Archive for June, 2012

June 27, 2012

Use Water Wisely

Hot, dry weather is upon us.  Central Iowa and most parts of the State of Iowa are fortunate  to have sufficient sources of water to meet the needs of residential, business, industrial, and governmental customers during most years and the summer months. In addition, Des Moines Water Works has made significant financial investments in treatment plants, pumps, tanks, piping, and reservoir storage to meet customers’ potable water needs.

These assets can be most efficiently operated during the very hottest of summer days when our customers use water wisely.  Wise use of water is defined as being alert to and repairing leaking household appliances, taking advantage of technological advances to eliminate waste and avoiding irrigation use during the hottest part of the day.

Des Moines Water Works, in cooperation with the metropolitan area water utilities and through the Central Iowa Regional Drinking Water Commission planning group, has developed the “Using Water Wisely” program.

This is an educational, voluntary customer program aimed at reducing water use during hot, dry summer days.  Customers can do this by eliminating lawn watering during the hottest part of the day (10:00 am through 5:00 pm).  This watering approach reduces the peak load on our water facilities which extends their capacity and useful life.

In addition, it is important to remember:

  • Test irrigation systems each spring to ensure there are no leaking sprinkler heads and that each head is properly directing its spray onto the turf and landscape.
  • Most soils in the Des Moines area can support a healthy turf, if watered no more frequently than every other day.  ISU Extension pamphlet PM 1063, found at their Web page:, says “Kentucky Bluegrass will withstand drought by becoming dormant.  If irrigation is begun in a drought, continue to water during the drought period.  Apply water infrequently, but in sufficient amounts to wet the soil to six-inch depth.”  Turf grasses in clayey, silty soils found in most parts of the metro area may require up to one inch to one-half inches of water per week.  These soils typically cannot absorb this much water during one irrigation cycle.  Adjust your sprinkler time so you are applying from one-fourth inch to one-half inch of water during each irrigation day or cycle.
  • For in-ground irrigation systems, install a moisture sensor that will turn off the irrigation system during its normal run cycle when there has been sufficient rainfall.
  • When possible, avoid laying sod during July and the first three weeks of August.  These typically are the hottest months and weeks of the year.  New sod has no established root system and therefore requires daily watering during hot summer days to keep it alive.  Beginning the last week in August and through the fall is the best time for laying sod. Grass seed is also best used during this late summer, fall time period.
  • Consult your preferred garden center, lawn or landscape professional, or ISU Extension horticulturalist for tips and consultation for your specific lawn and landscape care and watering needs.  Also, visit Des Moines Water Works website for other water saving tips.

Let’s all use our precious water wisely!

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , , Posted in Conservation, Education, Environment, Green Initiatives June 18, 2012

Founding Fathers’ Foresight

As long as Des Moines Water Works has been in existence, protecting the water resources from pollution and assuring an adequate supply of water well into the future has been utmost importance.  Thanks to the utility’s founding fathers – not to mention employees throughout the years – the growth of Des Moines Water Works has kept pace with the expanding needs of the community.

In 1884, the company began constructing an infiltration gallery system that would use groundwater from the Raccoon River.  The infiltration gallery was the only water source at the time.

By 1919, the water supply grounds covered approximately 470 acres.

In 1925, when the Board of Water Works Trustees purchased 334 acres of land south of the Raccoon River, west of S.W. 30th Street, General Manager Charles Denman stated that the newly acquired land  would insure a potential water supply large enough for a city twice the size of Des Moines.

Gradually, additional land (now known as Water Works Park) bordering the Raccoon River on both sides, extending to 63rd Street (city limits) was purchased to protect the source water and to extend the infiltration gallery.

In April of 1933, Water Works Park was opened to the public.  At that time, the water supply grounds covered 1,400 acres.  (Today, it spans 1,500 acres.)

Foreseeing a need for an emergency source of water, construction of a water storage reservoir near the Raccoon River southwest of Commerce began in 1943 (Maffitt Reservoir).  Dale Maffitt, General Manager, was quoted in the Des Moines Tribune as saying it will insure an adequate water supply for Des Moines for many years to come.

Obviously, planning for the future didn’t end in the 1940s.  Within the last 12 years, two additional water treatment facilities have been constructed.  The L. D. McMullen Water Treatment Plant at Maffitt Reservoir began operation in 2000.  Today, this water plant serves customers in southwest Des Moines, parts of Xenia and Warren Water Systems, Waukee and parts of Clive, Urbandale and West Des Moines.  The Saylorville Water Treatment Plant went online in 2011 serving customers north of Des Moines.  Long-range plans have been developed, future demand has been projected, and staff continues to prepare for the future, assuring there will be an adequate supply of water.

