Archive for July, 2011

July 29, 2011

Governor Branstad Signs Proclamation for Iowa’s Water and Wastewater Workers

 All water and wastewater workers in the state of Iowa were recognized by the signing of a proclamation by Governor Terry Branstad on July 28, 2011.  The proclamation is part of a “Water and Wastewater Workers of Iowa” week that is being promoted by four industry groups, including Iowa Section American Water Works Association, Iowa Water Environment Association, Iowa Rural Water Association, and Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities, as well as Iowa Department of Natural Resources.  The signing event took place at the Ames Water Pollution Control Facility and was attended by operators from all over the state. 

The proclamation that was signed by the Governor read:

Recognizing that the State of Iowa’s wealth of natural resources has been threatened by the degradation of surface and ground waters, the Water and Wastewater workforce of Iowa have dedicated themselves to applying environmental passion and science to enhance drinking and recreational waters of Iowa. Their applied environmentalism continues to be a vital element in improving the quality of life and preserving and protecting public health in our state; and promoting sustainability in our way of living.

Des Moines Water Works wants to take this opportunity to thank our employees for all that they do for their community each and every day of the year.

Posted by: Jenny Puffer 1 Comment
Labels: , , , , Posted in About Us, Employees, Value of Water July 28, 2011

Storing Tap Water for Emergency Use

Des Moines Water Works’ goal is to provide an uninterrupted supply of quality drinking water even in the face of adversity; however, we also advocate preparedness. Water can quickly become a precious resource following many disasters.  The following guidelines, adapted from, can help you be prepared in case of an emergency. 

How Much Water Should I Store for Emergency Use?  It is recommended you store a three-day supply of water including at least one gallon per person per day.  A normally active person needs at least one-half gallon of water daily just for drinking.  

How Should Tap Water be Stored? It is recommended you purchase food-grade water storage containers from surplus or camping supply stores to use for water storage.  Before filling with water, thoroughly clean the containers with dishwashing soap and water, and rinse completely so there is no residual soap.  Follow directions below for filling the container with water.  

If you choose to use recycled storage containers, choose two-liter plastic soft drink bottles – not plastic jugs or cardboard containers that have contained milk or fruit juice.  Milk protein and fruit sugars cannot be adequately removed from these containers and provide an environment for bacterial growth when water is stored in them.  

If storing water in plastic soda bottles, follow these steps: Thoroughly clean the bottles with dishwashing soap and water, and rinse com­pletely so there is no residual soap.  Sanitize the bottles by adding a solution of one teaspoon of liquid household chlorine bleach such as Clorox® Regular Bleach to the water. (Do not use scented, color safe or bleaches with added cleaners.) Swish the sanitizing solution in the bottle so that it touches all surfaces. After sanitizing the bottle, thoroughly rinse with clean water.

Filling the Containers:  Fill the container with tap water.  Des Moines Water Works’ water is treated with chlorine so you do not need to add anything to preserve it. If the water you are using comes from a well or water source that is not treated with chlorine, add two drops of liquid household chlorine bleach such as Clorox® Regular Bleach to the water. (Do not use scented, color safe or bleaches with added cleaners.) Tightly close the container using the original cap. Be careful not to contaminate the cap by touching the inside of it with your finger. Place a date on the outside of the container so you know when it was filled.

Where Should the Water be Stored? Water for emergency use should be stored in a cool, dark place with limited or preferably no exposure to sunlight.  You may want to consider storing half of it in one place and half in another place to guard against all of the water being compromised by the disaster.  Containers of water can also be stored in a freezer where the ice will help maintain the temperature of the freezer during power outages and provide emergency water as it melts.  If water will be frozen, the containers should not be filled completely to allow room for expansion.

How Long Can the Water be Stored? Water stored in this way will last for many months.  It is recommended that you inspect your stored water supply every three months and empty your containers, clean, and refill them approximately every six months. 

