Archive for October, 2012

October 29, 2012

A Day in the Life of: Water Treatment Operator

At Des Moines Water Works, Process Control Operators are essential to providing safe and reliable drinking water to 500,000 customers throughout central Iowa. It isn’t just a job. It matters. Like police officers, fire fighters, and other emergency personal that work to keep our cities safe, water treatment operators are needed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to ensure public health in central Iowa.

Please view this short video to learn more about Process Control Operators at Des Moines Water Works.

There are many career opportunities available in water treatment. With some education and experience, an individual can earn their water treatment licenses enabling them to climb the career ladder. If you think you would enjoy a career in water, DMACC offers a Water Environmental Technology program that provides the skills and ability to become a water treatment operator.  For more information, visit

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , , Posted in About Us, Employees October 25, 2012

Where Does Your Water Come From?

Des Moines Water Works Fleur Drive Treatment Plant has the option of three different sources of raw water.  The first and best source is a shallow groundwater collection system called the infiltration gallery. It is a three-mile long, porous pipe constructed with concrete rings. This runs parallel to the Raccoon River in Water Works Park, and collects water from the sands and gravels of the river valley.  The ponds in the park are also there to help recharge the gallery.   It provided all the water to the Des Moines area until 1949.

Increased water demand required construction of an intake on the Raccoon River in 1949, and the drought of 1977 precipitated construction of an intake on the Des Moines River in 1980.

Des Moines Water Works selects its source of water each day, and sometimes can change throughout the day, due to water quality and the ability to treat different substances present in the source water.

Some of the challenges Des Moines Water Works is faced with in selecting the best source water include:

  • Availability:  The first choice would be the gallery, but most days there is not enough capacity to supply all the water needed, so a second source is needed to supplement the gallery.
  • Algae and bacteria:  These can cause treatment challenges, such as plugging filters or taste and odor issues.
  • Nutrients:  Some of these are naturally-occurring in the environment, but most are man-made.  They can be from sources such as agriculture, livestock, or wastewater treatment.
  • Other:  Turbidity (cloudiness of the water), hardness (dissolved minerals in the water), organic material (plant decomposition) or taste and odor.
  • Episodic events:  There may be an accidental spill or chemical release into the river.
  • Cost:  The gallery and Raccoon River are available at the Fleur Drive Treatment Plant, but the Des Moines River has to be pumped five miles from the intake to the plant.  This adds additional cost when Des Moines Water Works must use the Des Moines River.

Many of the challenges Des Moines Water Works sees changes daily, so monitoring is done continuously.  Evaluating the source water and determining what is the best available and at the cost is to treat that source ensure Des Moines Water Works can deliver water you can trust for life.

Posted by: Jeff Mitchell No Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in Customer Service, Customers, Infrastructure, Source Water, Water Quality, Water Treatment October 23, 2012

Des Moines Water Works Announces 2013 Budget and Zero Rate Increase for Most Customers

DES MOINES, Iowa (October 23, 2012) – The Board of Water Works Trustees has proposed Des Moines Water Works’ 2013 calendar year budget, which includes a zero rate increase for Des Moines and wholesale water customers.  In some communities served by Des Moines Water Works – such as unincorporated Polk County, Pleasant Hill, Cumming, Alleman and Runnells –  who have more significant infrastructure needs, Des Moines Water Works has increased rates for residential customers by five percent.

The proposed budget includes $50.4 million of operating revenue.  Operating expenses are budgeted at $33.3 million, while capital infrastructure costs are budgeted at $19.4 million.  The Board of Water Works Trustees will hold a public hearing for the proposed 2013 budget on Tuesday, November 27, 2012, at 3:30 p.m.

“The Board’s actions are the result of significant efforts by staff to reduce costs during a period of difficult economic challenges for our customers,” said Bill Stowe, CEO and General Manger, Des Moines Water Works.  “However, a zero rate increase will not likely be repeated as the Board moves toward greater investment in the water utilities’ infrastructure and rate increases more consistent with the challenges of producing and delivering water.”

For a complete listing of Des Moines Water Works’ 2013 water rate structure, visit  New water rates will go into effect April 1, 2013, for those customers with rate increases.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in About Us, Board of Trustees, Customer Service, Customers, Rates October 17, 2012

40th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act

Forty years ago, in the midst of a national concern about untreated sewage, industrial and toxic discharges, destruction of wetlands, and contaminated runoff, the principal law to protect the nation’s waters was passed. The Clean Water Act (CWA) set a national goal “to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters,” with interim goals that all waters be fishable and swimmable.

The Act embodied a new federal-state partnership, where federal guidelines, objectives and limits were to be set under the authority of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, while states, territories and authorized tribes would largely administer and enforce the CWA programs, with federal technical and financial assistance. In Iowa, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources is delegated to administer the CWA.

