Posts Tagged ‘Safe Drinking Water Act’

January 7, 2015

Winter Source Water Problems

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), which Congress passed on December 16, 1974, directing EPA to implement a series of regulations and standards to protect public drinking water from source to tap. The law was amended in 1986 and again in 1996 to include additional actions to protect drinking water, including those that recognize the needs for source water protection, training for water system operators, funding for water system improvements, and public information about the quality of treated water to inform water consumers and hold water delivery systems accountable.

Continued high nitrate levels in Des Moines Water Works’ source waters – the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers – forced Des Moines Water Works to activate its nitrate removal facility early December 2014. On December 16, 2014, the 40th anniversary of the SDWA, the denitrification facility remained in use in order to ensure Des Moines Water Works’ finished drinking water was safe for consumption, as defined by the SDWA.

In addition, Des Moines Water Works was forced to use emergency water storage from Maffitt Reservoir at the L.D. McMullen Water Treatment Plant. Water at Maffitt Reservoir is considered emergency storage water for use during exceptional instances of water quantity and water quality. Use of the emergency water today, reduces the amount of storage water available for use during high customer demand periods.

“Des Moines Water Works staff has exercised extensive efforts to reduce nitrate levels to an acceptable level, as prescribed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency,” said Bill Stowe, CEO and General Manager, Des Moines Water Works. “Because nitrate continues to be introduced in the watershed at high levels, we are forced to use emergency storage water, in addition to running the nitrate removal facility, in order to maintain delivery of safe drinking water to our customers.”

The EPA’s maximum contaminant level (MCL) for nitrate in finished drinking water is 10 mg/L.  The levels seen in the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers last fall and this winter are unprecedented for this time of the year. The monthly averages are as follows:


Raccoon River               Des Moines River

September 2014           11.89 mg/L                          7.20 mg/L

October 2014                 13.23 mg/L                         11.15 mg/L

November 2014           13.43 mg/L                         11.96 mg/L

December 2014            12.56 mg/L                         11.14 mg/L                  

Des Moines Water Works remains committed to fighting for cleaner source water on behalf of the 500,000 central Iowans Des Moines Water Works is pleased to serve.

According to the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy, approximately 92% of nitrate loads enter our water resources through agricultural sources that are not currently being subject to any mandatory regulations, despite longstanding legal mandates to address such pollution.

“While Des Moines Water Works continues to incur costs and reduce available water storage, polluters of the watershed are not regulated,” said Stowe. “This is a public health issue for our customers. We cannot continue to meet the increasing water demand of our customers without regulation of pollutants in our source water.”

In order to ensure that tap water is safe to drink, the EPA prescribes regulations limiting the amount of nitrate levels in water provided by public water systems. The greatest health risk posed by high nitrate concentrations is for infants under six months of age. Nitrate can transform into nitrite in the infant’s body, reducing the ability of the baby’s blood to carry oxygen. This may result in Blue Baby Syndrome. Des Moines Water Works’ finished drinking water nitrate concentration is currently below the level which is indicated to cause these health implications.  If you are caring for an infant, you may wish to seek advice from your healthcare provider.

Despite the high levels of nitrate in the source waters, Des Moines Water Works’ finished drinking water remains safe for consumption.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , , , Posted in About Us, Source Water, Water Quality 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 August 2, 2011

Iowa Public Drinking Water Annual Compliance Report

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) administers the Public Drinking Water Program in Iowa under delegation of authority from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The 1996 re-authorized Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) requires that each state prepare an annual report on violations of national primary drinking water regulations within the state.

A public water supply (PWS) is defined as a system that provides water to the public for human consumption. In Iowa, there are 129 surface water systems, 28 groundwater systems that are under the influence of surface water, and 1,809 groundwater systems. 45% of the population is served by surface water or groundwater under the influence of surface water systems and 55% are served by groundwater sources. The mission of Iowa DNR’s Public Drinking Water Program is to protect and enhance the public health, safety, and quality of life for all persons by ensuring the public drinking water is safe to drink. The overall drinking water program compliance figures in 2010 continue to be very similar to those in the previous two years.

Compliance with Health-Based Standards

  •  No waterborne diseases or deaths were reported from Iowa public water supply systems (PWS) in 2010.
  •  Over 2.62 million people (of the 2.84M people served by PWS) regularly received water from systems meeting all health-based drinking water standards.
  • Health-based drinking water standards were met by 91.0% of the 1,966 regulated public water supplies. There were 176 public water supplies that had 351 violations of a health-based drinking water standard: maximum contaminant level (MCL), maximum residual disinfectant level (MRDL), treatment technique (TT), or action level (AL).
  •  Eighteen of the more than 80 regulated contaminants were found at levels that exceeded the health-based standards during 2010. The top four contaminants based on total health-based standard violations, along with the percentage each contributed to the total number of health-based standard violations are; Total Coliform Bacteria (58.4%), Nitrate Nitrogen (8.3%), Fecal Coliform Bacteria (7.4%), and Nitrite Nitrogen (6.8%). Six other health-based standards were each exceeded at least once during the year: the maximum contaminant levels for chlorite and uranium; and treatment techniques for nitrate, contact time, gross alpha, and significant deficiencies not promptly corrected.

The complete 2010 report can be found on the IDNR website at,

Posted by: Linda Kinman No Comments
Labels: , , , , , , Posted in Health, Water Quality