Posts Tagged ‘water quality’

April 7, 2014

Important Information about your Drinking Water

Spring melting has caused significant water quality concerns for Des Moines Water Works, in particular ammonia present in our rivers from livestock runoff and other upstream land uses.   Many customers may have noticed a chlorine taste and smell in their drinking water. Weeks of disinfection treatment has been necessary to reduce runoff impacts; however, disinfection has its own risks, including potential health risks if continued over the long term.

Des Moines Water Works aggressively and continuously monitors for the presence of drinking water contaminants. Tests indicating a “snap shot” of drinking water quality are taken often in the Des Moines Water Works system. Testing results received on March 21, 2014, show Des Moines Water Works exceeded the regulatory standard for Total Trihalomethanes (TTHM). The standard for TTHM is 0.080 milligrams per liter (mg/L), or 80 parts per billion. Des Moines Water Works’ result for TTHM during the monitoring period, which ended in the first quarter, was 0.090 mg/L in the Des Moines Public Water Supply (PWS) and 0.0926 mg/L in the Southeast Polk Rural Water District PWS.

“First and foremost, we take very seriously our responsibility to customers to provide a safe, reliable, and abundant water supply, and recognize that responsibility was not met here,” said Bill Stowe, CEO and General Manager. “Safe drinking water standards exist to protect public health – some for immediate health considerations, and others that protect against unwanted long-term effects.  This exceedance falls within the second category.  What is important here is that we respond with a sense of urgency to remedy the issue so it does not have the opportunity to become long-term.  Our customers need to understand that there is not an immediate concern with respect to the drinking water – it remains safe to consume and customers do not need to use alternative sources of drinking water, nor use additional treatment techniques.”

Trihalomethanes are one of the most common disinfection by-products. Disinfection by-products form when chlorine used for disinfection reacts with organic matter present in the water. Some people who drink water containing Trihalomethanes in excess of the standard over many years may experience problems with their liver, kidneys or central nervous system.

The violation occurred due to the interaction between chlorine and organic matter in the water system.

“At the time of the violation, Des Moines Water Works saw elevated levels of ammonia and other organic matter in both the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers,” said Stowe.

Disinfection with chlorine is more difficult when ammonia is present in source waters. Ammonia consumes chlorine, leaving it unavailable for disinfection. This requires adding additional chlorine to eliminate the ammonia and obtain proper disinfection during the final stage of treatment. For that reason, chlorine levels have been purposefully higher since early January. Elevated levels of organic matter, at a time when chlorine is being dosed aggressively, causes the formation of the undesirable disinfection by-products.

High levels of organic matter and ammonia in the rivers are often the result of agriculture runoff, especially livestock operations and manure fertilized fields.

“Runoff into the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers has once again created significant water quality and water treatment concerns,” said Stowe. “We are completely at the mercy of what is in our rivers each day.”

“Investing in multi-million dollar capital improvements to adjust treatment processes is one viable solution to eradicate similar violations in the future, but the source of the problem remains in our rivers,” said Stowe.  “This should be a call to action for all central Iowans to advocate for cleaner source water and to question if voluntary water protection measures work.”

Des Moines Water Works customers will receive the public notice required by Iowa Department of Natural Resources in their April bill statement. Copies of the notices can be found here:

The regulation requires averaging the samples obtained in the last four calendar quarters. Because of the high results in the first quarter of 2014, similar notices will be sent to customers in future quarters unless and until the average falls below the standard. Customers can expect three additional notices in 2014.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , , Posted in About Us, Source Water, Water Quality 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 January 7, 2014

Seeking Applications for Environmental Impact Awards

Envir. Impact Award LogoThe Greater Des Moines PartnershipCenter on Sustainable Communities, Des Moines Water Works and Metro Waste Authority will honor local organizations and leaders for their sustainability efforts in the Greater Des Moines area. Environmental Impact Award applications will be accepted through Friday, March 14, 2014, at 4:30 p.m.  Winners will be announced on Earth Day, April 22.

Organizations that are dedicated to sustainability, or have made notable contributions to positively impact the environment, are encouraged to apply. Now in its fourth year, the Environmental Impact Awards honor organizations in the following categories:

  1. Businesses (large and small)
  2. Civic organizations (governmental and non-governmental)
  3. Built environment (residential and commercial construction).

Special honors will be given to an award winner for the best water management practices and an award winner for the best energy efficiency practices.  The award applications are available at

Last year’s award winners were DART Central StationOakridge Neighborhood Teen CenterThe ReWall CompanyUnity Point Health – Des MoinesIowa Legal Aid, and City of Des Moines Parks and Recreation.  Their many sustainability initiatives are highlighted at

Winners will be recognized at the Environmental Impact Awards luncheon from 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. on Wednesday, May 21, at the Raccoon River Park Nature Lodge in West Des Moines. For more information, contact the Greater Des Moines Partnership at (515) 286-4950.  Media inquiries should be directed to Reo Menning, Metro Waste Authority public affairs director, at (515) 244-0021 or

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in Conservation, Customers, Environment 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,

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


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 or Midwest Cover Crops Council at

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 May 31, 2013

2013 Consumer Confidence Report


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

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 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:

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

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