Archive for September, 2011

September 22, 2011

Do You Have a Spare 12 Minutes?

What can you do in 12 minutes? You could play Angry Birds on your iPhone. You could read and respond to a few emails. You could refill your coffee and chat with a co-worker about the Biggest Loser on TV last night. Or, you could help change the culture of Iowa forever.

Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) is excited to participate in the “Start Somewhere” Walk at noon on Friday, October 7.  The 1k walk is the kick-off of the five-year Healthiest State Initiative that is intended to inspire Iowans and their communities throughout the state to improve their health and happiness.

Walkers can join DMWW employees at the gazebo in Water Works Park in the Arie den Boer Arboretum in the southeast portion of the park.  Sign up for the walk at  So, if you have a spare 12 minutes, we’ll see you at noon on Friday, October 7, at Water Works Park.

Posted by: Terilee H. Clark No Comments
Labels: , , , , , Posted in Employees, Health 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
Labels: , , , , , , , , , Posted in Infrastructure, Maffitt Reservoir, Value of Water September 15, 2011

Home Water Testing

As a public water utility, Des Moines Water Works is required to monitor, test and report results to the federal and state drinking water agencies responsible for making sure the water we produce meets the National Primary Drinking Water Standards. DMWW must notify you when contaminants are in the water that may cause illness or other problems. So, you can rest assured that the water delivered to your tap meets the highest standards possible for drinking water safety.

However, there are some unique situations that fall outside the realm of the testing DMWW does on a regular basis. Here are two situations in which you may want to consider your own home testing:

Do you suspect lead may be in some of your household plumbing materials and water service lines?

DMWW does test for lead as a regular part of its water monitoring, but these tests give a system-wide picture. They do not reflect conditions at a specific household faucet, like lead-based pipes or solder.

Have your water tested if you suspect unsafe levels of lead due to the plumbing in your home. Some faucet and pitcher filters can remove lead from drinking water. Be sure your filter is certified to remove lead by NSF International.

Are you considering a home water treatment unit?

Have a home water sample tested at a commercial lab to find out what is in your water and what you might want to remove before contacting potential dealers. Be informed so you can make the right decisions about the right type of unit.

To learn more, please visit the EPA website at or call the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone 2 Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in Customer Service, Water Quality September 13, 2011

Getting Cultured

Des Moines Water Works has a state-certified laboratory to test water for bacteria. Let’s explore how it’s done:

  • Samples of source water are taken prior to the treatment process on a daily basis.
  • The samples are then placed in containers, such as petri dishes or pouches with numerous tiny capsules, along with “media,” a substance that acts like food for the bacteria.
  • The samples are then left to incubate for approximately 24 hours.
  • During this time, a bacterium can multiply from one to millions, making a colony that can be seen by the human eye in the culture plate.

The laboratory tests specifically for Coliform bacteria. Coliforms can be counted on a grid in the petri dish. E. Coli is grown in pouches with wells of medium. When placed under an ultraviolet light, the E. coli flouresces to a blue color indicating how many are present.

These tests are done before treatment and are indicators of the absence or presence of potential contamination in the water sample. All new water mains are tested for bacteria and must be free of all harmful bacteria before they are put into use.

The lime treatment process used by Des Moines Water Works kills 99.9 percent of bacteria and a chlorine additive eliminates anything that might be left, ensuring that your tap water is Water You Can Trust for Life.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , , , Posted in Water Quality, Water Treatment September 9, 2011

Love Where You Live!

Love Where You Live” is the theme for this year’s environmental education programs offered through Des Moines Water Works and the Urban Environmental Partnership (UEP). 

Did you know the UEP offers 16 FREE presentations on topics like drinking water treatment, waste water treatment, the water cycle, understanding watersheds, water’s link to health, recycling and waste reduction, and water pollution and prevention?  All metro area elementary and middle school science teachers receive a brochure at the beginning of the school year that describes these programs. Most of the programs are geared for K-12, but the UEP also gives adult programs on the same environmental topics and schedule tours of Des Moines Water Works, Metro Waste Authority’s Metro Park East Landfill and the Waste Water Reclamation Facility.

To schedule a presentation or tour, contact Gail Peckumn at [email protected]. For more contact information and descriptions of the presentations, check out the program brochure at – click on Water Education.

When we all learn to take care of the world around us, we will all Love Where We Live!

Posted by: Gail Peckumn No Comments
Labels: , , , , , Posted in Education, Environment September 7, 2011

Fall Gardening Tips

Now is the time to start thinking about putting your garden to bed for the winter. September is an opportune time to start cleaning up beds by cutting back perennials and pulling out annuals that have quit blooming for the year.

By October, you should dig up and store tender bulbs such as dahlias, cannas, caladiums and elephant ears. You should cut off the foliage and store them in 50-65 degree temperatures until spring. Spring flowering bulbs should be purchased and planted outdoors at this time. Other plants that benefit from fall planting include evergreens, peony, phlox and bearded iris.

Before a hard freeze you should remove plants from containers, cut roses back to 18 inches and mulch, and continue cutting back plants in the garden that the frost has affected. Leaving old plants and plant debris in the garden over the winter is the best way to promote diseases in the spring, so remove them as soon as they are cut back.

Also remember, the best time to prune is after the trees and shrubs have gone dormant usually late December-February.

Posted by: Todd Monson No Comments
Labels: , , , , , Posted in Des Moines Botanical Center, Des Moines Water Works Park, Parks September 2, 2011

When You See A Main Break

Each year, Des Moines Water Works experiences between 250 and 300 water main breaks.  In some cases water does not even come to the surface of the ground, but in other cases main breaks can cause real problems.  Large water main breaks, like those shown, are easy to find and the loss of water they cause is reflected on instrumentation at the water treatment plant. Unfortunately, however, Water Works receives no indication of smaller water main breaks other than from eye-witness reports.   If you see water in the street (or spraying into the air), you can help stop the loss of water and limit the damage it causes by notifying Des Moines Water Works dispatch immediately at (515) 283‑8772.

Once a water main break is identified, water service in the area must be shut off.  In emergency situation such as these, it may not be possible to notify customers of the outage in advance, and in fact, the break itself may interrupt water service before it is shut off.  After the water main break is repaired, water service is restored.  When the water comes back on, there will likely be air in your water service piping.  It is a good idea to run the first water after an outage through a faucet that does not have an aerator screen.  Bathtubs and hose bibs are good candidates.  Open faucets slowly to allow the air to escape.  Air will make a spurting or hissing sound as it escapes through the faucet.  Once the water is flowing, allow the faucet to run for a minute or two.  The first water may be cloudy due to air in the water or particles that dislodge as the pipes filled with water.  This should clear fairly quickly.  If water is cloudy throughout the house and it does not clear after allowing the water to run for several minutes, contact Des Moines Water Works dispatch for assistance. 

If kitchen or bathroom faucets do not perform normally following a water outage, it may be necessary to remove the aerator screen.  Typically the aerator can simply be unscrewed from the faucet.  Inspect the screen for small particles and rinse away any you find.  Reinstall the aerator and test performance of the faucet again.  If you experience difficulties such as low pressure throughout the house following a water outage, call Des Moines Water Works dispatch for assistance.

Posted by: Ted Corrigan No Comments
Labels: , , , Posted in Customer Service, Infrastructure