Storing Bottled Water:  Commercially bottled water can be used for emergency water storage. Keep bottled water in its original con­tainer and do not open until it is needed. Replace bottled water on the expiration or “use by” date.

More information on emergency water storage can be found at


Posted by: Ted Corrigan No Comments
Labels: , , , Posted in Value of Water, Water Quality, Water Treatment July 26, 2011

Beautifying Fleur Drive

Anyone who travels Fleur Drive can’t help but notice the spectacular, colorful plantings in the medians from Army Post north to the bridge near Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway.   

Plant materials for the medians are grown by the City of Des Moines Parks Department, and DMWW provides the labor to install and care (weeding, watering, and pruning) for the plantings.

Maintenance of the median flowerbeds is no easy chore, as three bed change-outs are done every year!  In the early spring, the beds are tilled and the perennials are cut back.  In mid May, approximately 35,000 assorted annuals are planted in the medians.   Those beds are maintained until approximately September 1, when the annuals are removed and replaced with a fall display of mums, kale and pansies.  After the first hard frost, the fall display items are removed, the beds are prepared and approximately 70,000 tulip bulbs are planted which remain dormant until the spring when they start blooming. 

Safety is always the primary focus for employees working on Fleur Drive (or any street, for that matter).   To protect those working in the medians, traffic cones and signs are set up to divert vehicles from the lanes closest to the medians.  The last several years the plantings have been done on Sundays when there is less traffic on Fleur Drive. 

During the summer months, approximately 30 hours per week are required to water the median plants.  DMWW’s Vehicle Maintenance and Fabrication Shop employees fabricated a water truck with a nozzle that allows the driver to water the plants without getting out of the truck.  Not only is that safer than standing in the medians, it has reduced the watering time in half.  

We hope you enjoy the beautiful plantings along Fleur Drive.

Posted by: Scott Atzen 2 Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in Des Moines Water Works Park, Parks July 22, 2011

Water Works Park Treasure Hunt Begins!




The Water Works Park Treasure Hunt has begun.  Check out our Facebook page for more information and the first clue.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , Posted in Des Moines Water Works Park, Parks July 18, 2011

Orchids at the Botanical Center

Considering that flowering orchid plants today are routinely sold at the big box stores, it is hard to imagine that up until World War II they were considered a “rich man’s flower”. That perception, if not reality, began to change in the 1960s with the advent of tissue culturing, which made it possible to multiply a single superior orchid exponentially and to facilitate world-wide distribution by air.

(Friends office manager, Amanda Jordan, stands next to a schomburgkia orchid nearly 8 feet tall, on display in the Dome.)

Orchids do well in light and temperatures that are comfortable for people. The quickest way to kill an orchid is to leave it standing in water. A recent marketing ploy advises placing three ice cubes on the surface of the growing medium once a week—which assures adequate water without excess. Or, once a week take the plant to a sink and run tepid water all across the surface for a minute or two. Allow to drain and then return to where you want to enjoy the orchid. When in bloom, orchids do best in bright reflected light—in other words, good reading light. When the weather outside is warm enough for tomatoes, orchids do well there too, with morning sun or dappled sun-shade through the day. Apply fertilizer labeled for orchids.

The Botanical Center’s Margaret Swanson Orchid Collection, named for the Friends of the Des Moines Botanical Center president at the time the facility was first opened in 1979, is in a state of renewal, thanks to Team Orchid, a group of volunteers led by a champion orchid grower, Gary Heggen. They meet once a month. Instead of the typical fir-bark potting mix that has to be replaced annually, Gary advocates coconut husk fiber mixed with sponge rock, a medium that holds up well for three or four years. If you’d like to join Team Orchid and learn from a master, send an email to [email protected].

Posted by: Elvin McDonald 3 Comments
Labels: , , Posted in Des Moines Botanical Center July 13, 2011

Thinking About Installing an Irrigation System?

