The Raccoon River was above flood stage in Water Works Park seven times in 2010. Even though record high flood levels were not reached, all that water creates a lot of work and makes us wonder what the future will bring.
In 1993 the levee surrounding Water Works’ Fleur Drive Treatment Plant was overtopped by flood waters, leaving the Des Moines without water for more than a week. Since then a number of projects have been completed to help ensure this does not happen again.
Most importantly, the levee surrounding the Fleur Drive Plant has been raised by six feet to a level four feet above the record 1993 water level. A flood gate has also been added which can be closed quickly as compared to the earthen plug that was used to close the levee in the past. These improvements have not seen water as high as 1993 but they were tested during the flooding in 2008 when more than 8 feet of water rose against the 14-foot tall flood gates. The levee and flood gates performed well and treatment plant facilities were protected.
In addition to levee and flood gate improvements the Water Works has added additional sources of supply since 1993. In 2000 the LD McMullen Water Treatment Facility went into service near Maffitt Reservoir with the ability to produce up 25 million gallons of water per day. Four aquifer storage and recovery wells have also been constructed around the metro with a combined capacity of over 10 million gallons per day. Later this year the new Saylorville Water Treatment Plant will go on line with the capacity to supply up to an additional 10 million gallons per day to the metro area. Taken together these facilities provide valuable backup to the primary Fleur Drive Water Treatment Plant.
All of these changes have helped protect the water supply but Water Works Park is still vulnerable to flooding. Just this year the high water has caused tens of thousands of dollars of damage to park roads, plantings, and other park facilities. Each time the water level goes above flood stage the cleanup effort in the park requires hundreds of man hours to complete. In addition high water resulted in the cancellation or relocation of numerous events scheduled on park grounds including concerts, cultural festivals, and family gatherings.