Archive for September, 2016

September 20, 2016

Water Quality Concerns: More than Nitrate

Like high nitrate concentration in the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers, another agrotoxin from excess nutrients from intensive agricultural production upstream is threatening central Iowa drinking water sources.

Cyanobacteria, commonly referred to as blue-green algae, grow and multiply quickly where there are high nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus). Certain forms of blue-green algae can also produce toxins that can make humans and animals sick.  When cyanobacteria counts rise, there is greater potential for the presence of cyanotoxins, which raise health concerns related to the liver, nervous system and gastrointestinal system.

Microcystin is the cyanotoxin found in the finished drinking water of Toledo, Ohio, in 2014, that prompted the city to issue a “Do Not Drink” order for its 500,000 customers.  The cyanotoxin was released by a cyanobacteria bloom in Lake Erie at the time, near the city’s water intake system.

Much like Toledo, Des Moines Water Works uses surface water to produce drinking water for 500,000 central Iowa customers.

DSC_1437Des Moines Water Works recently began a more aggressive testing regimen for the presence of harmful cyanotoxins when elevated cyanobacteria levels are present in raw water sources.  While many water utilities do not have equipment to test for these toxins, Des Moines Water Works recently invested in instrumentation that allows staff to monitor for microcystin and cylindrospermospin, per U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommendations, as well as two additional known cyanotoxins – anatoxin and saxitoxin.  Des Moines Water Works now routinely samples three times per week during the warmer months of the year, and more frequently when necessary.

Des Moines Water Works’ treatment process has limited ability to thoroughly remove these toxins from finished water; however, the ability to avoid the river source with the greatest amount of toxins remains the single most effective strategy to protect customers. Des Moines Water Works must remain nimble to the emerging science and public health considerations of these toxins.  Staff from Des Moines Water Works is working with state regulators from Iowa Department of Natural Resources and public health and emergency management personnel, to communicate health advisories if microcystin or cylindrospermospin are detected in the finished drinking water, as prescribed by EPA.

Des Moines Water Works is committed to delivering safe, affordable and abundant drinking water to its customers. Finished drinking water continues to meet or exceed drinking water quality standards; however, it is increasingly challenging.  Des Moines Water Works remains advocates for a holistic approach for addressing water quality in Iowa, including promoting precision conservation practices to reduce excess nutrients, E. Coli, eroded soil, and emerging contaminants – much of which can be attributable to agricultural production.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone 2 Comments
Labels: , , , , , , Posted in Source Water, Water Quality, Water Treatment September 13, 2016

Water Works Park Plans and Progress

In 1925, the Board of Water Works Trustees purchased 334 acres of land south of the Raccoon River, west of S.W. 30th Street. General Manager Charles Denman stated that the newly acquired land would insure a potential water supply large enough for a city twice the size of Des Moines. Gradually, additional land (now known as Water Works Park) bordering the Raccoon River on both sides, extending to 63rd Street was purchased to protect the source water. In April of 1933, Water Works Park was opened to the public. At that time, the water supply grounds covered 1,400 acres. Today, Water Works Park now spans 1,500 acres.

In 2013, the Des Moines Water Works Park Foundation was formed and charged with implementing the master plan for Water Works Park. The Park Foundation recently announced it has gone over the $5 million mark in pledges for the planned $9 million first phase of Water Works Park improvements.

It should be noted that the funds being raised to implement the master plan by the Foundation are from private sources and do not come from Des Moines Water Works ratepayers.

RDg_Waterworks_7 - skylineThe focus of the first phase is to create a destination platform for individuals’ and groups’ daily use and self-programming. The Park Foundation hopes to enhance Water Works Park users’ experience by developing a two-way amphitheater, the great lawn, a celebration lawn, natural play areas, and a series of pathways that lead to different experiences in and around the existing Arie den Boer Arboretum. The new elements are being designed to be both flood resilient and located on the highest ground in the park, which historically only floods during 100 year flood events.

The goal of the master plan is to introduce visitors to Water Works Park’s many assets through better wayfinding; support systems such as parking, bathrooms and food trucks; and safe connections to neighboring Gray’s Lake Park and the many regional trail systems. This will make Water Works Park more accessible for users across all spectrums of age, ability and interest – all while telling the history and importance of water in the greater Des Moines metro area.

“This plan offers something for everyone,” said Randy Reichardt, President of the Park Foundation Board. “It’s free, accessible and in the middle of the city. The project brings to life an under-utilized resource that will help elevate the quality of life for anyone who comes in contact with this amazing park.”

The Park Foundation believes that by enhancing the connectivity of this urban green space to the rest of the city, it encourages
activity and experiences for recreation and health, education and conservation, which serve as the guiding principles for the Park Foundation. Its proximity to Gray’s Lake, downtown Des Moines, and several neighborhoods expands usable urban green space for area workers and the growing number of downtown area residents, alleviating the overcrowding of adjoining 170-acre Gray’s Lake Park.

Water Works Park is owned and operated by Des Moines Water Works, and at 1,500 acres, it is one of the largest urban park in the country and about twice the size of New York City’s Central Park. The Des Moines Water Works Park Foundation is a separate entity, a Private Non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, charged with implementing the Water Works Park master plan through phasing, fundraising and enhanced programming to encourage more purposeful interaction with Water Works Park and the story of clean water.

For more information, visit Des Moines Water Works Park Foundation’s website: or follow on Facebook and Twitter.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone 1 Comment
Labels: , , , , Posted in Parks September 9, 2016

Central Iowa Drinking Water Cooperation

Des Moines Water Works has a long history of providing the Des Moines metro area with safe, affordable and abundant drinking water. The utility’s regional approach began as early as 1934, when Urbandale began receiving water from Des Moines Water Works because their wells were going dry and water was being rationed. Since then, most suburban communities have connected to Des Moines Water Works, and Des Moines Water Works remains committed to continuing to be a regional water provider that meets the growing needs of our area.

New CIRDWC LogoWith the assistance of 22 members of the Central Iowa Regional Drinking Water Commission, Des Moines Water Works has begun a long range plan to evaluate the Des Moines metro area’s water needs and supply, treatment and distribution capabilities through 2035. This work is important so Des Moines Water Works is able to provide water to growing communities when and where it is needed over the next 20 years.

Des Moines Water Works values our relationship with metro area communities and believes Des Moines and suburban customers alike have benefited from a long standing and strong working relationship. A regional approach provides economies of scale and encourages collaboration in jointly constructed assets and facilities, including treatment plants, storage facilities, and pumping stations. Additionally, a regional approach promotes economic development in the metro area, as communities work together to provide a reliable and adequate water supply to new industries and customers with a heavy reliance on water service.

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