Archive for December, 2012

December 27, 2012

What are all the Charges on my Billing Statement?

When you look at your monthly billing statement from Des Moines Water Works (DMWW), you may notice there are several charges detailed on your statement that aren’t for water.  The City of Des Moines and other communities directly served by Des Moines Water Works contract with DMWW to provide billing services for important services those communities provide.  Below is a summary of what you may see on your statement:

Water – The current water charges are just that – the amount of water used in the billing period times the water rate.   Our meters in most service areas register in cubic feet, which is a little more difficult to “imagine” than gallons.  There are about 7.5 gallons in one cubic foot.  If you want to know how many gallons you used, multiply your water usage shown near the bottom of your statement (in cubic feet) by 7.5.  For example, if your statement shows you used 700 cubic feet, you used about 5,250 gallons of water.   In the City of Des Moines, you pay about the same price for 1,000 gallons of water as you do for one gallon of milk!  And the water is delivered straight to your tap – you don’t have to run to the store!

Water Availability – Water availability is a flat monthly fee, regardless of the amount of water you use.  Water availability covers fixed costs that don’t vary by the amount of water you use – things like reading your meter and generating monthly statement, having customer service available to answer questions, etc.

Sewer – Like the water charge, sewer charges are also based on the amount of water consumed, but using a separate sewer rate.  In households, water from your faucets goes down your drain, therefore you are benefiting from the sewer system.  This waste water must be treated prior to being placed back in the rivers, and your sewer rate covers the costs to collect, transport and treat your waste water.

Sewer Customer Service Charge – This charge is similar to the water availability charge for water and covers fixed costs related to sewer service.

Solid Waste and Curb It – This is a flat monthly fee for garbage removal and recycling pick up if municipal pick up is provided.  These fees are not optional, even if you do not recycle, for example.  The fee is based on the number of containers at your property.

Stormwater – Most communities are served by a stormwater system – drains in the street that collect rain water run-off and allow you to navigate safely around town.  Everyone shares in paying for this service if your community has a stormwater utility.  Because pavement causes run-off, stormwater charges are higher the more pavement you have.  Stormwater charges are a flat monthly fee, generally based on the size of your lot, driveway, and buildings.

Rates for these services vary by service area and can be found at  If you have any questions about your billing statement, please call (515) 283-8760 between 7:30 am and 5:30 pm, Monday through Friday to speak with a Customer Service Representative.

Posted by: Cory Waddell No Comments
Labels: , , , Posted in Customer Service, Customers December 21, 2012

Preventing Frozen Pipes

Winter weather brings the threat of frozen pipes. If your power goes out due to downed power lines, there is no need to immediately worry. In most cases, a home will retain enough heat for three to five hours. It may get cold; however, as long as the temperature remains above 55ºF in your home, the pipes should not freeze.

If power is not expected to be restored within five hours, the following tips will help prevent your pipes from freezing:

  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing.
  • Let cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe – even at a trickle – helps prevent pipes from freezing because the temperature of the water running through it is above freezing.

If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. To safely and effectively thaw frozen water pipes, you must first diagnose where the pipe is frozen.

  • Start by turning on every faucet in the house, including the bathtub faucets. This will help you determine the area of the blockage. If the water in the kitchen sink is frozen but the water in the bathroom sink works, then you are probably dealing with an isolated problem. Once you have figured out which faucet contains the frozen line, turn off all other faucets.
  • Locate the main water shut-off valve, which could be located in the basement. It is important to shut off the water prior to thawing the pipes as a pipe may already have broken under the extreme pressure caused by the frozen line.
  • Now that the water is turned off, you have a few options to thaw the pipe. One is to use towels soaked in hot water. Wrap the frozen pipe with hot, wet towels and pour on additional hot water until the pipe has completely thawed. If the hot towel approach won’t work, a hair dryer or heat gun may be the next solution. Turn on the dryer or heat gun and work up and down the length of the frozen line. Once the water starts to thaw and trickle out of the faucet, if you are sure the blockage hasn’t caused a broken pipe, you can turn the main water supply back on. Keep working with the heat source and keep the water faucet turned on until full water pressure is restored.

If every faucet in the house is frozen, you are probably dealing with a frozen main water line that supplies water to the house. Turn on all faucets in the sinks and bathtub and turn off the main water supply. Follow the suggestions above but apply the heat directly to the pipe that enters the house.

Never use a heat source with an open flame, such as a blowtorch or propane heater, to thaw a frozen water line as an open flame in a home can present a serious fire hazard as well as the possibility of exposure to carbon monoxide poisoning. Also, excessive heat from a blowtorch applied to a frozen pipe can cause the water inside the pipe to boil and possibly explode.

