Archive for April, 2012

April 26, 2012

Prepare Yourself for Wild Weather

Reprinted with permission by Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield and the Iowa Newspaper Foundation

Iowa is no stranger to wild weather.  Prepare yourself with this helpful hints and terminology.

All thunderstorms are dangerous. Every thunderstorm produces lightening which is one of the top three storm-related killers in the United States.

Remember the 30/30 Lightening Safety Rule: go indoors if, after seeing lightening, you cannot count to 30 before hearing thundering.  Stay indoors for 30 minutes after hearing the last clap of thunder.  If you cannot get indoors, here are tips for staying safe outside:

  • In an open area:  Go to a low place such as a ravine or valley. Watch out for flash flooding.
  • On open water:  Get to land and find shelter immediately.
  • Anywhere you feel your hair stand on end (which indicates that lightening is about to strike):  Squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Place your hands over your ears and your head between your knees. Make yourself the smallest target possible and minimize your contact to the ground. DO NOT lie flat on the ground.

Flooding happens during heavy rains, when rivers overflow, snow melts too fast or levees break.  This is the most common natural weather event. Here are few tips:

  • Do not walk through moving water. Six inches of moving water can make you fall. If you have to walk in water, use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.
  • If you’re in a car and floodwaters rise around it, get out of the car and move to higher ground if you can do so safely.

Tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms. If you are under a tornado warning, seek shelter immediately.

  • If you are at home, go to your pre-designated shelter area that you and your family determined, most likely the basement. If you do not have a basement, go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level (closet, hallway) away from corners, windows, doors and outside walls. Do not open your windows.
  • If you are in a vehicle, trailer or mobile home, get out immediately and go to the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby building or storm shelter.
  • If you are outside with no shelter, lie flat in a nearby ditch and cover your head with your hands. Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.
  • Never try to outrun a tornado in a vehicle.


  • Severe Thunderstorm Watch:  Tells you when and where severe thunderstorms are likely to happen. Watch the sky and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or TV for information.
  • Severe Thunderstorm Warning:  Issued when severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar. Warnings indicate danger to those in the path of the storm is likely and they should seek shelter.
  • Flood Watch or Flashflood Watch:  Flooding may happen soon. Stay tuned to the radio or TV news for more information.
  • Flood Warning:  You may be asked to leave the area. A flood may be happening or will be very soon.
  • Flashflood Warning:  A flashflood is happening. Get to high ground right away.

Sources: American Red Cross,  


Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , , Posted in Customer Service, Customers, Environment, Flooding, Health April 23, 2012

How Much Water Are You Really Using?

We need water, but how much water does it take to do all of the things we need to do every day?

We use 98% of the water that comes to our houses for cleaning, so only 2% is used for drinking. The average American uses 100-150 gallons of water each day. That includes:

  • 30 gallons to take a 5-minute shower – yes, that means 60 gallons for a 10-minute shower every day!
  • 2 gallons each time we brush our teeth – Water is wasted by not turning off the water while brushing (if you turn it off you will use less than half a gallon).
  • 30 gallons to fill the bathtub a little over halfway.
  • 15 gallons to wash a load of dishes in the dishwasher – Make sure it is full before you run it!
  • 20 gallons to wash dishes by hand – Water is wasted by leaving the rinse water running the whole time; turn the rinse water off and you will use less than 10 gallons.
  • 50 gallons to wash a full load of clothes – don’t forget to reset the water level for smaller loads.
  • 5 gallons each time you flush. If you have a low-flow toilet, then it uses about 2 gallons.

Other water usage facts:

  • In the average household, faucets are turned on 70 times per day!
  • If you leave the water running while washing your car, you can easily waste over 100 gallons of water.
  • Approximately eight gallons of water is wasted per day if you have a leaky faucet – so get them fixed; they usually just need a new O-ring.
Posted by: Gail Peckumn No Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in Conservation, Education April 20, 2012

Prescription Drug Take Back Day

The U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has scheduled another National Prescription Drug Take Back Day on Saturday, April 28, 2012, from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm. to provide a venue for persons who want to dispose of unwanted and unused prescription drugs.

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day addresses a vital public safety and public health issue.  More than seven million Americans currently abuse prescription drugs, according to the 2009 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health.  Each day, approximately, 2,500 teens use prescription drugs to get high for the first time according to the Partnership for a Drug Free America.  Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including the home medicine cabinet.

