Archive for March, 2012

March 30, 2012

Arie den Boer Arboretum Crabapple Bloom at Water Works Park

One of the world’s largest collections of flowering crabapple trees can be found at Water Works Park and will be in full bloom this weekend through next week.  Visitors may drive or walk through the Arie den Boer Arboretum between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. to view the colorful display of 1,200 crabapple trees, located in the northeast corner of Water Works Park, off of Fleur Drive.

The Arie den Boer Arboretum was established in 1930 and contains over 350 varieties of flowering crabapple trees, including some varieties that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

Due to the unseasonably warm weather Iowa has experienced, the annual bloom is approximately four weeks earlier than the typical bloom date.

Who is Arie den Boer? Arie den Boer was a renowned horticulturist and Des Moines Water Works employee. He started at DMWW in 1928 and introduced several hundred varieties of crabapple trees to Water Works Park.  In 1933, the park opened to the public and thousands flocked to visit it.  In 1961, the crabapple orchard was named Arie den Boer Arboretum (he retired that year).  Also in 1961, den Boer received the medal of honor of the Garden Clubs of America, its highest horticultural award.  His book, Flowering Crab Apples, was published in 1959 and contained color photos and reproductions of his slides, in addition to his own pen and ink sketches.

View this beautiful video created by a visitor to Water Works Park last year:

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , , , Posted in Parks March 29, 2012

An Insight into DMWW’s Early History

Thanks to those before us, the early history of Des Moines Water Works was chronicled in several books of typewritten pages up until 1971, which was the centennial year of the founding of the company.  The priceless books of yellowed pages provide a glimpse into significant occurrences in years past. Sources of information for those history books included scrapbooks of newspaper clippings, official records of the Board of Water Works Trustees, and the memories of various individuals.

The following entries may not pertain to the most momentous events, but they were notable.  And as brief as some of the notations are, they tell the whole story.

September 1922:  “An article titled “Des Moines Municipal Pumping Station” appeared in the magazine National Engineer.  The article, illustrated by large pictures of the new steam turbine-driven centrifugal pumping unit, boiler feed pumps, and coal crane and pits, was written by A.T. Luce, engineer and superintendent of the Des Moines Municipal Water Plant.”

November 16, 1922:  “The General Manager was instructed to furnish the Board with an itemized statement of the cost of operation and maintenance for the various automobiles used in connection with the Water Plant.  This report shows that the Water Plant owned 22 trucks and roadsters, purchase dates varying from 1913 to 1922, a Dodge Coupe purchased in 1922, and a Peerless, purchase date not indicated.”

May 15, 1924:  “To discontinue paying wages in cash and to pay by check.”

July 17, 1924:  “Board to discontinue farming operations on water supply grounds.”

December 5, 1929:  “News story in Des Moines Tribune quoting Mr. Denman (DMWW General Manager) as saying that too many people were still getting water by waving the pump handle up and down instead of connecting to the city water mains.”

March 5, 1931:  “Directional sign for aviators to be painted on top of new water tower.” (Hazen tower)

February 8, 1939:  “The General Manager was authorized to purchase three horses to be used on the water supply grounds.”

December 31, 1956: “Year 1956 was Iowa’s driest on record.”

July 8, 1959:  “Water Board sells the locomotive.”  (In 1956, a steam engine was purchased by DMWW to serve as a backup to the boiler. According to “old timers” in Water Production, the locomotive’s boiler was never fired.)

August 25, 1960:  “Water Works laboratory testing 10,000 elms on Water Works property for Dutch elm disease.”

August 14, 1963:  “Four boys turn on 47 fire hydrants in the night.”

July 13, 1965:  “Water Board to be represented at ground breaking ceremonies for Saylorville Dam on July 17.”

January 24, 1966:  “Fleur Drive to be widened.”

February 17, 1970:  “Snowmobiling not approved for Water Works Park or Maffitt Reservoir.”

We hope you have enjoyed this glimpse into Des Moines Water Works’ history. Do you have any early memories of Des Moines Water Works?

Photo of steam locomotive #1678 taken by Richard Ikenberry.

Posted by: Pat Ripley No Comments
Labels: , , , Posted in About Us, Board of Trustees, History March 26, 2012

Water Rate Increase Effective April 1, 2012

Last October, Des Moines Water Works Board of Trustees approved water rate increases that will be effective on water bills beginning April 1. Volume charges for water will increase $0.06 per thousand gallons for residential customers in the City of Des Moines. Water charges for a typical four-person household will increase approximately $0.45 per month. On average, a two-person household will see an increase of approximately $0.22 per month.  Water availability charges are not changing.