If your pipes have frozen once, chances are they will freeze again. Before the onset of cold weather, prevent freezing of your water supply lines and pipes by following these recommendations:

  • Drain water from swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines following manufacturer’s or installer’s directions.
  • Remove, drain, and store hoses used outdoors. Close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs. Open the outside hose bibs to allow water to drain. Keep the outside valve open so that any water remaining in the pipe can expand without cause the pipe to break.
  • Wrap outside water pipes or water pipes located under the house or crawl spaces with an insulation material such as newspaper or electric heat tape taking special care to cover all elbow joints, valve bodies, tees and any other fittings.
  • If you are going on vacation during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55ºF.

Sources: American Red Cross,

Posted by: Laura Sarcone 1 Comment
Labels: , , , , , Posted in Customer Service, Customers December 20, 2012

Holiday Tip: Don’t Give the Gift of Grease

The holidays are busy, but that’s no reason to put extra stress on your septic system. Sending cooking grease, paper towels and coffee grounds down the drain can be a harmful holiday present for our sewer infrastructure, and for your plumbing at home as well.  These simple steps can help put grease in its proper place:

  • Collect cooled cooking oil, poultry and meat fats in sealed containers and discard with your regular garbage.
  • Dishes and pots coated with greasy leftovers should be wiped or scraped clean into the trash can prior to washing or placing in the dishwasher. Scrape, don’t rinse!
  • Place fat trimmings from meat in a plastic bag and discard them with your trash, rather than dumping down the garbage disposal.
  • Never pour grease down the drain – place cooled grease and oils in a sealed container and dispose of it with your garbage.
  • Other materials that cause trouble in sewer lines include ‘flushable wipes,’ kitty litter, plastic/cardboard feminine hygiene applicators, disposable diapers, prophylactics and personal care products, and cigarette butts.

For more information on Des Moines metro area’s wastewater operations, visit Des Moines Metropolitan Wastewater Reclamation Authority.

More holiday tips:

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , , , Posted in Customer Service, Customers, Environment December 19, 2012

Holiday Tip: Hand Washing vs. Dishwasher

Washing dishes by hand is a chore most people dislike, especially when the dishes pile up after a delicious holiday meal.  The good news is washing dishes in a dishwasher is more economical, saves energy, saves water and saves time.

Even older models of dishwashers use less water (15 gallons) than the average American who washes dishes by hand (20 gallons).  Since 2009, Energy Star models have proven to be even greater water savers, using only about 6 gallons of water.  Hand-washing costs about $430 more in energy and water than an Energy Star dishwasher per year. Using a dishwasher rather than hand-washing can save about 5,000 gallons of water per year.

Dishwashers can easily achieve the recommended level of 140 degrees or higher for proper disinfection, whereas hand-washing cannot.  And since our time is so precious around the holidays – dishwashers save over 230 hours a year – that’s almost 10 days!

If you want to save even more in energy costs, open the door and let dishes air dry during the drying cycle. Use water wisely with your dishwasher by making sure it is full before you run it.

More holiday tips:

Posted by: Gail Peckumn 3 Comments
Labels: , , , , , Posted in Customer Service, Customers, Environment December 18, 2012

Holiday Tip: Best Disposal Options for Leftover Holiday Food

Question:  Am I better off feeding my leftover mashed potatoes into the garbage disposal, so they don’t end up in a landfill or should I throw them in the trash can, so they don’t end up the water supply?

Royce Hammitt, Operations & Maintenance Manager at Des Moines Metropolitan Wastewater Reclamation Authority, explains options for disposal of your leftover holiday feast, from best for the environment to the worst.

Source Reduction/Prevention
Prevent food waste before it is created.

Feeding People
Donate fresh, wholesome food to those in need.

Feeding Animals
Feed safe, fresh food scraps to animals.

Turn food waste into a valuable soil amendment utilizing a backyard composter.

Sewer Disposal vs. Landfill
Food waste contains fats, oil, and grease which can coat and block sewers leading to sewer overflows. Sending food waste to landfills may produce methane gas, a potent greenhouse gas which can escape to the atmosphere.  Fortunately, Metro Waste Authority captures methane and utilizes it to produce green electricity.

More holiday tips:

Posted by: Laura Sarcone 1 Comment
Labels: , , , , , Posted in Customer Service, Customers, Environment December 14, 2012

Protecting What Really Matters

View this important video about Des Moines Water Works’ locate program, water infrastructure and treatment process.

Video produced by Iowa One Call.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in About Us, Customer Service, Customers, Water Treatment December 12, 2012

Jolly Holiday Lights in Water Works Park

Light Up a Child’s Life!  Make-A-Wish Iowa’s Jolly Holiday Lights, presented by Hy-Vee, a can’t miss family tradition at the holidays!  The three-and-a-half mile route of holiday light displays is located in the scenic Water Works ParkDes Moines Water Works is a proud sponsor of this annual holiday tradition. Visit the beautiful light display 5:30-10:00 pm everyday through January 1.

Jolly Holiday Lights is Make-a-Wish Foundation of Iowa’s biggest fundraiser, and typically raises enough money to grant the wishes of about 30 of Iowa’s children living with a life-threatening medical condition.