Proper disposal of prescription drugs is also important to water quality.  Unwanted prescription drugs thrown down the drain or toilet can end up in water ways, potentially harming aquatic life, recreational activities and the quality of source water used for your drinking water.

Find a collection site near you.  In Polk County, you can drop off unwanted and unused prescription drugs at these locations:

2702 SE Delaware

3140 SE 14 Street
Des Moines

3030 University
Des Moines

West Des Moines Police Department
250 Mills Civic Parkway
West Des Moines

Iowa Department of Public Safety HQ Building
215 East 7th Street
Des Moines

Johnston City Hall
6221 Merle Hay Road

Altoona Fire Department
950 Venbury Drive

Polk City City Hall
112 S. 3rd Street
Polk City

3740 86TH ST


Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , , , Posted in Source Water, Water Quality April 19, 2012

Des Moines Water Works Celebrates Earth Day

Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) is gearing up for a special Earth Day weekend full of activities that promote watershed protection and wise use of Earth’s resources.

DMWW is a sponsor for City of Des Moines’ 2012 Trash Bash on Friday, April 20.  This year’s event is dedicated to improving Iowa’s waterways and water quality.  Teams of volunteers will kick-off the event at Nollen Plaza, where DMWW will have an educational booth and debut the DSMH2O Mobile Water Station for visitors to fill up their reusable water bottles!  Be sure to “check-in” to DSMH2O on Foursqaure to receive a free reusable water bottle or T-shirt!  Trash Bash volunteers will then set out to pick up trash in various locations around the city, including Water Works Park.  Last year, over 1,000 volunteers removed 6,000 pounds of trash, tires and recyclables.

DMWW will have an interactive booth at the Science Center of Iowa’s Earth Day Fair on Saturday, April 21 at 11:00 am.  Stop by for fun games, including fishing for pollutants! Be sure to “check-in” to DSMH2O on Foursqaure to receive a free reusable water bottle or T-shirt!

At both events, DMWW will be asking visitors to complete a Take Back the Tap pledge form, encouraging everyone to choose tap water over bottled water whenever possible, as well as support policies that promote clean, affordable tap water for all.  Complete the pledge form and submit it to Des Moines Water Works by June 15 to be entered into a drawing to win a Des Moines Water Works prize pack!

Also, plan a visit to the Des Moines Botanical Center on Sunday, April 22.  Enjoy FREE admission on Earth Day!

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , , Posted in About Us, Conservation, Customer Service, Green Initiatives, Water Quality April 17, 2012

What if My Water Tastes or Smells Funny?

Some people are more sensitive to subtle changes in taste or odors.  Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) uses the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers as water sources.  By using surface water, there can be some seasonal variations that occur.  The treatment process should eliminate the variation in finished water, but sometimes there will be a slight change some customers may notice.  For example, there may be a slight increase in smell or taste of chlorine at times, especially during a river’s spring thaw.  This is easily remedied by storing water for drinking in a pitcher in the refrigerator.

If you think you have an issue with taste and odor of the water in your home, there are a few things you can do to determine the source of the problem.  Check to see if the problem is apparent in all fixtures of the home.  For example, is the issue apparent in the bathroom, kitchen and laundry room utility sink?  Many times the issue is only at one fixture.  This would indicate the cause is something in the household plumbing.  A few things to consider would be:  Has there been a recent change in the household plumbing?   Do you have an in-home water treatment device that needs regular service or filter changes?  Plastics can impart flavors and odors to the water; this can include parts in the faucet, plumbing lines, or appliances.  If the problem is present in all fixtures, try running the tub or shower faucet for a period of time and then recheck to see if there is still an issue.

If it is an odor issue, try pouring a glass and then smelling it in another room.  Sometimes the odor may be coming from another source, possibly a drain or garbage can, in the same room.  By eliminating this possibility, one can ensure that it is the water that contains the odor.  If you notice a sulfur odor, it may be from your home’s hot water heater.  If the temperature is not set high enough, bacteria can grow in the water heater.  A possible solution for this would be to turn the heater up high for a couple hours then return the setting to a normal level. If this is done, please use caution the first few times water is turned on, as water could still be hot.

If you are storing drinking water for convenient use, here are a few things to help prevent taste and odor issues.  Store water in a glass container, as plastic can impart taste or odors to the water.  Also make sure the container has a good seal.  Store in the refrigerator as water will have less flavor when chilled.  If the water has sat for a while, it may be flat.  If this is the case, pour it back and forth between containers or shake it to help aerate the water.  This will help to add oxygen to the water and remove the stale, flat flavor.

