Archive for November, 2010

November 29, 2010

Holiday Shopping Made Easy at Botanical Center’s Garden Gate Gift Shop

The holidays are in bloom at the Des Moines Botanical & Environmental Center!  Without paying admission, you can visit the Garden Gate Gift Shop and shop for unique and creative merchandise at reasonable prices.  Twenty plus artisans showcase unique offerings, including handmade jewelry, wood carvings, birdfeeders, wire sculptures, Christmas books, greeting cards, hand painted tiles, CD’s, T-shirts and much more.

You’ll find plenty of gifts to choose from for your family, friends as well as the little ones on your list.  There’s an excellent collection of gardening and nature books, orchids, amaryllis bulbs and potted plants, jewelry, bird feeders, plush toys and pillows. There are small gifts, large gifts, garden and patio décor. For the hard to buy person, consider a Friends of the Des Moines Botanical Center membership – many benefits, including free addmission and discounts. 

Here is just a sampling of items you can find at the Garden Gate Gift Shop this season:

Amazing Snowman – Use the magical water and watch the snowman grow – what fun! You can have a snowman with or without the cold.   $6.95

Jim Shore Figurines, Collectibles & Gifts – Shop with us for a great selection of Jim Shore figurines, fairies, Santa Claus, snow people, sleighs, pumpkins, horn of plenty and more, each with Jim Shore’s signature quilt patterns, folk art designs and country styling. You’ll enjoy the mix of rich colors and fine detail in the works of Jim Shore figurines from his Heartwood Creek collections! $21.00 – $26.00

Gallop and Swing Books – Employing a patented new technology all through the magic of “scanimation.”  A first book of motion for kids. The horse really gallops and the baseball is really comin’ at ya. A book that will charm and amuse any little one on your list.  $12.95

Banana Grams – The award winning #1 game of 2010.  An anagram game that will drive you bananas. Fast, educational and great family fun.  Choose your fruit: banana, apple or pear… or get the books, you will enjoy them all! $8.95 – $15.95

Monkeez – Hang on…Giggle, laugh, smile and play! Fall in love with a new family of sock monkeys. Handcrafted knit in vibrant colors. Strong magnet hands and feet let you hang them almost anywhere. Kids love ‘em. $17.95.

Child apron and mixing bowls from Stephen Joseph – Ready, Set, Bake!  The perfect big girl mixing set for your little baker. Just in time for the holidays. $17.95.

Fashion Jewelry from Gift Craft, Two’s Company, Wear Any Wear and select Iowa Consigners – Elegant and affordable $7.00 – $30.00.

Hugga Pet Pillows – If you like Pillow Pets, you will love this selection of styles and colors; and your little one will too! $19.95.

Pop-up Fairy Book – A great gift that will ooo and aah anytime of the year. Pop-up dioramas for the four seasons appear in exciting three-dimensional boxed displays. $19.95.

Orchids, Amaryllis and Christmas Cactus – Make a memory when you choose an ever-growing gift from Des Moines Botanical Center’s selection of plants and plant bulbs for sale.  $3.95 – $20.00.

If you are just shopping at the Garden Gate Gift Shop, no admission is required!  Friends of the Des Moines Botanical Center members receive a 10 percent discount on all purchases. The Des Moines Botanical & Environmental Center is open daily 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. For more information, please call 515-323-6294 or visit

Posted by: Dawn Goodrich No Comments
Labels: , , Posted in Botanical Center November 17, 2010

Know Your Watershed – Part 1

Watershed, catchment, and drainage basin are all the same thing: an area of land that drains to a common point. Small watersheds drain into larger watersheds in a hierarchical pattern. For example, the Mississippi River Watershed is comprised of hundreds of other smaller sub-watersheds.

The City of Des Moines is located at the bottom of two large catchments: the Raccoon and the Upper Des Moines River watersheds. These are two of the 42 largest sub-watersheds in the Mississippi River basin. Water draining from more than 5 million acres, from as far away as Jackson, MN, flows through the city. Des Moines Water Works treats water from both rivers to provide Des Moines Area residents with drinking water.

