Archive for January, 2012

January 25, 2012

Water Works Park Vision Plan

Des Moines Water Works, working in partnership with Iowa State University Department of Landscape Architecture, is pleased to announce that Sasaki Associates, with RDG Planning & Design and Applied Ecological Services (AES), is the winning team of the Water Works Parkitecture Competition.

The Parkitecture competition, aptly named for its emphasis on the fundamental role landscape architecture and design play in re-envisioning Water Works Park, began June 2011.  The international design competition entailed the creation of a conceptual plan for Water Works Park to form dynamic relationships between the river, the watershed, and the community.

A panel of judges representing the design industry, Des Moines Water Works and the Greater Des Moines community, reviewed 44 proposals and selected 5 finalists for further review and public comment. The winning team of Sasaki Associates, RDG Planning & Design and AES was confirmed by the Board of Water Works Trustees of the City of Des Moines, Iowa,

The competition sought proposals to integrate the ecological and social function of a park and river into a unified landscape; to inspire the community and to generate discussion about watershed issues/best practices; and offer innovative design solutions to address ecological and recreational challenges specific to Water Works Park.

The 1,500 acre park is bisected by the Raccoon River and a 3-mile-long infiltration gallery, which is a major source of drinking water for Des Moines. The overall vision of Sasaki’s winning plan was to shape, using the natural boundary of the River, two distinct – yet complementary – sections of the Water Works Park: the wild and the engineered. The wild offers immersion into the park’s magnificent natural setting through activities like horseback riding, hiking, and exploration. The engineered is the active heart of the park and provides more structured outdoor activities and event spaces. The centerpiece of the ‘engineered landscape’ is a recreational watercourse, experienced on standing paddleboards, that is linked to interpretive opportunities regarding the role of the site in harvesting and cleaning drinking water. The engineered landscape also connects to city streets, integrating the park with the urban fabric of Des Moines. Through a series of engaging experiences, the plan offers the potential to realize Water Works Park’s mission – to transform the way society thinks and understands the role of water in the region.

“Education and the connection between the river and the community were highly stressed in Sasaki’s winning plan,” said competition judge, Ted Corrigan, Director of Water Distribution and Grounds for Des Moines Water Works. “The concept of integrating recreation with water supply operational enhancements also stood out from the other submissions.”

Sasaki’s concept plan also won “People’s Favorite” at the public open house on December 15, at the Des Moines Art Center.

The design team and Des Moines Water Works will begin a concept validation process which will address specific issues and include public outreach. It is expected that a majority of the funds for implementation of the vision plan will be obtained through private fundraising and will not be borne by water rate payers.

Throughout the design process, the design team interviewed citizens, community leaders, focus groups, and stakeholders, and will continue engaging the public throughout the master plan and implementation process of the park.

“Building on this concept in a way that provides meaning to the people of Greater Des Moines will be key to the overall success of the ultimate design,” says Pat Boddy, RDG Planning & Design Stewardship Director.

The Water Works Park vision plan is the most recent in a series of urban Midwest floodplain projects for Sasaki. Sasaki principal and landscape architect, Gina Ford, has been involved in the firm’s work in Cedar Rapids, Council Bluffs, Chicago, and Des Moines.

“Our recent work has inspired a deep respect for the dynamism of the floodplain and the need for flood resilience,” she explains. “The Water Works Park competition provided us an opportunity to explore water holistically – from the watershed all the way to the tap. The site is rich with the potential to interpret and transform public understanding of water and its role in the region.”

Sasaki collaborated with Des Moines-based RDG Planning & Design and Minneapolis-based Applied Ecological Services on the competition entry and will continue to do so through implementation. Collectively, the team proffers progressive design strategy, creative vision, acute regional understanding, and technical prowess.

For more information on Sasaki’s concept plan, visit:

Posted by: Laura Sarcone 1 Comment
Labels: , , , , Posted in Parks January 24, 2012

Predicting Water Demand

You may not be thinking about where your water will come from in the year 2030, but Des Moines Water Works is.

The forefathers of Des Moines Water Works did a tremendous job planning for and building the infrastructure of the utility to meet the water needs of the City of Des Moines and metro area prior to 1960.  The planning effort has been regionally focused over the last 30 years.  The implementation of these early planning efforts and a continued planning mindset to this day has produced water utility assets that serve the region very well.  These past planning efforts serve to reinforce the importance of long range planning in the infrastructure intensive nature of the water utility business.

