Archive for August, 2011

August 31, 2011

Encourage Recycling at Home

Recycling has been part of the daily routine for most families for over 15 years.  If your family isn’t on board yet, the good news is that it’s never too late to start!  You just need a recycling container or a convenient drop-off site and a little time to educate the family on what can and can’t be recycled. Making sure the recyclable items are clean and dry before they go in the container is important as well.  

Most likely, your school-age children can recycle at school, too, so chances are good that the youngsters in our communities will grow up with the recycling habit. They learn that waste paper, cardboard, metal, plastic and glass aren’t always “garbage” but can be a resource for reuse.  

There are so many reasons to recycle!  We can preserve natural resources, save space at our local landfill and reduce energy usage and pollution in the “re-manufacturing” process.  We also want to encourage the purchasing of recycled materials.  Many school supplies – pencils, paper, folders and back packs, to name a few – are often made from recycled materials. Companies that sell items containing recycled content are proud to do so, and that information can be found on the packaging if we just take an extra moment to look.


Mary Gillaspey is the Education Specialist at Metro Waste Authority. Des Moines Water Works and Metro Waste Authority partner together for the Urban Environmental Partnership.  The Partnership offers classroom programs and tours to the metro area.

Posted by: Mary Gillaspey No Comments
Labels: , , , , , , , Posted in Education, Environment August 29, 2011

Wellness is “HIP” at DMWW

DMWW is striving to create a culture of health and wellness.  We have been recognized for our achievement in creating a healthy work environment by the Wellness Council of America and the State of Iowa with the Well Workplace Award.  The award recognizes employers that have implemented and demonstrated measurable success in employee wellness programming.  

The Health Improvement Planning Team (HIP) at DMWW is responsible for advocating health in the workplace.  The mission of the team is: To maintain a dynamic workforce, from hire to retire, by creating an environment where employees achieve happy, healthy lifestyles for themselves and their families.  The team plans various activities and educational programs to benefit the employee and their family.  Some of the activities are:

  • Free annual medical screens
  • Employee vegetable garden plots
  • Loaner bicycles for employees to ride on breaks or for transportation between locations.
  • Walking events
  • Walking maps of DMWW park
  • Mid-day stretching break
  • Naturally Slim – lifestyle management program
  • Team exercise competition
  • Loaner bicycles for employees to ride on breaks or for transportation between locations
  • Healthy cooking classes
  • Diabetes and heart disease management and prevention classes
  • Wellness guidance resources
  • Fitness reimbursement
  • Smoking cessation incentives

DMWW will grow our health and wellness culture by continuously meeting and re-evaluating the needs of their employees and their families.

Posted by: Terilee H. Clark No Comments
Labels: , , , Posted in Employees August 25, 2011

FAQ: Is it Something in the Water?

Q:  No matter how often I wash my towels or what detergent I use, they retain a musty odor.  Is it something in the water?  What can I do to get them fresh-smelling?
A:  This is a very common observation that is almost never caused by the water.  Ironically, all that washing could be part of the problem, especially if you’re using an excessive amount of detergent.  If the detergent isn’t completely rinsed out of the towels, mold will grow on the residue, causing a musty odor.
     Cutting back on detergent might solve the problem, especially if during the rinse cycle you add a half-cup of white vinegar or baking soda to neutralize the odor.
     It’s more likely, however, that your washing machine itself is the culprit.  Or rather, the smelly fungus that can grow inside the washer, especially on the rubber or plastic seals, gaskets and hoses.
     Because towels are thicker and more absorbent than most items that go through the wash, they trap more fungus — and therefore the musty odor is more noticeable.
     The easiest way to solve this problem is to do a “maintenance wash” with no clothes or detergent, using hot water.  Using a small dose of bleach in your maintenance wash should help.  Some people also find using a small amount of lemon juice or ammonia instead of bleach solves the problem.  One maintenance wash per month is a good idea if this is a chronic problem.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in Customer Service, Water Quality August 23, 2011

Protecting Our Watersheds

We all live in a watershed.  Do you know what watershed you live?  Learn how nature and our indivdual actions can directly impact the quality of water in our watershed in this video.  Des Moines Water Works continues to protect watersheds and give you Water You Can Trust for Life.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in Water Quality August 19, 2011

Looking for a Unique Location for Your Next Meeting?

Does your group or organization need a unique space for meetings, seminars or annual banquet?  Something different is at the Des Moines Botanical Center.  The Botanical Center offers free parking, on-site catering, several well appointed meeting rooms that are clean, well lit and can be set up to accommodate any size group… and wireless Internet in every room! Not to mention, the scenic location east of downtown and along the beautiful Riverwalk, makes the Botanical Center a very convenient and picturesque location.

Whether it’s a seminar, wedding or banquet, the Des Moines Botanical Center is the unique setting you are looking for. Call an event coordinator today at (515) 323-6290 or visit to find out more!  Take a look and book today!

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in Botanical Center August 16, 2011

The Soft and Hard Side of Your Water

When it comes to CaCO3, otherwise known as limestone, some like it hard and some like it soft.  Water hardness is the amount of soap precipitating minerals in the water. The harder the water, the less effective soap will be.

Since 1948, lime softening has been a part of the treatment process at Des Moines Water Works.  Powdered lime is mixed with water, forming a slurry, or thick liquid.  This mixture is then fed into the four lime softening basins.  As the water passes through the softening process, the lime slurry attaches to excess minerals in the water forming a lime floc.  The limestone floc then settles to the bottom of the basins as by-product.

