Archive for the ‘Customers’ Category

July 1, 2014

Understanding Your Water Bill

Layout 1_Page 1Your “water bill” from Des Moines Water Works is actually a combined billing statement for water and services provided by the City of Des Moines. Some customers are surprised to learn that Des Moines Water Works is a municipality separate from the City of Des Moines. Des Moines Water Works is governed by a five- member Board of Water Works Trustees, and the City of Des Moines is governed by the City Council. While the Board of Water Works Trustees has oversight for setting policy and rates for water service, the Des Moines City Council has oversight for setting policy and rates for the city services of sanitary sewer, solid waste and storm water, which appear on your Des Moines Water Works bill.

The City of Des Moines (and other local communities served by Des Moines Water Works) contracts with Des Moines Water Works to perform the billing, collecting, and customer service for their municipal services. This collaboration is positive for customers, because it helps reduce redundancies in technologies and staff, and therefore keeps costs lower for customers. It can, however, be confusing. For the average residential customer who opens their water bill, it would be easy to mistakenly think “water” costs around $70.00 per month. In fact, in Des Moines, city services make up about $50.00 or 70% of the “water bill.” The remaining $20.00 per month represents the average customer’s true water charges – a price tag well below other utilities for which customers are paying, including electricity, gas, cable/satellite, cell phone, etc.

The Des Moines Water Works statement you receive each month includes a breakout of all the services for which you are being charged, and each section of the bill reflects whether it is a service provided by Des Moines Water Works or your city. Better understanding your monthly statement can help you better understand Des Moines Water Works’ commitment to delivering tap water that is safe, convenient, and affordable.

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

listen

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 http://www.dmww.com/customer-service/customer-survey. 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 May 30, 2014

2014 Consumer Confidence Report

Des 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 on Des Moines Water Works’ website at http://www.dmww.com/upl/documents/library/2014-ccr.pdf. If you would like a printed copy of the Consumer Confidence Report mailed to you, please contact a Customer Service Representative at (515) 283-8700. If you have any questions about your drinking water, please contact Des Moines Water Works at (515) 283-8700.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in Customers, Source Water, Water Quality April 18, 2014

Listening to the Voice of the Customer

listen-1Des Moines Water Work is committed to delivering exceptional service to its customers. As part of this commitment, we want to ensure that our customers are receiving superior customer service and support.

Des Moines Water Works has retained Essman/Research, an independent marketing research company in Des Moines to conduct random telephone surveys with our customers and to tabulate the survey results. The “Voice of the Customer” surveys will be conducted the weeks of April 21 and 28.  The purpose of the research is to gauge customer satisfaction with products and services received from Des Moines Water Works.

We value your opinion and ask for your assistance with this important customer research.  Please be assured that individual responses are strictly confidential. The survey data will be used solely to improve the quality of Des Moines Water Works’ products and services to our customers.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone 1 Comment
Labels: , , , , Posted in Customer Service, Customers March 6, 2014

Water Shortage Plan

Iowa weather is nothing if unpredictable. If conditions turn unfavorably dry and hot this summer, Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) remains concerned about water quality and the quantity of water resources available for drinking water supplies.  To prepare for seemingly unpredictable conditions,  Des Moines Water Works has developed a Water Shortage Plan to guide utility activities and communications in the event a drought persists this summer.

What does this mean to you as a DMWW customer?  It means you may be asked to reduce water consumption, particularly in regards to irrigation.

Layout 1_Page 1 So that customers do not experience quality, availability, or pressure issues during periods of extreme water demand, this plan has several progressive stages that begin with DMWW requesting that customers voluntarily reduce turf irrigation by 25%. If demand continues to exceed 80% of DMWW’s capacity to produce quality drinking water, the plan progresses to more restrictive stages outlining a mandatory prohibition on all turf irrigation and sprinkler systems. Enforcement at this latter stage may also carry consequences, such as the termination of water for turf irrigation and/or an escalated water shortage rate structure.  If conditions turn extreme and water supplies are critically impaired, the water shortage rate structure allows for winter usage (March, April, May usage) throughout the summer, and any usage over that winter baseline will be charged at four (4) times the normal water rate.

