Archive for May, 2015

May 19, 2015

LAUNCH Your Summer at Water Works Park

LAUNCH_logo_CMYKThe public is invited to LAUNCH, a new, annual and FREE event aimed at drawing new and current users into Water Works Park to explore its many recreational opportunities. Join us at Water Works Park on Saturday, May 30, from 11:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. for multiple activities that engage you in the park, including canoeing, an art installation on the river, music, food trucks and craft beer, bike trail expeditions, soccer clinics, hiking, bike valet and much more.

The event launches two major regional efforts celebrating our rivers: the launch of a regional water trails plan and the implementation of the Water Works Park Master Plan.

The event features a riverside unveiling of a new, temporary public art installation by New York-based artist Mary Mattingly that calls attention to the joy of reconnecting to our waterways. The featured speaker will be Iowa Department of Natural Resources Director Chuck Gipp at 1:00 p.m.

The event is sponsored by Scheels, MidAmerican Energy, and Des Moines Water Works Park Foundation. The public art work is sponsored by Greater Des Moines Public Art Foundation, the Iowa Arts Council and the Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Visit for more details.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , Posted in Parks May 12, 2015

Benefits from Water Works Park’s Urban Forest

Water Works ParkAlthough many of us know Water Works Park as a natural playground for people and animals, the Park’s primary mission is to serve as the first water source for Des Moines Water Works in meeting the drinking water needs of 500,000 central Iowans. To do that, Des Moines Water Works’ forefathers had the insight to acquire land upstream of the Raccoon River to protect its water source. Today, Des Moines Water Works staff maintains a large urban forest that makes up the 1,500 acres of Water Works Park.

Urban forests play an important role in supporting and improving the ecology in urban areas. A tree’s shade and beauty contributes to the community’s quality of life and softens the often hard appearance of streetscapes and urban landscapes. Public trees, when properly maintained, provide economic, environmental, and social benefits, including temperature moderation, reduction of air pollutants, energy conservation, and increased property values.

A recently completed inventory of the urban forest in Water Works Park is the first phase of a multi-year effort led by Tree Des Moines to assess the health of trees along capital city streets and parklands.

The recent assessment, conducted by Davey Resource Group, included trees, stumps and planting sites within the mowed and manicured areas of Water Works Park. Collectively, the trees included in the assessment have an appraised value of $6,227,597, and provide environmental benefits valued at nearly $370,000 a year.

“The results of the Water Works inventory show just how much value trees add to our city and neighborhoods,” said CJ Stephens, president of Tree Des Moines, a volunteer-driven nonprofit dedicated to protecting and expanding the urban forest. “This proves that every dollar we invest in our urban forest is money that comes back to us in so many critically important ways, both economic and environmental.”

The inventory outcomes are important, and implementation of the maintenance recommendations will enhance public safety and the benefits trees provide to the community.

The recently completed tree inventory is a key-planning tool that will help Des Moines Water Works establish a data-driven program for tree care, and aid in more accurately determining budget, staff, and equipment needs.

The partnership with Tree Des Moines also comes at a pivotal time for Water Works Park.

“Through Trees Des Moines’ leadership, Davey Resources performed a professionally assessed and digitized collection of data involving our Parks’ publically enjoyed trees,” Bill Stowe, Des Moines Water Works CEO and General Manager, said. “This asset inventory for a cornerstone of the Water Works Park is particularly timely given our interest in better managing all aspects of Water Works Park, and working with the Des Moines Water Works Park Foundation in realizing the Master Plan to drive Water Works Parks’ future improvements.”

Tree inventories are about more than simply counting trees. As Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie points out.

“The City of Des Moines, along with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and environmental experts at Iowa State University, agree that a tree inventory is essential in moving forward with plan to maximize Des Moines’ tree resources through proper management,” said Cownie.

The assessments provide detailed information about species, health, and maintenance needs, among other information. A tree inventory is also needed to help Des Moines combat current threats to forestry health such as emerald ash borer, oak wilt and bur oak blight. Over the next few years, these threats are expected to significantly reduce Des Moines’ tree canopy, which carries implications for quality of life in the city’s neighborhoods.