A commonly asked question of Des Moines Water Works Customer Service Representatives concerns lawn sprinkler and irrigation systems. Before you install a built-in irrigation system or do any watering in your yard, you should keep the following information in mind.

• Des Moines Water Works and your community’s permits department have a specific process for obtaining an irrigation meter.

• The installation cost of an irrigation meter can cost $300-$500 or more, as a licensed plumber must connect lawn irrigation piping and house hose bibs to this special meter.

• In Des Moines, Des Moines Water Works uses the monthly readings from the irrigation meter to subtract the usage from the sewer service portion of your monthly statement.

• Built-in lawn irrigation systems require the installation of a backflow device. All area irrigation system installers are aware of this requirement. These backflow devices must be tested annually by a certified tester. This is a requirement of the state Public Health Department and city ordinances. There are many certified testers in the Des Moines metro area. (Look in your phone book under the categories of backflow prevention devices, plumbing contractors or garden and lawn, for a listing of companies that install irrigation systems. Many specifically state they have certified backflow testers.)

• Another helpful resource is located at: Here, you will find a listing of certified backflow testers in the state. If you are interested in obtaining an irrigation meter, you must first obtain a permit for the irrigation meter and any required backflow prevention devices. A licensed plumber must install a meter compatible with Des Moines Water Works equipment.

Irrigation systems do a great job of keeping your lawn and garden green and beautiful. These systems require regular maintenance and adjustment to insure the right amount of water is used when it is needed. Timing your lawn watering will also help you use water wisely. Des Moines Water Works, in cooperation with other metropolitan area water utilities, has developed the “Using Water Wisely” program. This is an educational, voluntary customer program aimed at reducing water use during hot, dry summer days. Customers can do this by eliminating lawn watering during the hottest part of the day (10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.) and spreading out water use over several days through ODD – EVEN day watering before 10:00 a.m. and after 5:00 p.m. This watering approach reduces the peak load on our water facilities which extends their capacity and useful life.

Also, if you are considering laying sod this year, the latter half of the month of August and September are the best months to do so. Avoiding the hot days of July and early August will save you watering costs.

Let’s all use our precious water wisely!

Posted by: Laura Sarcone 1 Comment
Labels: , , , , Posted in Conservation July 11, 2011

Enhancements to Customer Service

In listening to customers’ feedback, Des Moines Water Works has initiated three new programs in the past year to bring more value to our customers.  All of these programs are technology driven and have been implemented in response to customer requests.

The “E-Statement” program began in early 2010 with roughly 1,000 customers signing up the first month.  Currently, there are just short of 4,000 customers taking advantage of this program.  “E-Statements” is a way for customers to receive their billing statements electronically via an email from DMWW, cancelling the mailing of a statement to their address.  The email that is sent to the customer indicates the amount due and the date charges become past due.  They then may logon to their account through to view the entire statement, make payments, view consumption history, etc.  Customers who use E-statements save the utility money in paper, envelopes, postage, etc.  At our current level of 4,000 users, the utility saves $20,000 each year, which helps us keep water rates low.  Consider subscribing to E-statements—it’s convenient, protects against identity theft, reduces your home’s “bill clutter,” and saves the environment!

In February of 2011, DMWW began accepting “E-Check” or electronic payment from a checking or savings account.  Customers may pay by check through their account on, over the telephone via our automated phone system, or with a live customer service representative over the phone.  The customer provides the bank routing number, bank account number, and amount to be paid and DMWW electronically debits their specified account.  There is no charge for this service and over 8,000 customers took advantage of this program in June of 2011 alone!  E-checks have reduced credit card payments by 50%, which has significantly reduced the utility’s costs, as credit cards are more expensive for the utility to process.  Other payment methods accepted are cash, check, credit/debit card, and money orders.

In early 2010, DMWW also began making pre-termination courtesy calls to customers scheduled to have their water service terminated.  Customers continue to receive termination notices in the mail and are encouraged to respond promptly to the notice.  The calls are just one more service DMWW now provides to assist customers in managing their account and avoid service termination.   These pre-termination courtesy calls have been very popular with customers and have helped the utility reduce service terminations by 30%.  Ensure your telephone information is up-to-date by calling us at (515) 283-8700.