Knowledge of Iowa’s geological history and current land uses are necessary to understand each river and its water quality. Both the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers flow through and drain the Des Moines Lobe Landform. It was here that a glacier covered the landscape only 12,000 years ago. The weather warmed and the disintegrating ice sheet formed the prairie pothole region that was once home to uncounted millions of waterfowl. After the glacier melted, the landscape was colonized by tallgrass prairie and wetland plants that helped form the region’s tremendously rich soil. The rivers ran clear and cold as rain water was naturally filtered through the perennial vegetation.

The early European settlers found the region nearly uninhabitable due to the swampy landscape and swarms of mosquitoes. A few decades after arrival, they realized that the soils formed under such conditions were ideal for the cultivation of corn. But first, large scale drainage was necessary. Networks of porous drainage pipes (now known as tile) were buried to lower the water table and dry out the soil. These were connected to constructed drainage ditches, essentially forming hundreds of new streams where none previously existed. This enormous project was mostly complete by 1920, although farmers continue to connect into and improve the system in the present day.

Constructed drainage and replacement of perennial vegetation with annual crops turned Iowa into the world’s richest agricultural region. But altering the natural hydrological system also had an impact on water quality in Iowa’s streams, this is will be discussed in the next piece in this series.

Posted by: Chris Jones No Comments
Labels: , , , , , , , , Posted in Water Quality November 10, 2010

How Do We Define “Quality” in Drinking Water?

Quality is one of those rare words that everyone knows, but few can define. In basic use, it implies a degree of worth or excellence. Digging a little deeper, we say that it is a distinguishable aspect of something or someone, and perhaps not necessarily a good aspect. When we speak of quality drinking water, what exactly do we mean, and what are the standards for high quality?

The Safe Drinking Water Act established 10 regulated parameters in 1974. Now there are about 100. Water supplied by municipal systems like DMWW must not contain more than specified amounts of these regulated parameters—the primary drinking water standards. These are standards or limits on certain pollutants that may present a health hazard if found your drinking above a certain concentration.

Water can meet the regulations for these primary standards, but still be nearly impossible to drink because of objectionable tastes, odors, or appearance. Substances that do not pose a health hazard, but can diminish the quality of drinking water, include iron, manganese, certain salts, excess hardness, and algae.

Finally, most people associate high quality water with acceptable water pressure at the tap, cost, and service dependability.

Staff at DMWW strives to produce water that meets customers’ definition of “high quality” in every way. DMWW water has met all regulations for the primary drinking water standards for nearly 20 years running. Tests are conducted and treatment processes are monitored hundreds of times a day to ensure that the water will taste good and enter your home without objectionable odors. Our field service and distribution employees strive to deliver acceptable pressure and dependable service at the tap through extensive monitoring of our piping systems. And all staff strives to produce safe Water You Can Trust for Life at an affordable cost to Des Moines area residents. Quality water is a quality of life issue, so if the water entering your home does not meet your standards for quality, be sure to let us know.

Posted by: Chris Jones No Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in About Us, Customer Service, Employees, Water Quality November 9, 2010

What is DMWW Doing to Control Costs?

DMWW sets water rates to adequately fund operation and infrastructure investments to ensure high quality water to our customers.  Even though water consumption has declined, the utility has experienced rising costs.  DMWW pays all of its operating expenses but is not collecting sufficient revenue to pay for the needed infrastructure improvements. Instead of taking on debt to invest in improvements, a water rate increase has been approved to help bring revenues in line with costs.

Costs increased 8% in 2009 due to treatment chemicals, system maintenance labor and materials, lime softening residuals disposal and employee benefits.  Staffing levels vary little in periods of reduced consumption.  Our treatment facilities and distribution system must be maintained regardless of the amount of water consumed. 