  • Cars:     $10 ($5 Monday for Hy-Vee Value Nights!)
  • Limos:   $20
  • Buses:   $45

Santa’s Wish Shop – complete with snacks, Santa and gifts – is open 5:30-9:00 Sunday through Thursday and 5:30-10:00 Friday and Saturday. Santa’s Wish Shop will close December 23, to allow Santa time to deliver his gifts!

Posted by: Laura Sarcone 2 Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in Parks December 10, 2012

Healthy Watersheds Support Healthy Economies

Maintaining the integrity of our watersheds provides economic benefits through ecosystem services. Degradation of stream banks, aquatic species and the natural course of water can cause negative economic impacts locally and far from the altered site.

Protecting Healthy Watersheds:

  • Lowers drinking water treatment costs
  • Avoids expensive restoration activities
  • Sustains revenue generating recreational and tourism opportunities
  • Minimizes vulnerability and damage from natural disasters
  • Provides critical natural system services at a fraction of the cost for engineered services
  • Increases property value
  • Supports millions of jobs nationwide
  • Ensures we leave a foundation for a vibrant economy for generations to come

We cannot afford not to protect our watersheds. For more information on healthy watersheds visit Healthy Watersheds at US Environmental Protection Agency –

Posted by: Linda Kinman No Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in Customer Service, Customers, Environment December 5, 2012

Landlord Frequently Asked Questions

Des Moines Water Works recognizes that as a landlord, you have unique customer needs. Here is more information on frequently asked questions.


There is nobody living in my property and water service is off.  Why am I receiving a bill in my name?

Although services are not being actively used, some services are still available to the property.  City of Des Moines ordinance requires all property owners to be billed for non-metered charges (i.e., sewer customer service charge, storm water, solid waste) even if there is no water service to the property.  If there is a meter at the property, DMWW also charges a flat monthly water availability fee.  None of these charges are based on the amount of water consumed.  If the property is vacant for more than 60 days, the City of Des Moines will request that DMWW open an account in the owner’s name and the owner will be responsible for all charges (see copy of Authority to Charge enclosed).

My tenant has moved out, and I just discovered they left a balance for which I’m responsible.  Why?

Iowa Code 384.84 (copy enclosed) places some responsibility on the landlord for paying utility charges.  Unless you have requested Lien Exemption by completing the Owner Form, you will be held responsible for delinquent, unpaid charges left by your tenant.  These charges are usually the result of an unpaid final bill, but in some cases, may be more significant.  Reasons the amount could be higher than one month’s bill include:

  • additional fees placed on the account due to termination fees or unauthorized
  • use of water while in the tenant’s name
  • a broken pay agreement
  • a leak at the property

Des Moines Water Works charges tenants up to $175 deposit that is applied to their final bill. They are billed deposits for the following services: Water $60, Sewer $65.74,     Solid Waste $36, Storm Water $13.26.

To avoid being held responsible for tenants’ delinquent, unpaid bills, complete the Owner Form for each tenant within 30 business days of them moving into your property.

What happens if I don’t complete the owner form the same each time?

The current form that is received will override all other forms on file for that address, and DMWW will update our records to reflect your latest request.  Please make sure you are checking the appropriate boxes each time.

If I request Change of Account (Owner Responsible) to automatically put water in my name when the tenant finals, how do I know when the tenant has left and water is now in my name?

DMWW automatically sends notification to the owner on record when an account is finaled.  You can also call 515.283.8700 to check with Customer Service.  You will receive a bill each month service is in your name.

When a tenant finals their account and water is turned off, how do I get water turned back on?

Please call Customer Service one business day prior to when you are requesting water to be turned on.  DMWW requires that someone be at the property when they turn the water on.  You can prevent your water service from being turned off by selecting Change of Account (Owner Responsible) on the owner form.  With this selection, water will remain on and the account will automatically transfer to your name when the tenant finals.

How do I know you received my owner form?

Most forms are received and processed within 10 business days, and a confirmation letter is sent to you letting you know your form has been received and our records have been updated.  If you don’t receive anything within 20 business days, please call 515.283.8700 to verify that we received the form.  This will allow enough time to get a new form sent in if the original was not received.

Why is the water lien exemption not valid on some properties?

Iowa law (Section 384.84 of the Iowa Code) states property must be a residential and separately metered rental property occupied by a tenant.  A commercial property does not qualify.  Iowa law states the request for lien exemption must be submitted within 30 business days of a new tenant, or within 30 business days of a change in ownership.

DMWW requires that the tenant name provided on the form matches the customer that signed up for water service.

How do I submit the owner form?

We have several different options.  Choose the method most convenient for you!

  • Email:      [email protected]
  • Fax:         515.283.8778
  • Mailed or dropped off toDes Moines Water Works at 2201 George Flagg Parkway,  Des Moines, IA  50321
Posted by: Michelle Snell No Comments
Labels: , , , Posted in Customer Service