Des Moines Water Works continues to strive to deliver programs and options that are valued by our customers.   What’s on your mind—what could we do to improve our level of service to you?

Posted by: Cory Waddell No Comments
Labels: , , Posted in Customer Service, Customers July 6, 2011

Treasure Hunt in Water Works Park

Des Moines Water Works will be hosting a treasure hunt in Water Works Park! A series of clues will be provided on our Facebook page which will lead you to the coveted treasure. Anybody can participate! The treasure is an honorary KEY TO THE PARK, not worth a plug nickel other then the fame bestowed on the finder. You will locate this key within the beautiful, 1500 acre Water Works Park. Come share the beauty of our park in a fun and competitive way. The hunt will begin July 20, 2011; watch for the first clue on Facebook. Our first treasure hunt will be relatively easy, as we ease into the rules and determine how quickly our players can decipher the clues. Additional treasure hunts will follow, which will be progressively more difficult.

Join the fun!

Posted by: Jo Taylor 1 Comment
Labels: , , Posted in Des Moines Water Works Park, Parks July 5, 2011

Using Water Wisely

Central Iowa and most parts of the state are fortunate to have sufficient rainfall to meet the needs of residential, business, industrial, and governmental customers during most years and the summer months. 

Des Moines Water Works has made significant financial investments in treatment plants, pumps, tanks, piping, and reservoir storage to meet customers’ potable water needs.  The water utility’s assets can be most efficiently operated during the very hottest of summer days when our customers use water wisely.  Wise use of water is defined as being alert to and repairing leaking household appliances, taking advantage of technological advances to eliminate waste and avoiding irrigation use during the hottest part of the day.

By far, the highest water use during hot, summer days is for lawn or turf grass irrigation.  There are more automated, in-ground lawn sprinkler systems in use today.  These systems require regular maintenance to operate efficiently by directing water only onto the turf and during certain times of the day to minimize loss from evaporation.  To that end, DMWW recommends the following:

  • 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.
  • It is recommended that customers voluntarily 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.
  • Most soils in the Des Moines area can support a healthy turf, if watered no more frequently than every other day.  ISU Extension pamphlet PM 1063, found at their Web page:, says “Kentucky Bluegrass will withstand drought by becoming dormant.  If irrigation is begun in a drought, continue to water during the drought period.  Apply water infrequently, but in sufficient amounts to wet the soil to six-inch depth.”  Turf grasses in clayey, silty soils found in most parts of the metro area may require up to one inch to one-half inches of water per week.  These soils typically cannot absorb this much water during one irrigation cycle.  Adjust your sprinkler time so you are applying from one-fourth inch to one-half inch of water during each irrigation day or cycle.
  • It is recommended that customers voluntarily shift watering to no more frequently than the ODD numbered days of the week if their house address ends with an ODD number and EVEN numbered days if their 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.
  • For in-ground irrigation systems, install a moisture sensor that will turn off the irrigation system during its normal run cycle when there has been sufficient rainfall.
  • When possible, avoid laying sod during July and the first three weeks of August.  These typically are the hottest months and weeks of the year.  New sod has no established root system and therefore requires daily watering during hot summer days to keep it alive.  Beginning the last week in August and through the fall is the best time for laying sod. Grass seed is also best used during this late summer, fall time period.
  • Consult your preferred garden center, lawn or landscape professional, or ISU Extension horticulturalist for tips and consultation for your specific lawn and landscape care and watering needs.  Also, visit the Des Moines Water Works Website for other water saving tips.

More Tips for Saving Water Outdoors

Testing your Sprinkler System:

Reduce Your Water Needs with Compost:

Posted by: Laura Sarcone 3 Comments
Labels: , , , Posted in Conservation, Infrastructure