DMWW has a constant focus on containing costs.  Recent efforts to reduce costs include:

  • The addition of two treatment plants, one in 2000 and one later this year, resulted in only one staff addition
  • Customer pre-termination calls that have reduced field service collection cuts by 25%, thereby allowing field service staff to focus on other areas like more frequent testing of large meters
  • E-Statements to reduce the cost of billing
  • Automated processing of bills, thereby eliminating a nightly IT operator position
  • A work-from-home program for customer service resulting in handling more calls/account activity per customer representative
  • Coordinated with Polk County on a joint asphalt project that saved us $150,000
  • Reduction of senior management by 20%
  • A 0% salary increase to DMWW management team and professionals in 2010
  • Successful application for over $5 million in FEMA funding for riverbank repairs to protect our treatment plant collector well system
Posted by: Peggy Freese No Comments
Labels: , , , , , Posted in Board of Trustees, Infrastructure, Rates November 5, 2010

Winterize Today and Beat the Cold

Cold, winter weather will soon be upon us. Take advantage of the temperate, fall conditions to do some winterizing around your home.  Here are a few tips to help you prevent your pipes from freezing:

  • Cover the pipes in your attic, crawl spaces, and unheated garage with pipe insulation, heat tape or heat cables.  Make sure you use material safe for pipe insulation. The more insulation you use, the better your pipes will be protected. 
  • Seal any leaks allowing cold air inside your home with caulk or insulation.  Leaks are commonly found around dryer vents, pipes, and electrical wiring.  Even a small air leak can cause your pipes to freeze during severely cold weather.
  • Disconnect garden hoses and store them indoors during the winter.  Cover your outdoor faucets with faucet covers, or wrap them in old rags and cover with plastic.  If possible, drain water from pipes leading to outdoor faucets by shutting off the indoor valve.
  • Open cabinet doors that cover plumbing on extremely cold nights.  This lets heat move to areas in your home where pipes are not insulated, such as under sinks.
  • Set the thermostat no lower than 55F (12C) if you are leaving your home for an extended period of time.  Turn off the water and drain your pipes. Fire protection sprinkler systems will deactivate automatically after the water is shut off.

Reminder for Winter Vacationers

Contact a Des Moines Water Works Customer Service Representative at (515) 283-8700 with your departure and expected return dates.  If you plan to leave your water on while you are gone, ask a trusted friend or neighbor to periodically check your home.  Also, make sure you leave emergency contact information with that person.

Posted by: Amy Kahler No Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in Customer Service, Customers November 3, 2010

Fluoride in Water – Second in a Series of Five

How Fluoride Works

Archeologists know that tooth decay was rare in human beings until the Renaissance, when refined sugar became available to wealthy people. The problem became epidemic during the industrial revolution as sugar consumption increased among the entire population of industrialized societies. Queen Elizabeth I was known to have a fondness for sugar, and suffered greatly from tooth decay.

Until 1757, medical practitioners believed cavities were caused by worms. In 1556 Pope John XXI recommended inhalation of smoke from burning henbane seeds to kill the worms and assuage the pain. When dentistry became a recognized profession, researchers zeroed in on two potential causes for tooth decay: 1) bacteria, and 2) diet. It turns out both causes are correct.

The bacterium Streptococcus mutans colonizes tooth surfaces, forming plaque. They metabolize and ferment sugar, releasing acid in the process. The acid dissolves the mineral apatite which comprises tooth enamel, forming a cavity.

Fluoride forms a complex with the apatite mineral of the tooth enamel. The fluoro-apatite complex is much more acid-resistant than normal apatite, and forms a protective veneer on the teeth. Fluoro-apatite forms much more quickly than the body can naturally re-mineralize the teeth.

The original fluoride researchers felt the protective mechanism was entirely systemic (within the body). This has proved to be wrong. The primary protection mechanism is now known to be topical (on the surface of the tooth), but evidence for systemic protection continues to be revealed by research. An October 2010 article appearing in the American Journal of Public Health reports a strong relationship between fluoride levels in a resident’s county at the time of their birth, with tooth loss as an adult. It seems that fluoride exposure at birth affects tooth loss at age 40 and older, which is evidence for a systemic mechanism.

 Fluoridation of municipal drinking water at safe levels (~1 part per million) provides dental protection through both topical and systemic mechanisms. This has helped reduce rates of tooth decay in the U.S. to the frequency archeologists observe in skeletons from 1000 years ago.

Posted by: Chris Jones 1 Comment
Labels: , , , , , Posted in Fluoride, Health, Water Treatment