If you are still experiencing problems, please call your Des Moines Water Works at 283-8700 and report the issue and the duration the problem has been apparent.  We will work with you to diagnose the problem.

Posted by: Jeff Mitchell No Comments
Labels: , , , , , Posted in Customer Service, Customers, Water Quality, Water Treatment April 12, 2012

Replace Sports Drinks with Good, Old-fashioned H2O

Reprinted with permission by Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield and the Iowa Newspaper Foundation

You’ve probably reached for a sports drink thinking it was the healthy thing to do. But water is actually a better choice for you.

A common myth is sports drinks are needed during and after a game or workout to recover. The fact is unless you workout hard for more than one hour, the fluids lost through sweat can be replaced with plain water.

Sports drinks and vitamin waters are advertised as healthy drinks for athletes because they replace carbohydrates and electrolytes lost through sweating. And, for kids who have tough fitness programs or participate in a high-energy sport like basketball or soccer, they may be beneficial.

Carbs are broken down in your body into sugar, which is then used to feed your muscles and give you energy.  One carb is equal to 4 calories. If you haven’t burned up the calories in your workout equal to the calories you eat or drink, you end up with extra calories.  Drinking sports drinks when you don’t need them can lead to gaining weight.

Electrolytes are made up of potassium and sodium. These nutrients help restore fluid balance lost during sweating. However, because sweat is 99 percent water and only 1 percent electrolytes, you may actually consume more electrolytes than you need.

Experts say most kids get the electrolytes and carbs needed for sports and other activities through a balanced diet.  Hydration should come from drinking plenty of water before, during and after the activity.

Sports drinks may be appropriate for kids in competitive sports that last more than one hour. But during the school day and at most sports practices, water is the best drink for kids.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Texas A&M System, “HealthHints”

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in Customer Service, Customers, Health April 9, 2012

Protecting Customer Identity

Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) understands the crime of stealing someone’s personal identifying information for the purpose of using that information fraudulently is concerning. To ensure DMWW customer’s personal information is safe, we worked with other drinking water utilities in the state to pass legislation to protect your personal identity. Senate File 2058 was passed by both houses of the legislature and signed into law by the Governor. The legislation allows DMWW to keep information “identifying a specific customer and any record of a customer account, including internet-based customer account information” confidential.

Protect yourself from identity theft by:

  • Shredding all of your important papers.
  • Making sure you do not throw anything away that someone could use to get your personal information.
  • Being careful at ATM’s and using phone cards to protect against people who can get access to your pin number.
  • Having all of checks delivered to your bank – not at your home address.
  • Not putting checks in the mail from your home mailbox.
  • When you order a new credit card or your previous card has expired, keep track of the time and contact the credit card company if it does not show up within the appropriate time.
  • Put passwords on all of your accounts.
  • Memorize your social security number and passwords so you are not carrying them with you.
  • Make a list of all your credit card and bank account numbers with customer service phone numbers, and keep it in a safe place.
Posted by: Linda Kinman No Comments
Labels: , , , , , , Posted in Customer Service, Customers, Public Policy April 6, 2012

Fluoride in Water

Fluoridation of municipal drinking water has aroused some controversy from its beginnings in 1945. There is no doubt high concentrations of fluoride are toxic to the human body. But it’s important to remember that the toxicity of any material depends on the dose amount and the exposure duration. In the case of municipal water fluoridation, the overwhelming weight of evidence shows the current recommended dose – 0.7* part per million (ppm) – to be safe.  The measurement unit of ppm is one part substance per million parts of water.  One ppm is equivalent to a half gallon jug of water in an Olympic-size pool.

Des Moines Water Works’ source water (the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers, and shallow groundwater under river influence) contains fluoride naturally, usually between 0.1 and 0.5 part per million (ppm).  The addition of fluoride to Des Moines Water Works’ drinking water is monitored every minute of every day by DMWW staff, so that the proper amount of fluoride is always maintained in the drinking water delivered to your home.

Des Moines Water Works and the water industry continue to examine and react to new research. But at the current time, the weight of evidence overwhelmingly supports continued fluoridation of municipal drinking water. Fluoridation of municipal drinking water is endorsed by:

Every U.S. Surgeon General and every sitting President since Kennedy have publicly endorsed fluoridation. As the Centers for Disease Control has recognized, municipal drinking water fluoridation is one of the great public health achievements of the 20th century.  We know good dental health is important to our overall physical well being. Good teeth enable us to eat a healthy diet throughout our life and into old age, helping lengthen our lifespan.