The complete plan can be viewed here, or in person at Des Moines Water Works’ General Office, located at 2201 George Flagg Parkway, in Des Moines.

With the help of all customers becoming wise water users and working together, Des Moines Water Works can effectively and efficiently use the available water supply to provide Water You Can Trust for Life.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone 2 Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in Conservation, Customers, Rates February 14, 2014

Main Breaks by the Numbers: 200 Main Breaks in First Six Weeks of 2014

DSC_2681Despite an aggressive preventative maintenance program in Central Iowa, water mains around Des Moines are breaking at a record number, Cold weather and corrosion of pipes have teamed up to cause pipe failures. The extreme drop in mercury drives frost penetration to a greater depth.  Deeper frost penetration causes the corroded water mains to break. With expected warmer temperatures in the coming days, it can cause the frost line to move quickly and cause breaks as well.

The American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2013 grade for America’s drinking water infrastructure was a D, which is no surprise considering Des Moines Water Works has repaired a record number of main breaks in one month: 122 breaks in January. To date, Des Moines Water Works crews have repaired 200 main breaks, with as many as 12 in a single day.

The 10 year average for total main breaks in a year is 290. On average, half of the main breaks occur in the three winter months of December, January and February.  The total number of main breaks in 2013 was 342. The highest number of breaks in one year was 365, set in 1988.

The average cost of a main break is around $5,000-7,000 for labor, materials and equipment. This does not account for the loss of water at a main break. The 2014 budget for emergency repairs is approximately $1.5 million. So far in 2014, Des Moines Water Works has spent approximately $1 million in repairing water mains.  Any impact of this year’s main break experience will be analyzed when determining the 2015 water rates.

Though largely out of sight and out of mind, Des Moines Water Works operates and maintains more than 1,300 miles of underground water mains distributing finished drinking water to homes and business in Des Moines and surrounding communities. The pipes in the distribution system are made from cast iron, concrete and plastic and also vary in size, from half-inch diameter service lines to 48-inch diameter transmission mains. Pipes installed between 1940 and 1960 are leading to most of the main breaks in Des Moines. The oldest pipe (circa 1900), which can be found in Downtown Des Moines, is some of the best in the distribution system.

“While every main break is different, fixing it quickly and safely are top priorities,” said Bill Stowe, CEO and General Manager, Des Moines Water Works. “Our goal is to minimize disruption to our customers who live, work and commute in the area.”

Des Moines Water Works invests millions of dollars each year in infrastructure improvements. The 2014 capital improvements budget includes $2.2 million for water main replacement within the Des Moines water distribution system. These funds will be used to replace water mains that have reached their useful life expectancy – water mains with a high occurrence of breaks.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in About Us, Customers, Infrastructure January 7, 2014

Seeking Applications for Environmental Impact Awards

Envir. Impact Award LogoThe Greater Des Moines PartnershipCenter on Sustainable Communities, Des Moines Water Works and Metro Waste Authority will honor local organizations and leaders for their sustainability efforts in the Greater Des Moines area. Environmental Impact Award applications will be accepted through Friday, March 14, 2014, at 4:30 p.m.  Winners will be announced on Earth Day, April 22.

Organizations that are dedicated to sustainability, or have made notable contributions to positively impact the environment, are encouraged to apply. Now in its fourth year, the Environmental Impact Awards honor organizations in the following categories:

  1. Businesses (large and small)
  2. Civic organizations (governmental and non-governmental)
  3. Built environment (residential and commercial construction).

Special honors will be given to an award winner for the best water management practices and an award winner for the best energy efficiency practices.  The award applications are available at www.desmoinesmetro.com/events.

Last year’s award winners were DART Central StationOakridge Neighborhood Teen CenterThe ReWall CompanyUnity Point Health – Des MoinesIowa Legal Aid, and City of Des Moines Parks and Recreation.  Their many sustainability initiatives are highlighted at www.WhereItShouldGo.com/EIA.

Winners will be recognized at the Environmental Impact Awards luncheon from 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. on Wednesday, May 21, at the Raccoon River Park Nature Lodge in West Des Moines. For more information, contact the Greater Des Moines Partnership at (515) 286-4950.  Media inquiries should be directed to Reo Menning, Metro Waste Authority public affairs director, at (515) 244-0021 or [email protected].

