Archive for May, 2016

May 23, 2016

Travel the Water Treatment Process

Many Des Moines metro area residents turn on the tap without thinking about where their water came from, how  it got there and who made it safe to drink. Whether you are 8 or 98 or anywhere in between, it is important to understand the multi-barrier approach that provides you with a vital public health product. Travel along the Des Moines Water Works’ water treatment process in a two-part video series that explains the many steps taken from river to tap, and the importance to Think Downstream.

To view the videos, visit

Posted by: Laura Sarcone 1 Comment
Labels: , , , , , , Posted in About Us, Source Water, Water Quality, Water Treatment May 12, 2016

2016 Consumer Confidence Report

woman with glass of waterDes Moines Water Works is committed to delivering safe, affordable and abundant drinking water to our customers.  Safe drinking water is treated water that has been tested for harmful and potentially harmful substances and has met or exceeded drinking water quality standards set by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the State of Iowa.  The EPA sets drinking water standards to define the limits of contaminants considered safe for drinking water. These levels are based on studies of the health effects associated with each contaminant and include a sufficient safety margin to ensure that water meeting these standards is safe for nearly everyone to drink.  The Consumer Confidence Report is an annual water quality report that helps customers understand the quality and safety of tap water provided by Des Moines Water Works. The current Consumer Confidence Report is now available at:  If you would like a printed copy of the Consumer Confidence Report mailed to you or have any questions about your drinking water, please contact a Customer Service Representative at (515) 283-8700.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone 2 Comments
Labels: , , , Posted in Water Quality May 9, 2016

Natural Denitrification Wetland Pilot Project

During 2015, Des Moines Water Works operated the Nitrate Removal Facility for a record-setting 177 days, eclipsing the previous record of 106 days set in 1999. The Nitrate Removal Facility is used to reduce source water nitrate concentrations to below 10 mg/L, a level established by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for our 500,000 central Iowa customers.

Des Moines Water Works has been working with a consultant to evaluate nitrate trends in the raw water sources. These trends indicate that nitrate concentrations will continually increase without regulation upstream, reaching levels where the existing Nitrate Removal Facility will be unable to provide sufficient removal to meet the EPA’s drinking water standards.

In an attempt to evaluate alternative nitrate removal technologies, Des Moines Water Works is constructing a pilot wetland in 2016. This pilot project will be a one acre surface flow wetland located in Water Works Park. The pilot will be used to test the efficiency of nitrate removal through natural processes. Testing of the pilot will help staff understand how a full scale wetland would react to changes in temperature and flood events, along with any other water quality concerns.

Pilot wetland under construction in Water Works Park

In late April, DMWW staff planted 20,000 cattails and bulrush plants in the pilot wetland area.

If successful, Des Moines Water Works will consider converting a large portion (up to 80-acres) of Water Works Park into constructed wetlands, with the goal of providing natural denitrification, and ultimately protecting the health of our customers.

The consultant is also recommending several nitrate removal measures, including expansion of the current ion exchange denitrification facility. The funds needed for nitrate mitigation in the recently announced five year capital improvement plan total $70 million. An additional $10 million will be needed beyond the five year outlook, for a total of $80 million in infrastructure investments in order to meet the safe drinking water standard for nitrate.


Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , , , , Posted in Parks, Source Water, Water Quality May 5, 2016

What do I Need to Know about the Risks of Lead in Drinking Water?

How does lead get into drinking water?

  • Generally, finished drinking water contains no lead.
  • Lead may be present in piping and plumbing fixtures found in customers’ homes.
  • If drinking water is corrosive, it can corrode customers’ lead service lines and plumbing fixtures, which can result in elevated lead levels in drinking water.
  • Homes constructed before 1950 may be served by a lead water service line. Copper pipe installed before 1985 may have been installed using lead-containing solder.
  • To see if your property is in a Des Moines or Polk County neighborhood that has the greatest potential for a lead service line, view the Potential Lead Service Lines in Des Moines map.

What are the health effects of lead in drinking water?

  • Customers who drink water with elevated lead levels can suffer long term health impacts including damage to the liver, kidneys, or even the brain.
  • Mental development issues are a significant concern for children exposed to lead contamination.
  • In 1991, the Environmental Protection Agency published a regulation to control lead and copper in drinking water. The rule is part of the Safe Water Drinking Act, and it requires water systems to monitor drinking water at customer taps.  If lead concentrations exceed the Action Level of 0.015 mg/L (or 15 parts per billion) in more than 10 percent of taps, the system must complete additional actions to control the corrosion.

What is Des Moines Water Works doing to control elevated lead levels?

  • Des Moines Water Works treats the drinking water to ensure it is not corrosive.
  • Corrosion control is an important part of Des Moines Water Works’ treatment process.  By carefully managing the chemistry of our drinking water, Des Moines Water Works ensures the water is not corrosive.
  • A number of factors impact how corrosive treated drinking water will be.  These factors include the total amount of dissolved minerals in the water (calcium and magnesium), alkalinity, temperature, and pH.
  • Each day, samples are analyzed to ensure Des Moines Water Works’ treatment for corrosion control remains effective.

Could what happened in Flint, Michigan happen in Des Moines?

  • Des Moines Water Works is paying close attention to what unfolded in Flint, Michigan.  In North America, no one should have to question the safety of water at the tap.  Flint underscores that Des Moines Water Works’ first job is to protect the families we serve. Those of us involved in managing, cleaning and delivering water share an obligation to protect public health.
  • We do not have first-hand knowledge about what occurred in Flint, but this much seems clear: When Flint switched its water supply source, the new water caused lead to leach from service lines and home plumbing – lead that ended up in water coming out of the taps.
  •  This kind of incident is unlikely here because Des Moines Water Works monitors water quality parameters on a daily or even hourly basis to ensure the drinking water we produce will not be corrosive.  Des Moines Water Works also follows a written Lead and Copper Sampling Plan.  This plan helps ensure we stay in compliance with the requirements of the Lead and Copper Rule.
  • Des Moines Water Works tests for lead and copper contamination by asking customers with specific types of plumbing to collect samples in their homes.
  • These results are published annually in Des Moines Water Works’ Consumer Confidence Report, which describes the regulatory requirements Des Moines Water Works must meet or exceed.
  • Des Moines Water Works continues to be in compliance with Lead and Copper Rule requirements.
  • Supplying approximately 500,000 central Iowans with safe, affordable and abundant drinking water is Des Moines Water Works’ mission. Water plays a key role in your health and Des Moines Water Works plays a key role in providing water you can trust for life.

What can you do to limit exposure to elevated levels of lead?

  • Use only water from the cold tap for drinking, cooking, or preparing baby formula.
  • Flush the tap for two to four minutes before using water for drinking or cooking when no water has been used for several hours. Showering, washing dishes, or doing laundry can be effective ways to flush household plumbing before water is used for drinking or cooking.
  • While in-home water treatment devices such as softeners or filtration systems are not necessary in Des Moines, if such in-home treatment devices are used, they must be properly operated and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations.  Improperly operated in-home treatment devices can increase the potential for water to become corrosive.

Where can I find more information?

  • To see if your property is in a Des Moines or Polk County neighborhood that has the greatest potential for a lead service line, view the Potential Lead Service Lines in Des Moines map.
  • If you are concerned about lead in your water, you may wish to have your water tested. Please contact Des Moines Water Works at 283-8700 to learn if you are eligible for a complimentary lead test.  If you are not eligible for a free test but still wish to have your water tested, a $18 fee will apply.
  • Visit EPA’s lead information website:
Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in Customer Service, Water Quality, Water Treatment