For more information on your water rates, visit   If you have any questions, please contact Des Moines Water Works at 283-8700.

Posted by: Peggy Freese No Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in Board of Trustees, Customer Service, Customers, Rates March 19, 2012

Des Moines Water Works Urges Congress to Link Farm Assistance to Water Quality

Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) and the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) are urging Congress to link conservation compliance requirements and federal farm subsidies and/or crop insurance to efforts by farmers to minimize negative water quality impacts of their operations, AMWA and a coalition of water utility, conservation and environmental organizations said in a policy statement released last week at a press conference in Washington, D.C.

Under the banner of the “Healthy Waters Coalition,” AMWA and other groups also called on Congress to prioritize nutrient runoff control as a primary goal in watersheds impaired by nutrients and to facilitate monitoring of nutrient reductions as part of ongoing state and federal water quality monitoring programs. Lawmakers are currently working to put together the 2012 Farm Bill, so the policy statement is intended to shape their work on the Conservation Title.

Speaking at a press conference marking release of the report, AMWA Executive Director Diane VanDe Hei stressed the importance of keeping nutrient pollution out of drinking water sources, where it can increase treatment costs for downstream drinking water utilities and pose public health threats if not properly removed. While drinking water systems will always do what is necessary to keep their finished water safe, VanDe Hei said, “the most effective solution is to keep excessive nutrients out of source water in the first place.”

The complete policy statement is available on AMWA’s Legislative Information webpage at (scroll down to category – Farm Bill Reauthorization, March 2012).

Contact Senators Grassely and Harkin to let them know you support water quality in the 2012 Farm Bill.


Posted by: Linda Kinman No Comments
Labels: , , , , , , Posted in Public Policy, Source Water, Water Quality March 15, 2012

New Technology Brings Improved Efficiency

Twenty years ago, Des Moines Water Works’ maintenance crews relied on paper maps, three-ring-binders, and thousands of index cards to track the location and maintenance history for every pipe, valve, and fire hydrant in the Des Moines water system.  When information was needed regarding a specific item, crews would call the dispatch center, wait while the dispatcher looked in the files for the information, and then take notes as the dispatcher read information over the radio.  The process worked, but it took time and there was the opportunity for errors in translation.

Today, all of Des Moines Water Works’ maintenance vehicles are equipped with an onboard computerized Geographic Information System (GIS).  This system, which uses ESRI geo-database software, provides even more information than was available from the historic files, provides that information without the need to wait or communicate over the radio, and provides it in a graphical format which is much easier to read and understand.

Personnel in the field now have access to detailed information on every valve or fire hydrant in the system including location, date of installation, manufacturer, depth, most recent date of operation, operational concerns, etc.  Information is also available related to water main failures, pipe fittings and alterations, and other features which are buried below ground.  Right-of-way lines, property lines, and building footprints are also shown for all properties in the city.

The GIS system is also GPS-enabled which allows crews to find their current location within the mapping system with the click of a button.  Having this information available at their fingertips helps Des Moines Water Works’ crews work more efficiently.

Posted by: Ted Corrigan 1 Comment
Labels: , , , , , Posted in About Us, Employees, Infrastructure March 12, 2012

Water System Improvements for Quality Drinking Water

The 2012 capital improvements budget for Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) includes $6.4 million for water main and new feeder main projects.  Of that amount, $2.8 million is budgeted for water system improvements within the Des Moines water distribution system.  These funds will be used to replace water mains that have reached their useful life expectancy – water mains with a high occurrence of breaks.  These funds are also used to replace small water mains (4-inch diameter and smaller) that do not provide adequate flows for fire protection. DMWW typically budgets between $1.5 and $3 million each year to replace these worn out and undersized water mains.

This is just one of the many efforts DMWW undertakes to ensure that infrastructure is replaced to ensure delivery of quality drinking water in the quantities that our customers need.

Posted by: Gary Benjamin No Comments
Labels: , , , Posted in About Us, Customers, Infrastructure, Value of Water March 8, 2012

Utility and Beauty

In the early years of Des Moines Water Works, an ornamental pool was a very popular public attraction. Located inside the Fleur Drive Treatment Plant – just south of the pumping station, Water Works Park visitors were welcome to visit the pool and stroll around the grounds.

The pool was built in the early 1920s, when the pumping station was being constructed.  The dirt from the excavation of the pool was used to raise the elevation of the pumping station.