Posted by: Pat Ripley No Comments
Labels: , , , Posted in About Us, History, Infrastructure, Maffitt Reservoir, Saylorville Water Treatment Plant, Source Water, Water Quality June 13, 2012

Customer Advisory Council – We Want You!

Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) strives to deliver programs and options that are valued by our customers.   Two of the biggest concerns we hear from residential customers relate to leaks in service lines and inoperable stop boxes.  Customers are responsible for maintaining their water service line, including the stop box, and when a service line or stop box needs repaired, the cost to repair is often significant and unexpected.   For many customers, this can be devastating to the family budget.

To provide customers an option, Des Moines Water Works has recently requested proposals from service providers to offer a service line warranty program to our customers.  DMWW has committed to performing all the due diligence to ensure the program is cost-effective, offers full coverage without “small print exclusions,” and is overall, in our customers’ best interests.

We would like to invite residential customers to participate in a Customer Advisory Council to review DMWW’s recommended provider and program and provide feedback.  The time commitment is approximately one hour.  If interested, please email Amy Kahler, Director of Customer Service and Marketing, at [email protected].  Take this opportunity to help shape an important program for Des Moines Water Works’ customers!

Posted by: Amy Kahler No Comments
Labels: , , , , , Posted in Customer Service, Customers June 12, 2012

Improve Water Quality with Rain Barrel and Rain Gardens

Rain barrels and rain gardens are a great way to protect our precious water resources and can save you money, too.

Rain barrels collect rainwater from rooftops via rain gutters, which is then used to water yards and gardens. 1/4” rain can yield over 200 gallons of water. Any large container with a lid will work, and you can make your own quite easily.  Many videos with step-by-step instructions for making a rain barrel are available online.

Rain gardens are planted depressions near rain gutters that allow rainwater to be absorbed, thus reducing runoff and potentially polluted storm water going down our storm sewers and into our rivers.  Rain gardens also help recharge groundwater. Native plants should be used because they don’t require fertilizer and are more tolerant to local climate conditions. Rain gardens need a little more maintenance than a lawn in the beginning, but in the long run become much easier to care for.

Posted by: Gail Peckumn No Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in Conservation, Customer Service, Customers, Education, Environment, Green Initiatives, Water Quality June 7, 2012

Water During the Economic Depression of the 1930s

The year 1932 found the country well into a major depression.  Due to loss of jobs, many people in Des Moines were unable to pay their water bills.  Furnishing free water on a discriminatory basis was forbidden by state law, and funds of the Board of Water Works Trustees could not be used as a means of unemployment relief.  Therefore, when a water bill was not paid, the water had to be cut off.  The mayor, the city health department and others urged the Board to establish a policy of leniency in reference to discontinuing water service in certain cases where the consumer was unable to pay.

A plan was developed whereby consumers were permitted to “work out” their water bills.

The weekly payroll vouchers of the Des Moines Water Works during the years of 1932-1935 showed long lists of names, with earnings listed as $3.20.  Sometimes more than 100 names appeared with this amount, indicating a day’s work at 40 cents an hour for each person.This rate was not unreasonable, in view of the fact that the highest hourly rate paid to any regular Water Works employee was 85 cents an hour, for a 48-hour week.

At that time, a minimum water bill was $1.00 per quarter; the normal family bill was $2.25 per quarter.

In a Des Moines Register article, dated November 26, 1933, under a headline of “Projects in Des Moines Enable 4,500 to Pay Water Bills” were pictures of a rustic bridge, a roadway with new guard rails, and a stone bridge.  A story of Water Works’ program resembling the Civil Works Administration plan followed.  Consumers also helped lay water mains, inspect hydrants, and plant trees and shrubs in the “water works preserve” (now known as Water Works Park).

Economic conditions improved in 1935, and by September the list was very short, and finally “working out the water bill” was no longer necessary.

Posted by: Pat Ripley No Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in About Us, Customer Service, History, Parks June 4, 2012

Annual Water Quality Report

Look for Des Moines Water Works’ 2012 Consumer Confidence Report in your June statement. This annual water quality report summarizes the results of our water monitoring program as required by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) during 2011. Many of the analyses are required by the Safe Drinking Water Act and other regulations; however, we monitor for contaminants above and beyond the basic requirements. Water supplied by Des Moines Water Works continues to meet and surpass all state and federal drinking water standards.

Please take time to read your annual water quality report – it is important to understand the facts about the quality of water delivered to you, your home and/or business. If you receive your bill statement from Des Moines Water Works electronically (E-statement), you can access the report online at or request a copy of the report from a Customer Service Representative. If you have questions regarding the report or water quality, please contact us at (515) 283-8700.

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