The Act also gave citizens a strong role to play in protecting and restoring waters. Ways you can support and become involved in improving and protecting water quality in your watershed:

  • Start or join a watershed improvement and protection group
  • Organize a river, stream or lake clean-up event
  • Get trained as an IOWATER volunteer
  • Get school kids, churches, civic organizations involved in education, projects and programs
  • Talk with policymakers about your support for watershed funding and programs – City Councils, County Supervisors, Legislators and others
  • Write letters to the editor of  your local newspaper about what good water quality means to you
  • Talk with family and friends about the importance of clean water

We must work together to protect clean water in Iowa for our families and future generations. Everyone has an impact on the water and we are all responsible for making a difference. Water is worth it.

To learn more about the Clean Water Act, visit:

Posted by: Linda Kinman No Comments
Labels: , , , , , Posted in Environment, Source Water, Water Quality October 16, 2012

Manure Application to Soybeans

Des Moines Water Work’s primary water sources are the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers. Land use in the Raccoon and Des Moines River Watersheds is overwhelmingly agricultural. About 1.7 million of the 2.3 million acres in the Raccoon watershed is cultivated for corn and soybeans. Land covered by perennial vegetation is nearly non-existent outside urban areas. Much of the corn-soybean system requires constructed drainage (agricultural tile drainage) to maximize yields. Manure and commercial fertilizers applied to crop land are transported during rainfall events as either run-off or discharged to a river through a tile drainage system. All of these factors have resulted in various consequences for water quality and challenges for drinking water utilities.

Today, the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) will meet to discuss whether or not to continue to ban manure application to soybean crops. Manure is a source of nutrients used in combination with or in place of commercial fertilizer.  Nutrients in water are necessary for healthy watersheds; however, in high concentrations they can adversely affect aquatic life and human health. For a drinking water utility, increasing nutrient loads can cause difficult and costly challenges at the source, in the treatment process, and at the tap. Monitoring trends in the Des Moines and Raccoon River since 1974 show the ever-increasing trend of nitrate-nitrogen (a nutrient) loading and concentrations. Without a comprehensive, measurable state nutrient standard and strategy these conditions will be perpetuated.

All waters in Iowa are “public waters and public wealth” of its citizens and is for the beneficial use of all citizens. It is also the policy of the State of Iowa – delegated to the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission – to protect existing water uses and to protect and maintain the physical, biological and chemical integrity of all waters of the state. Making a decision on whether manure should be applied to soybeans is again representative of the piecemeal approach to nutrient management that will not effectively decrease non-point source nutrient contributions to Iowa’s surface and ground water resources.

Des Moines Water Works provided comments to EPC commissioners strongly urging them to take this opportunity to support development of comprehensive nutrient management strategies and standards. Standards that protect Iowa’s water resources, promote economic development, and enhance the quality of life necessary to attract workers and jobs to the state. And most importantly, establish the target so many producers and the public have requested.

It is not Des Moines Water Works’ intent to tell people how to farm or what they can and cannot do on their land. But it is our intent, to rigorously advocate for establishing a comprehensive nutrient strategy, setting numeric nutrient standards, and the aggressive reduction of non-point source nutrient contributions to Iowa’s surface and ground water resources.

Des Moines Water Works and the drinking water industry ensures that the investment the public has made in them results in all Iowans having access to safe drinking water. We believe every Iowan who drinks a glass of water should recognize the importance of our water resources to sustaining life and the critical connection between our water resources and food production, an existence and connection that should occur without degradation of our water resources.

Producers are able to make all the decisions on his or her land, but those decisions are having dramatic consequences that impact others. Integrated solutions on a watershed scale and involvement of all stakeholders in the planning and implementation process is critical to generating change. Whether you live in an urban, rural or something in-between, we are all part of the watershed and whatever we do in our daily lives impacts water quality in the watershed.

Posted by: Linda Kinman No Comments
Labels: , , , , , , Posted in Environment, Source Water, Water Quality October 15, 2012

How a Fire Hydrant Works

October is Fire Prevention Month.  Learn why fire hydrants are so important to fire protection here.

There are nearly 10,000 fire hydrants in the Des Moines Water Works distribution system, and while fire hydrants are a familiar sight, the business end of the hydrant is something that many people will never see.

Like an iceberg, there is actually more of a fire hydrant below the ground than there is above the ground.  That is because fire hydrants must connect to the water main and the water must be controlled far enough below ground to ensure that water in the piping will not freeze.  If water freezes inside a fire hydrant during the winter months, the ice will block the flow of water rendering the hydrant unusable in an emergency situation.

A fire hydrant is basically a pipe with threaded fire hose nozzles at the top (above ground), and a water control valve at the bottom (six feet below ground).  Fire fighters use a special wrench to open the hydrant’s water control valve which allows water to flow up the “pipe” (the barrel of the hydrant) and out the nozzles.  When the hydrant is shut off, any water left in the barrel drains out through specially designed drain openings which only open when the hydrant is not in use.