In planning for the water utility for the next 20 years, we must first estimate the water needs of the region for this future time period.  The Water Works completed this planning effort in 2008 and 2009, which included analyzing customer water use trends coupled with population forecast for the region to produce forecasted total water needs.  The results predicted there will be continuing water efficiency gains which will lower somewhat the overall per customer water use.  All new home and business water use fixtures require less water today as a result of required efficiency improvements mandated by Federal Legislation in 1992.  However, the Des Moines region is predicted to see continued modest growth in population and in business and industry such that overall water needs are estimated to increase slightly.  It is important for Des Moines Water Works to plan for a slight increase in water needs in order to evaluate the adequacy of source water supplies, which can take many years to develop.

As one can imagine, a water utility must have sufficient source water supplies so as not to inhibit regional growth.  Des Moines Water Works’ planning revealed that the current source supplies are very adequate for the next 20 years, except during a severe drought event that could require mandatory water use restrictions, such as limiting outdoor irrigation and other non-essential uses.  With a greater awareness by most everyone of being “green” and more new construction striving to attain some form of LEED certification or at least following a more conservation ethic, DMWW’s source water supplies could well be adequate for the next 50 years.

Posted by: Randy Beavers No Comments
Labels: , , , Posted in Conservation, Environment, Green Initiatives, Value of Water January 19, 2012

Who Owns Des Moines Water Works?

Owned by the citizens of Des Moines and managed by a Board of Trustees, Des Moines Water Works is independent from the City of Des Moines.  But it wasn’t always that way.

The Des Moines Water Company was formed in 1871 as a privately owned company.  In 1898, the City tried to purchase the company but the citizens voted it down.   The vote eventually passed in 1911, but the sale wasn’t finalized.   It was not until 1919 that a favorable vote of the citizens brought about public ownership by the City.  The water company was organized as a public utility under the Code of Iowa, and the name was changed to Des Moines Water Works.  At that time, the population of Des Moines was about 125,000, and there were 23,210 water services. 

In 1923, the legislature removed the Board of Water Works Trustees from the City Council’s supervision.  At that time, it became law that the Board would have the same powers as the City Council with the exception of levying taxes, and members would be appointed by the Mayor, subject to approval by the City Council.  The Board is responsible for appointing the chief executive officer/general manager who is accountable for operation of the utility in accordance with law and Board policies.

In summary, Des Moines Water Works is an independently operated public utility with a commitment to providing quality water in reliable quantities to approximately 500,000 people in the Greater Des Moines area.

Posted by: Pat Ripley 3 Comments
Labels: , , , Posted in About Us, Board of Trustees, Customers, History January 17, 2012

Year in Review

From starting up our third treatment plant to educating more than 27,000 children and adults, here’s a look at the top 25 accomplishments in 2011 at Des Moines Water Works.

  1. Commissioned DMWW’s third water treatment facility, Saylorville Water Treatment Plant
  2. Responded to 300 main breaks
  3. Assisted 56,000 customers in the office and visited 42,000 customers in the field
  4. Launched Parkitecture competition for the redesign of Water Works Park
  5. Repaved roads in Water Works Park
  6. Hosted several events at Water Works Park, including HyVee Fishing Derby, Big Country Bash, weddings, charity walks, Des Moines Marathon and Jolly Holiday Lights
  7. Planted approximately 70,000 plants and flowers in Water Works Park and Fleur Drive medians
  8. Found $611,000 in process efficiencies throughout the utility
  9. Reaffirmed  our strong Aa1 bond rating by Moody’s, second from highest attainable
  10. Redesigned new website with enhanced customer features, like consumption alerts
  11. Implemented electronic checks as a new customer payment option
  12. Awarded “Public Policy Champion of the Year” from Iowa Ducks Unlimited
  13. Implemented new Geographical Information System (GIS):  DMWW’s water distribution staff is now using new GIS software that allows access of important information about the distribution system while working in the field.
  14. Established Enterprise Asset Management software:  Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) at its most basic level is a work order system.  But as an asset management software, EAM is a lot more than that.  Asset management goes beyond creating work orders and includes planning and scheduling projects, tracking assets’ conditions, and forecasting asset replacement. 
  15. Ended use of gaseous chlorine at all facilities:  All water disinfection throughout the utility (three plants and six remote locations) is now being done with liquid hypochlorite.  This effort brings a safer environment for our employees and community.
  16. Reported our greenhouse gas emissions to The Climate Registry
  17. Contributed $19,286.28 to the United Way of Central Iowa through employee donations – a record year!
  18. Reduced employees’ metabolic syndrome risk factors by 18% from 2010 to 2011
  19. Awarded two safety recognition awards
  20. Received a Proclamation from Mayor Cownie during Drinking Water Week, recognizing DMWW’s contributions to the community
  21. Assisted DMACC with a new water/waste water curriculum
  22. Received a book and dedication from Ankeny first graders illustrating the importance of clean rivers
  23. Celebrated the importance of water with over 2,000 Iowa 5th grade students at the Iowa Children’s Water Festival
  24. Reached 27,800 people through classroom presentations, tours and special events conducted by the Urban Environmental Partnership.
  25. Hosted 237 meetings/social events and 53 weddings at the Des Moines Botanical Center, including 10 weddings on 11/11/11! The Botanical Center also welcomed 255 tour groups for a total of 9,560 people
Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , , Posted in About Us, Botanical Center, Customer Service, Des Moines Botanical Center, Des Moines Water Works Park, Education, Employees, Environment, Parks, Saylorville Water Treatment Plant January 16, 2012