This process is beneficial for several reasons. First, removing the minerals helps lessen the hardness of the water, which allows detergents and soaps to clean better.  Lime softening also kills harmful germs and bacteria, and causes a thin protective coating to form on the inside of pipes. This coating inhibits leaching of lead from older pipes into the drinking water supply.

DMWW strives to maintain the total hardness of drinking water to less than 150 mg/L.  This equates to 8.76 grains of hardness on a water softener setting.  Individuals who prefer softer water may consider purchasing and installing a water softening unit in their home.  However, excessively soft water is very corrosive to your pipes.

There is no adverse health effect associated with hard or soft water – it’s just a matter of personal preference.  You can get daily water hardness readings from DMWW’s lab reports.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone 2 Comments
Labels: , , , , , , Posted in Water Quality, Water Treatment August 11, 2011

What’s In the (Source) Water?

Ignorance can be bliss, but most of us would like to be informed about what we are drinking.  For this reason, Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) makes a conscientious effort to share with our customers all of the details pertaining to their drinking water system. Sometimes, the news isn’t always good!

E. coli is a species of bacteria found in the intestinal tract of vertebrates. DMWW lab staff regularly looks for them in our source waters and in our treated drinking water.  E. coli is used as an indicator that water is potentially contaminated with human and animal waste, and therefore possible disease organisms.  Not even one E. coli bacterium can legally be present in drinking water, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards.  The numbers in source water can vary from zero to an amazingly high number in both the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers. Des Moines Water Works relies heavily upon these two rivers as sources for fulfilling the Metro area’s daily demand for water. E. coli values over 2 million colonies/100 millimeter are present at times in some of the smaller streams that feed into our rivers.

DMWW’s extensive and rigorous treatment process physically removes or kills all of these bacteria before the water is delivered to customers.  Nonetheless, customers should be aware of the water quality present in Iowa’s water resources, which are the source of drinking water for the state’s residents.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , , , Posted in Water Quality, Water Treatment August 8, 2011

Quality Watersheds = Quality Water

A watershed is an area of land that water flows over or through on its way to a stream, lake or river.  Within each different watershed, the land “sheds” or gets rid of water into a common body of water.   A watershed also includes the people, air, plants and animals that call that land “home.”  Residents of the Des Moines metro area live in both the Des Moines River and Raccoon River watersheds, which begin about 200 miles north and west of the city.   These rivers serve as the primary sources for our drinking water.

Precipitation, run off, agriculture tile drainage or any other water from farmland and urban areas between the Minnesota border area and Des Moines will eventually end up in one of these two rivers.  When it rains or snows, water carries pollutants such as dirt, oil and fertilizers to our rivers and lakes.  Controlling pollution is key to improving the quality of our water supply.

There are two types of watershed pollution: point-source and nonpoint-source.  Point-source pollution is an easily identifiable source, like wastewater treatment plant or industrial discharge.  Nonpoint sources of pollution are difficult to identify, isolate and control.  Examples of non-point source pollution include run off from parking lots, lawns and failing septic systems.

Everyone, from farmers to urban residents, can contribute to improving watershed health.  Even the smallest contribution can make a significant impact in preserving and protecting our water.

You can keep our watersheds clean and safe by following these healthy, environmental tips.  These can be practiced at home, work and community, to enjoy and maintain a healthy living environment!

  • Don’t dump!  Do not dump hazardous household chemicals, such as fertilizers, oil-based paint or antifreeze down a drain in your home or a storm sewer in your neighborhood.  Take these chemicals to the Metro Waste Authority’s Regional Collection Center in Bondurant for disposal.  Call (515) 967-5512 for more information.  Yearly neighborhood SCRUB days also offer limited hazardous chemical disposal.
  • Recycle!  Recycle your newspapers, magazines, milk jugs, water bottles, juice bottles, metal cans, clear glass, and anything else possible to reduce the quantity of garbage you send to the landfill.
  • Love nature!  Plant grass, trees and shrubs, especially native species to prevent soil from eroding.
  • Drive smart!  Keep your vehicles in good condition to prevent oil and antifreeze leaks from entering storm sewers.
  • Don’t litter! Pick up after yourself and your pets.  You can also volunteer to help clean up area parks.
Posted by: Linda Kinman No Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in Water Quality August 4, 2011

Understanding Your Water Meter

      Your water meter is read each month to determine your water consumption.  Meters are typically located in your basement, although most residential and commercial meters are read by remote equipment which does not require Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) staff to enter your home or business.  Each month, your meter read is displayed on the bottom of your statement.  If your meter is easily accessible, you can read the water meter yourself to verify the reads against your statement. 

      The readings are displayed like the odometer on your car and read from left to right.  Most meters in Des Moines measure in cubic feet, and typically reflect six digits.  The first four digits on the meter are shown verbatim on your statement (exception: any leading zeroes are omitted).  However, DMWW bills only in hundred cubic feet increments, so the last two digits on your statement will always be “00,” regardless of what is shown on your meter.

     DMWW’s automated radio frequency meter reading equipment in most of our service areas allows DMWW to receive two meter reads each day, and these reads are available to you via your online account at  If your consumption is higher than expected, you can monitor your daily reads at any time by querying your meter reading data on our website.  If, after monitoring your daily consumption, you believe you may have a leak, don’t hesitate to call us at (515) 283-8700 and visit with a customer service representative about what may be causing the high consumption.

Posted by: Amy Kahler No Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in Customer Service 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