Fluoridation opponents like to say that only a handful of countries fluoridate their water, most notably the US and countries of the former British Empire. This is not accurate.

  • Fluoridated countries: USA, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Hong Kong, Ireland, Israel, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Spain, UK, and Vietnam.
  • Countries where natural fluoridation provides adequate benefit: Argentina, France, Gabon, Libya, Mexico, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, USA, and Zimbabwe.
  • Countries/areas with fluoride levels above therapeutic levels: Africa, China, India.

Much controversy has been made of the fact that most western European countries do not fluoridate their water, and their rate of tooth decay is similar to the USA. What they don’t say: Many of these countries (plus Japan) once had fluoridated water, but discontinued fluoridation at some point. Discontinuation was almost always accompanied by intervening strategies: widespread use of sealants and topical fluoride treatments that kept decay rates similar to the U.S. It is important to point out that nearly all these countries had some sort of nationalized medical care which gave their citizens easy access to these interventionist strategies once water fluoridation was stopped. Notably, Germany and France both replaced water fluoridation with fluoridated salt. Many other European countries also fluoridate salt. So the arguments about Western Europe really don’t hold much water (pun intended)


Are there side effects to fluoride?
Excess amounts of fluoride can be harmful to teeth and bones. Many people of the early American West had brown-stained teeth because they were consuming spring and mineral water with extremely high amounts of fluoride. It is also thought that infants should not consume fluoride in amounts greater than that found in breast milk. For this reason, the American Dental Association recommends that infant formula be prepared with unfluoridated water.

What if I’m pregnant or have an infant?
The American Dental Association makes these recommendations regarding infants and fluoride:

  • Breast milk is the most complete form of nutrition for infants. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends human milk for all infants (except for the few for whom breastfeeding is determined to be harmful).
  • For infants who get most of their nutrition from formula during their first 12 months, ready-to-feed formula is preferred over formula mixed with water containing fluoride to help ensure that infants do not get more fluoride than they need.
  • Powdered or liquid concentrate infant formula can be mixed with water that is fluoride free or contains low levels of fluoride. These types of water are labeled as purified, demineralized, deionized, distilled or reverse osmosis filtered water. Many stores sell these types of drinking water for approximately $1.00 per gallon.
  • Occasional use of fluoridated water should not greatly increase the chance of over-exposure to fluoride for the infant.
  • After their first birthday, children can drink fluoridated water because they’ve grown and they weigh more.
  • Children under the age of two should not use fluoride toothpaste.

Breast milk is very low in fluoride. Nursing mothers or pregnant women who drink fluoridated water do not pass on significant amounts of fluoride to their child. Avoiding fluoridated water during pregnancy is not necessary. Use of fluoride supplements by the expectant or nursing mother does not benefit the baby. Parents should consult with their dentist or physician if questions or concerns about fluoride exist.

Should I be concerned about Fluoride?
If you have concerns about fluoride, you should discuss this topic with your dentist and doctor. If you wish to eliminate fluoride from your drinking water, home treatment devices are available – primarily reverse osmosis systems. Before buying, make sure the system you are purchasing can remove fluoride.

Want more info on Fluoride, check out our blog series.

*Updated January 7, 2011, due to new fluoride concentration recommendation.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone 3 Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in Fluoride, Water Quality, Water Treatment April 5, 2012

Call Before You Dig – It’s the Law!

Do you have projects requiring digging in your yard?  Before you dig, be sure to include the most important step in your project plans: contact Iowa One Call.

Iowa One Call services are free and telephones are answered 24 hours a day.  Utilities, including Des Moines Water Works, have 48 hours following a request to locate any underground facilities they have in the area and mark their location with flags or painted lines.  After the excavation area has been marked, you will be able to avoid any underground services, preventing a loss of vital services and added expenses for repairs.

Iowa law applies to professional contractors as well as homeowners, and encompasses a wide array of outdoor projects including:

  • Installing a fence
  • Planting trees or shrubs
  • Building a patio, addition, deck, garage, outdoor shed or any similar structure that requires any form of digging
  • Putting in a new driveway
  • Installing a septic system or water drainage system
  • Terracing or landscaping

Call 811 or 1-800-292-8989 before you dig.  It’s fast, it’s free, it’s the law!  You can also access important information at

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , Posted in Customer Service, Customers, Infrastructure