“The Water Works Park inventory proves it is worthwhile to keep pushing ahead with plans to inventory city-owned trees in Des Moines,” Stephens said. “Trees are vital green infrastructure, and knowing more about what we have in Des Moines will help us do a much better job of managing the resources well into the future.”

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in Environment, Green Initiatives, Parks May 5, 2015

Clean Water Act Litigation FAQ

Drainage DistrictA major conduit of nitrate pollution in the Raccoon River watershed is the artificial subsurface drainage system infrastructure, such as those created and managed by drainage districts. Des Moines Water Works recently filed a federal complaint against the Boards of Supervisors of Sac County, Buena Vista County, and Calhoun County, in their capacities as trustees of 10 drainage districts, for the discharge of nitrate pollutants into the Raccoon River.

Why is Nitrate Pollution a Problem?

  • Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, Des Moines Water Works is obligated to meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) standards for the maximum contaminate level (MCL) in its finished drinking water. The MCL standard for nitrate is 10 mg/L. The health risks associated with nitrate contamination above MCL include blue baby syndrome and endocrine disruption. In addition to public health risks to drinking water, nitrate pollution also contributes to the hypoxic conditions in public waters, including the Gulf of Mexico’s “Dead Zone.”
  • Des Moines Water Works’ mission is to provide safe, abundant and affordable water to our customers. While Des Moines Water Works has invested millions of dollars in capital infrastructure and has developed strategies to manage high nitrate levels, record nitrate peaks in source waters have threatened and continue to threaten the security of the water supply and the ability of Des Moines Water Works to deliver safe and reliable water, while operating with fiscal discipline.
  • The current denitrification technology is outdated and cannot continue to operate with rising nitrate levels and increased customer demand. Continued high nitrate concentrations will require future capital investments of $76-183 million to remove the pollutant and provide safe drinking water to a growing central Iowa.

Why a Lawsuit?

  • Des Moines Water Works filed a complaint in Federal District Court – Northern District of Iowa, Western Division, on March 16, 2015.
  • The complaint seeks to declare the named drainage districts are “point sources,” not exempt from regulation, and are required to have a permit under federal and Iowa law.
  • The complaint states that the drainage districts have violated and continue to be in violation of the Clean Water Act and Chapter 455B, Code of Iowa, and demands the drainage districts take all necessary actions, including ceasing all discharges of nitrate that are not authorized by an National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.
  • In addition, damages are demanded to Des Moines Waters to compensate for the harm caused by the drainage districts unlawful discharge of nitrate, assess civil penalties, and award litigation costs and reasonable attorney fees to Des Moines Water Works as authorized by law.
  • Des Moines Water Works’ mission is to provide safe, abundant and affordable water to our customers. Des Moines Water Works is fighting for the protection of customers’ right to safe drinking water. Through this legal process, Des Moines Water Works hopes to reduce long-term health risks and unsustainable economic costs to provide safe drinking water to our customers, via permit and regulation of drainage districts as pollutant sources.
  • Continued insistence from state leaders that the voluntary approach of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy is working does not give solace to the 500,000 central Iowans who must now pay to remove pollution from their drinking water.

Why Sac, Buena Vista, and Calhoun Counties?

  • Buena Vista, Calhoun, and Sac Counties are in the Des Moines Lobe. There are hundreds of drainage districts in these three counties. Under Iowa law, drainage districts are responsible for constructing, administering, and maintaining drainage infrastructure. Within each drainage district, a network of pipes and ditches move groundwater and agricultural pollutants quickly into our drinking water sources.
  • Recent water monitoring by Des Moines Water Works at 72 sample sites in Buena Vista, Sac, and Calhoun Counties have shown nitrate levels as high as 39.2 mg/L in groundwater discharged by drainages districts. This is 4 times the federally required Safe Drinking Water regulatory limit of 10 mg/L.
  • Laws require that “point sources” discharging into rivers must have permits under the NPDES.  Because drainage districts transport nitrate pollution through a system of channels and pipes, they should be recognized and held accountable like every other “point source” contributor. NPDES permits have been successful nationwide in controlling pollution caused by industrial waste and sanitary sewer discharge.
Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , , Posted in About Us, Board of Trustees, Public Policy, Source Water, Water Quality