care required on agricultural lands tailored to the landscape that include no-till, cover crops, grass waterways and setbacks from waterways – in other words, industrialized agriculture with a conscience.
Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , , Posted in Conservation, Source Water, Water Quality June 1, 2017

2017 Consumer Confidence Report

Des Moines Water Works 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 at: http://www.dmww.com/upl/documents/library/2017ccr.pdf.   If you would like a printed copy of the Consumer Confidence Report mailed to you or have any questions about your drinking water, please contact a Customer Service Representative at (515) 283-8700.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in Source Water, Uncategorized, Water Quality May 29, 2017

Community Partner: Whiterock Conservancy

Water is the great equalizer that crosses all imposed boundaries. Rivers connect communities and also protect many of the remaining wildlife corridors throughout the state of Iowa. Connect with your river this Memorial Day weekend at Raccoon River Days at Whiterock Conservancy, sponsored by Des Moines Water Works.

The four-day festival kicks off on Friday, May 26. Join Whiterock staff and regional naturalist to learn more about your community and watershed, with an educational river walk, river cleanup, demonstration programs, fishing derby, concert by Bob Dorr and the Blue Band, and much more. A full listing of event details can be found at whiterockconservancy.org or call (712) 684-2697 for more information.

Located just over an hour northwest of Des Moines in Coon Rapids, Whiterock Conservancy was formed ten years ago to manage one of the largest land gifts in the history of Iowa generously given by the Garst family. It stewards 5,500 acres along the scenic Middle Raccoon River Valley near Coon Rapids, Iowa. The Whiterock landscape is a mix of savannas, rolling pastures, native and restored prairies, wetlands, riverside bluffs, fishing ponds, crop ground, and unique historic, geologic, and archaeological sites.

Whiterock Conservancy offers over 40 miles of trials for hikers, mountain bikers, equestrians, and paddlers that wind through prairie, savanna, forest and fields. With three campgrounds, rooms and cottages for rent, it’s a great outdoor adventure for all ages.

Des Moines Water Works is committed to building awareness and appreciation for source water quality and quantity, and is pleased to sponsor Whiterock Conservancy Raccoon River Days this summer.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , Posted in Conservation, Source Water May 8, 2017

Des Moines Water Works Remains Focused on Source Water Protection

Des Moines Water Works has chosen not to appeal its Federal Clean Water case. The United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa issued its ruling on March 17, dismissing all of Des Moines Water Works’ claims against the Boards of Supervisors in Sac County, Buena Vista County and Calhoun County.

In March 2015, Des Moines Water Works Board of Trustees filed a federal lawsuit against the Boards of Supervisors in their capacities as trustees of 10 drainage districts. The complaint alleged the named drainage districts are point source polluters as defined by the Clean Water Act and Iowa Code Chapter 455B, and called for the drainage districts take all necessary actions to comply with the Clean Water Act. In addition, Des Moines Water Works demanded damages in an amount required to compensate for the harm the drainage districts caused by their unlawful discharge of nitrate.

“As an independent water utility, the sole focus of Des Moines Water Works is to provide safe and affordable drinking water to the 500,000 Iowans we serve. Water quality is an issue that we take very seriously, and the conclusion of the lawsuit will not change that,” said Bill Stowe, CEO and General Manager, Des Moines Water Works. “While many in the agriculture community and state political leadership took issue with the lawsuit, nobody objected to the facts showing drainage districts are polluters. The risks remain and demand immediate accountability to protect our state.”

The ruling dismissing the case did not dispute the assertion that drainage districts cause water quality problems in the Raccoon River Watershed. Rather, the court indicated that Des Moines Water Works may well have suffered an injury, but the drainage districts lack the legal ability to redress that injury.

According to Stowe, “Policy and law must keep pace as public health and water quality concerns demonstrate both risk and cost to water consumers; that includes 100-year old Iowa Code dealing with drainage districts and implementation of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.”

The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy estimates that 92% of nitrate in Iowa’s water comes from unregulated sources, namely agriculture, and 8% from regulated sources, such as sewer systems. Without proper funding and water quality data to measure progress, the Nutrient Reduction Strategy cannot produce the 45% nitrogen reduction goal. The court’s ruling noted this argument, and concluded these are policy issues the Iowa Legislature should resolve.

“Central Iowa will continue to be burdened with expensive, serious and escalating water pollution problems; the lawsuit was an attempt to protect our ratepayers, whose public health and quality of life continue to be impacted by unregulated industrial agriculture,” said Stowe. “These serious problems have been placed squarely on the shoulders of our state legislators. The old, business-as-usual, voluntary-only approach will never result in the 45% nitrogen reduction. We hope that, rather than wasting valuable time and resources crafting legislation designed to punish Des Moines Water Works for filing the lawsuit, our legislators can create bold laws that address water pollution. True source water protection is vital to our customers and community.”