DMWW Talk to Legislators About Water

Water Day at the Iowa State Capitol is January 17, 2012, and Des Moines Water Works will be there on behalf of the approximately 500,000 people in DMWW’s service area.

Every Year, DMWW sees Water Day as an opportunity to talk with legislators from Central Iowa and across the state about improving and protecting water resources in the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers, the sources of water for DMWW drinking water. Reducing nutrients, bacteria, and algae blooms in our source waters helps protect public health and contain the cost of treating drinking water for our customers.

This is also an opportunity to discuss protecting the utility’s $352 million of infrastructure from flood events – infrastructure owned by the citizens of Des Moines. In 1993, the Fleur Drive Treatment Plant was flooded and DMWW was not able to provide drinking water to customers for approximately 10-14 days. Since 2008, more than 65-feet of river bank have been lost at the L.D. McMullen Treatment Plant well field site, putting several wells at risk for damage. More frequent (and intense) rainfall events and expeditious movement of water off the landscape through tiling, have exacerbated flooding. The connectivity of surface water, ground water and soils exist on all levels and need to be managed as a system. The power of moving water, whether a raindrop or a torrent of flood water, can be better managed in Iowa.

Posted by: Linda Kinman No Comments
Labels: , , , , , , , Posted in Customers, Environment, Flooding, Infrastructure, Public Policy, Water Quality January 12, 2012

Beat the Winter Blues at Des Moines Botanical Center

Don’t let the winter blues get you down! Warm up with Botanical Blues at the Des Moines Botanical Center every Sunday through the end of February from 1:00-3:00 pm. The concert season kicked off January 7 with an outstanding performance by Bob Pace with an enthusiastic crowd of over 550 attendees.

The 2012 musical lineup is one you will not want to miss! Enjoy music by local musicians surrounded by royal palms, historic bamboos, breathtaking orchids, and hundreds of other tropical plants.

Beverages and appetizers are available for purchase from the Riverwalk Café.

Posted by: Pam Kline No Comments
Labels: , Posted in Botanical Center January 11, 2012

Neti Pot News

Its stuffy nose season, and you may be in the habit of using a neti pot to clean your sinuses. However, we want you to be safe.

Recent news has reported two people in Louisiana who died after using a neti pot with amoeba-inhabited water.

Like Louisiana’s health authorities, Des Moines Water Works recommends neti pot users boil (then cool!) water before using it to irrigate your sinuses. 

Naegleria is an amoeba that lives in natural water throughout the world.  The Louisiana warning notes that Naegleria fowleri infections are very rare. In the 10 years from 2001 to 2010, 32 infections were reported in the U.S. However, people can contract it in Iowa as well as in other states.  Tap water varies in its purity from one water utility to another.  Finished drinking water provided by DMWW is nearly sterile, but there exists a miniscule chance that a Naegleria cyst could be present in some of the water. To be on the safe side, we recommend that you always bring water to a rolling boil and cool prior to using in your neti pot.

It is important to note that water for drinking or bathing presents no danger from Naegleria.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in Customer Service, Health, Water Quality