Archive for June, 2014

June 27, 2014

What’s that Foam on the River?

With recent, heavy rains, all eyes are on the metro area’s rivers. With the water so high and visible, you may have recently noticed the foam floating on top of the Raccoon River. It may look like there was an upstream truck spill carrying dish detergent, but in fact, it is not soap causing the foam you are seeing on the river.

Detergents can produce foam, but usually the foam caused by detergents is white. The light tan foam recently seen in the Raccoon River typically occurs when decaying organic matter enters the water or is washed into the rivers and streams and begins to decay.  This forms soap-like molecules that are attracted to water on one end and oily substances on the other end.  The attraction of these substances to water reduces the surface tension on water.  Surface tension of water creates the “skin” on the surface of water that allows water strider insects to skate across the surface of the water and not sink.  When this skin becomes weaker, wind and turbulent water can easily break this skin.  The soap-like molecules (surfactants) hold onto fats and oils on one side and water on the other with air trapped inside.  The stronger the soap and water layer, the larger and more stable the bubbles.  Eventually, bacteria break down these substances so they can no longer form bubbles.

DSC_2835When living things die and decay, cells breakup.  This occurs in the alimentary tract (the tubular passage extending from the mouth to the anus, through which food is passed and digested) of animals and is eliminated with the fecal matter. Therefore, a high concentration of this waste contributes to the formation of the foam you are seeing on the Raccoon River right now.  This can come from poorly operated waste treatment facilities and untreated animal waste.

Testing at Des Moines Water Works’ laboratory shows low phosphorus concentrations, indicating the foam to be from the decay of natural vegetation and waste products, rather than from direct human activity. Des Moines Water Works monitors its source waters daily for contaminants to determine which source to use and how to best treat the water in order to provide safe and clean drinking water to its customers.

Posted by: Gordon Brand No Comments
Labels: , , , , , Posted in Source Water, Water Quality June 25, 2014

Listening to the Voice of the Customer

Des Moines Water Works is committed to delivering exceptional service to its customers. As part of this commitment, we want to ensure customers receive superior customer service and support.


This past spring, Des Moines Water Works retained Essman/Research, an independent market research company in Des Moines, to conduct 400 random telephone surveys with Des Moines Water Works residential customers. The 2014 “Voice of the Customer” survey was conducted to assess current perceptions of Des Moines Water Works, specifically perceptions of customer service and the value of water service. And the survey says…

Overall, customers continue to be satisfied with Des Moines Water Works. Of the 400 respondents:

  • 85% agree Des Moines Water Works is a well-run water utility.
  • 83% agree Des Moines Water Works has an overall positive presence in the community.
  • 76% of respondents agree Des Moines Water Works is a financially responsible entity.

Among a list of six governmental and business services, Des Moines Water Works led the pack with an 89% satisfaction rating and a mean score of 4.3 (out of 5.0), ratings higher than any other service provider.

Perhaps most notably, Des Moines Water Works saw increases in customer satisfaction (over comparable surveys in 2010 and 2006) with water main outages, with an overall satisfaction score of 4.6 (out of 5.0). Des Moines Water Works has worked to improve communication for water outages in recent months, and is committed to continuing to improve notification processes through an automated notification system to better inform and lessen inconvenience to our customers.

Among the surveyed customers who had contacted Des Moines Water Works Customer Service in the last 12 months, just under 80% reported being highly-satisfied or satisfied with the overall customer service provided by Des Moines Water Works, and 83% reported that their question was answered or resolved on the first call. When a field visit to a customer’s property was appropriate, 91% of customers reported the service issue was resolved on the first visit.

Among the survey respondents, Des Moines Water Works scored 75% in satisfaction with water safety and 73% in satisfaction with water quality. Recent taste and odor incidences are likely reflected in these scores, as source water quality issues affecting the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers, DMWW’s two primary water sources, continue to challenge production operations.

The full Voice of the Customer survey results can be found at Des Moines Water Works values every survey response and will use the results and recommendations to guide the utility to achieve increased customer satisfaction in delivering Water you Can Trust for Life.

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