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , , Posted in About Us, Board of Trustees, Customers, Source Water, Water Quality 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 January 5, 2017

Turn Talk into Action in the Raccoon River Watershed

On Monday, January 9, the opening gavel will fall, and Iowa’s 2017 state legislative session will begin. Legislators will continue to grapple with the complex and costly issues associated with improving Iowa’s water quality. Des Moines Water Works is committed to being part of the solution and has unveiled its top legislative priorities aimed at restoring and protecting source water quality in the Raccoon River Watershed. Proposed solutions include:

  • Allocate adequate, sustained funding for a statewide water quality plan that holds the largest contributors accountable, leverages public-private partnerships and doesn’t divert funding from other vital state services.
  • Implement a statewide, watershed-based approach, rather than a county-by-county approach, to treating Iowa water quality. Set a timeline for pollution reductions; target and prioritize the most urgent areas; fund and implement water quality monitoring at the sub-watershed level to assess progress; and guarantee public access to water quality data. Transparency and accountability help ensure that limited public resources are used wisely and effectively.
  • Prioritize the entire Raccoon River Watershed for immediate action. Allocate funding to implement a long-term plan that includes full-time,
    permanent coordinators; infrastructure; targeted practices in the
    watershed; measures of progress; and water quality monitoring. Watershed Management Authorities are appropriate mechanisms for implementing the Raccoon River plan.
  • Protect public health by updating agricultural tile drainage laws; i.e. require consideration of environmental and health impacts; ensure edge-of-field mitigation; and implement water quality monitoring at outlets to public waterways.

Des Moines Water Works is committed to protecting the health of 500,000 central Iowans by providing safe, abundant and affordable drinking water and will continue to pursue collaborative efforts, legal remedies, and legislative solutions that ensure cleaner source water for our customers. The year 2017 is said to be the “year of water,” and Des Moines Water Works looks forward to helping craft a plan that results in meaningful improvement in Iowa waterways.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone 1 Comment
Labels: , , , Posted in About Us, Environment, Source Water, Water Quality September 20, 2016

Water Quality Concerns: More than Nitrate

Like high nitrate concentration in the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers, another agrotoxin from excess nutrients from intensive agricultural production upstream is threatening central Iowa drinking water sources.

Cyanobacteria, commonly referred to as blue-green algae, grow and multiply quickly where there are high nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus). Certain forms of blue-green algae can also produce toxins that can make humans and animals sick.  When cyanobacteria counts rise, there is greater potential for the presence of cyanotoxins, which raise health concerns related to the liver, nervous system and gastrointestinal system.

Microcystin is the cyanotoxin found in the finished drinking water of Toledo, Ohio, in 2014, that prompted the city to issue a “Do Not Drink” order for its 500,000 customers.  The cyanotoxin was released by a cyanobacteria bloom in Lake Erie at the time, near the city’s water intake system.

Much like Toledo, Des Moines Water Works uses surface water to produce drinking water for 500,000 central Iowa customers.

DSC_1437Des Moines Water Works recently began a more aggressive testing regimen for the presence of harmful cyanotoxins when elevated cyanobacteria levels are present in raw water sources.  While many water utilities do not have equipment to test for these toxins, Des Moines Water Works recently invested in instrumentation that allows staff to monitor for microcystin and cylindrospermospin, per U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommendations, as well as two additional known cyanotoxins – anatoxin and saxitoxin.  Des Moines Water Works now routinely samples three times per week during the warmer months of the year, and more frequently when necessary.

Des Moines Water Works’ treatment process has limited ability to thoroughly remove these toxins from finished water; however, the ability to avoid the river source with the greatest amount of toxins remains the single most effective strategy to protect customers. Des Moines Water Works must remain nimble to the emerging science and public health considerations of these toxins.  Staff from Des Moines Water Works is working with state regulators from Iowa Department of Natural Resources and public health and emergency management personnel, to communicate health advisories if microcystin or cylindrospermospin are detected in the finished drinking water, as prescribed by EPA.

Des Moines Water Works is committed to delivering safe, affordable and abundant drinking water to its customers. Finished drinking water continues to meet or exceed drinking water quality standards; however, it is increasingly challenging.  Des Moines Water Works remains advocates for a holistic approach for addressing water quality in Iowa, including promoting precision conservation practices to reduce excess nutrients, E. Coli, eroded soil, and emerging contaminants – much of which can be attributable to agricultural production.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone 2 Comments
Labels: , , , , , , Posted in Source Water, Water Quality, Water Treatment May 23, 2016

Travel the Water Treatment Process

Many Des Moines metro area residents turn on the tap without thinking about where their water came from, how  it got there and who made it safe to drink. Whether you are 8 or 98 or anywhere in between, it is important to understand the multi-barrier approach that provides you with a vital public health product. Travel along the Des Moines Water Works’ water treatment process in a two-part video series that explains the many steps taken from river to tap, and the importance to Think Downstream.

To view the videos, visit www.dmww.com/education/education-resources/video.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone 1 Comment
Labels: , , , , , , Posted in About Us, Source Water, Water Quality, Water Treatment