Each corner of the pool was adorned with a large brass frog with water spouting from its mouth.   The decorative frogs were designed by sculptor Florence Sprague, an instructor in Drake University’s Art Department.

Shortly after completion of the pumping station, The Des Moines Tribune published pictures of the interior and exterior of the new facility in June 1923.  A photograph of the pool was included with this caption: “Utility and Beauty – this beautiful bit of artistry does not adorn the gardens of some multimillionaire’s estate – it is to be found on the grounds of the Des Moines Municipal Water Plant.”

The pool became affectionately known as the goldfish pond after a retiring business owner donated some goldfish.  When donated, the goldfish were small but grew to be six inches and weighed one pound each.

In the 1970s the pool was filled in because it was structurally unsafe.  And since then, access to the treatment plant has been restricted to the general public for security reasons.  To this day, nothing has been built on top of the old goldfish pond.  It remains a “green space” in the treatment plant.

Two of the four brass frogs from the pond are now on display at Des Moines Water Works’ museum inside the Fleur Drive Treatment Plant.  Who has the other two brass frogs remains a mystery …

Posted by: Pat Ripley No Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in About Us, History, Parks March 6, 2012

Avoid High Water Bill Surprises

Des Moines Water Works listened to customer suggestions for more functionality to online customer account information. A new customer account feature now available at is consumption alerts. Don’t be surprised by a high water bill anymore. Customers now have the ability to set a daily consumption threshold. If your daily consumption exceeds that on any given day, an automated alert will be sent to an e-mail account you provide.

To set up a new consumption alert:

  • Log in to your Des Moines Water Works account at
  • Select the Account Services tab and then select Consumption Alerts
  • Select the meter you would like to be alerted
  • Check to select either Gallons or Cubic Feet (DMWW bills in cubic feet, but many people find it more natural to think in terms of gallons)
  • After reviewing your last bill statement and the average daily recommendations listed as a guide, enter in your daily consumption threshold and click Save
  • The new consumption alert will be listed below
  • Changes to the alert can be made at any time by deleting your existing alert and creating a new one.

We encourage customers to save money and save water by taking advantage of the consumption alert feature now available. Too many times, customers don’t notice a leaking toilet until they open their water bill and find that it has doubled or even tripled its normal amount. The new alert feature allows customers to be notified as the leak is occurring and promptly correct it, avoiding wasted water and the surprise of a large bill.

If you have questions about setting up a consumption alert, contact Des Moines Water Works at 283-8700.

Posted by: Amy Kahler No Comments
Labels: , , , , , Posted in Conservation, Customer Service, Customers March 1, 2012

Cheers to H2O and Your Health

All cell and organ functions in the human body depend on water. In fact, water makes up over half of the weight in the human body. If water is not consumed regularly, your body may become dehydrated – a life threatening condition.  A glass of water, available straight from the tap is the best and most inexpensive way to supply the body with fluid.

To reduce the risk of dehydration, most adults should consume six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water, or about 1 quart of water daily. More water may be necessary when exercising, during hot weather, when humidity is low, in high altitudes, when on a “high fiber” diet, or when consuming beverages containing alcohol or caffeine. Carbonated and caffeinated beverages have a dehydrating effect, so it is best to consume a glass of water for each one of these beverages you drink.

Another great way to earn your daily supply of fluids is through the foods we eat. Fresh fruits and vegetables can provide up to 39% of the daily requirement.

  •  A ripe pineapple is soaked with up to 86% water
  • Strawberries and peaches both contain about 90% water
  • Watermelon, so aptly names, packs up to 99% water
  • Lettuce contains 96% water
  • Adding cucumbers, radishes and tomatoes to your salad not only adds flavor, but can be counted in your daily intake of water

What else can H2O do for you?

  • Water provides the base for body fluids, such as the fluids in joints and saliva.
  • Water helps to regulate body temperature.
  • Water helps to utilize key nutrients.
  • Drinking plenty of water reduces fluid retention.
  • Water helps to reduce the effects of aging.
  • Water helps to boost energy.
  • Water helps to dilute and dispel toxins in the system.
  • Water plays an active role in reducing the risk of kidney stones, urinary tract cancer, bladder cancer and possibly even colon cancer.
  • The magnesium in water has been found to help  prevent heart attacks, asthma and migraine headaches.
  • Water helps to fight off colds by keeping you hydrated enough to trap cold viruses in the mucus lining of your throat and helps to soothe and relieve a cough.
Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , Posted in Health