Bonus: Do you know why the tops or “bonnets” of fire hydrants are painted different colors? Learn here.

Posted by: Ted Corrigan 1 Comment
Labels: , , , , Posted in Customers, Infrastructure October 11, 2012

Wildlife in Water Works Park

Des Moines Water Works Park is approximately 1,500 acres of natural woodlands, prairie and river bottom ground with an abundance of wildlife.  The park, which is nestled in the city limits of Des Moines, and is only a stone’s throw from the downtown area, boasts a variety of wildlife species. Whether one bikes, walks or explores the park on nearly eight miles of bridle trails – they are sure to come across a variety of wildlife.

White-tail deer, turkey, fox and coyotes are a few of the wild animals that can be found in the park.  Look in the tree tops and you will find hawks, ravens, various birds and even bald eagles.   With acres of water within the ponds and Raccoon River, park patrons will find dozens of different species of waterfowl as well.  Hundreds of ducks and geese call Water Works Park home and can be seen nesting on the banks and diving for food; however, we encourage park visitors to not feed them, so that they do not lose their natural ability to determine a predator threat.

Water Works Park is truly a nature lover’s destination and fall is the perfect time to enjoy it.  What wildlife have you discovered?  Water Works Park hours are 6:00 am-9:00 pm.

Posted by: Scott Atzen No Comments
Labels: , , , Posted in Parks October 8, 2012

Fire Hydrant Importance

October is Fire Prevention Month.  Des Moines Water Works collaborates with City of Des Moines Fire Department and other communities’ fire departments to properly maintain fire hydrants.

There are more than 10,000 hydrants in the Des Moines Water Works distribution system, and while fire hydrants are a familiar sight, we should all be aware of the importance of each hydrant to the community – not only for firefighting, but also for operation and maintenance of the water system.

Because they are so important, the fire hydrants in Des Moines Water Works distribution system receive a lot of attention.  Each public fire hydrant receives regular maintenance on a three-year rotating schedule. In addition, each year in the fall, every fire hydrant is inspected to ensure it is not holding water that could freeze and to confirm that it has not been hit by vehicles or damaged in some other way.  Most hydrants in the system are designed to break away if they are hit by a vehicle.  This reduces damage to the vehicle and the hydrant and allows the hydrant to be returned to service quickly.

Des Moines Water Works is responsible for maintenance of the fire hydrants that fire fighters use to protect our community. Help the local fire department and Des Moines Water Works by following these simple tips to keep fire hydrants working properly and accessible when they are needed:

  • Keep cars, bikes, toys and other objects away from fire hydrants at all times.
  • During winter months, shovel snow away from fire hydrants.
  • Mow and trim grass or weeds around fire hydrants near your property.
  • Do not plant flowers or shrubs around fire hydrants.
  • Do not paint fire hydrants – the color of the fire hydrant is indicative of water flow available for fire protection.

Unauthorized use of a hydrant can cause significant damage to the distribution system, the hydrant and your home or business plumbing.  Additionally, it may cause damage to our water supply. Any unauthorized use of a fire hydrant may result in a $1,500 fine and misdemeanor charges.

If you notice a damaged fire hydrant or witness suspicious activity near a fire hydrant, please call Des Moines Water Works at (515) 283-8700.  Your call is important to the fire protection of your home, business and others around you.

Tip: Do you know why the tops or “bonnets” of fire hydrants are painted different colors? Learn here.

Posted by: Ted Corrigan 4 Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in About Us, Customer Service, Infrastructure October 1, 2012

A Day in the Life of: Water Production Laborer

Meet Joe.  Joe is a Water Production Laborer for Des Moines Water Works.  He says a day in the life of a water production laborer is anything but boring.

From fall to spring, you will find Joe and other laborers in the underground water basins.  Here, he drains the four million gallons of water each basin holds and hoses down everything so that it is clean to work in.  He then makes any necessary repairs and continues with preventive maintenance after that.  The basin crew then fills it back up with water and move on to the next basin.

In the late spring and summer months, Joe is out of the basins for the season.  Water production laborers then assist maintenance mechanics and utility mechanics on many different projects at all the different sites Des Moines Water Works manages.  This can be quite diverse.  One day you may be hanging from a crane hook lowered 30 feet underground and the next day you could be helping install new sleeves and bearings on a 21,000 GPM pump.  Along with variety of task, the position also requires working at various sites, such as the Fleur Drive, L.D. McMullen or Saylorville Water Treatment Plants.

Joe says, “I am able to do a multitude of different things at many different sites around the Des Moines metro area.   Being a Water Production Laborer has also provided me with the opportunity to learn new skills.  That is why I have enjoyed my career in water at Des Moines Water Works.”

Posted by: Terilee H. Clark No Comments
Labels: , , , , , Posted in About Us, Employees