September 20, 2011

The Importance of Dams & Reservoirs

Water is the vital resource to support all forms of life.  Unfortunately, water is not evenly distributed by location or by the season of the year. Some areas of the country are more arid and water is a scarce and precious commodity.  Other areas of the country receive more than adequate amounts of rain causing occasional floods and loss of life and property.  Throughout history, dams and reservoirs have been constructed to collect, store and manage the supply of water to sustain civilization.

The primary benefit of dams and reservoirs is water supply.  Reservoirs also provide benefits such as flood control, recreation, scenic beauty, fish and wildlife habitat and, at some dams, hydro-electric power.  Currently there are about 45,000 dams higher than 50 feet throughout the world.  While some are more than 2,000 years old, over 70% have been built in the last 50 years.

The Maffitt Dam was constructed by Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) as an emergency water supply.  Construction started in August 1943 and the dam was completed in March 1945.  Water was pumped from the Raccoon River to fill the reservoir.  Maffitt Reservoir stores 1.57 billion gallons of water.  The original plan was to store water in the reservoir that could be released during periods of low flow in the Raccoon River.  The current plan is to use water from the reservoir as an emergency raw water source for the L.D. McMullen Water Treatment Plant.

In May of 1982, DMWW entered into a contract with the State of Iowa to purchase storage capacity in the Saylorville Reservoir.  DMWW paid a portion of the Saylorville Reservoir construction costs and makes annual payments for a portion of the operational costs.  These payments give DMMW access to 3.2 billion gallons of Saylorville Reservoir water that can be utilized in a drought situation.

Between the Maffitt and Saylorville Reservoirs, DMWW has access to 4.77 billion gallons of water to meet the water needs of our customers in the event of an emergency or drought situation.

Posted by: Gary Benjamin No Comments
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