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in Conservation, Customers, Environment November 13, 2013

DMWW On Call 24/7 to Respond to Main Breaks

flag and main break

As cold weather draws near, water main breaks become more common. The months of December, January and February bring the highest number of water main breaks. Des Moines Water Works crews repair an average of 300 water main breaks each year. Although DMWW has a proactive and aggressive main replacement program, underground water mains can break for a number of reasons including corrosion, frost heave, and pressure fluctuations.

When a water main breaks, generally water comes to the surface and flows across the ground to a storm sewer or waterway. Large water main breaks can reduce water pressure in the area and the flowing water can cause damage. If you witness a main break or see water flowing in the street, please call Des Moines Water Works at 283-8772. Des Moines Water Works is committed to providing our customers with safe, quality drinking water. To honor that commitment, Des Moines Water Works crews are on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to respond to main breaks, ensuring that your service is restored as quickly as possible.

Once a water main break has been confirmed, the exact location of the break is determined using acoustic leak detection equipment. This equipment listens to the sound the water makes as it exits the pipe and can determine the location of the leak based on the intensity of the sound. When the location of the leak has been determined, water service in the area must be shut down so the break can be repaired. Depending on the time of day and the extent of the outage, it may not be possible to notify customers before the water is shut off. The safety of our employees and the public during a main break repair is a top priority. Special attention is given to trench safety which protects our employees and to traffic control which protects our employees as well as the traveling public. Before the water service is restored, the repaired water main is flushed and sampled to restore the best possible water quality. An average main break takes four hours to repair. You can find current water outages at www.dmww.com.

When the water comes back on, there will likely be air in your water service piping.  It is a good idea to run the first water after an outage through a faucet that does not have an aerator screen, such as a bathtub. Open faucets slowly to allow the air to escape.  Air will make a spurting or hissing sound as it escapes through the faucet.  Once the water is flowing, allow the faucet to run for a minute or two. The first water may be cloudy due to air in the water or particles that dislodge as the pipes fill with water. This should clear fairly quickly.  If water is cloudy throughout the house and it does not clear after allowing the water to run for several minutes, contact Des Moines Water Works.

If kitchen or bathroom faucets do not perform normally following a water outage, it may be necessary to remove the aerator screen. Typically, the aerator can simply be unscrewed from the faucet. Inspect the screen for small particles and rinse away any you find.  Reinstall the aerator and test performance of the faucet again. If you experience difficulties such as low pressure throughout the house following a water outage, contact Des Moines Water Works at 283-8772 for assistance.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone 1 Comment
Labels: , , , Posted in Customer Service, Customers, Infrastructure October 28, 2013

2014 Budget and Water Rates

The Board of Water Works Trustees has proposed Des Moines Water Works’ 2014 calendar year budget, which includes rate increases for Des Moines, total service, and wholesale water customers. The rate increases, approved by the Board in October, reflect a 4% increase for wholesale customers and a 5% increase for Des Moines and total service customers. The 5% rate increase for a four-person household inside Des Moines equates to an increase of about $0.75 per month.

The rate increases will result in approximately $1.3 million of increased water revenue for 2014. Des Moines Water Works had a zero rate increase last year; however, as the Board moves toward greater investment in the water utility’s infrastructure, rate increases will be more consistent with the challenges of producing and delivering quality water. For example, Des Moines Water Works experienced a significant cost of approximately $900,000 in 2013 to remove nitrate from drinking water, a cost that unfortunately has been passed on to ratepayers.

The proposed 2014 budget includes $52.2 million of operating revenue. Operating expenses are budgeted at $35.2 million, while capital infrastructure costs are budgeted at $16.1 million.

The Board of Water Works Trustees will hold a public hearing for the proposed 2014 budget on Tuesday, November 26, 2013, at 3:30 p.m. at Des Moines Water Works’ general office, located at 2201 George Flagg Parkway, in Des Moines.

New water rates will go into effect April 1, 2014. For a complete listing of Des Moines Water Works’ 2014 water rate structure, visit www.dmww.com/about-us/announcements.

For more information on where your water rates go, view this video:

Link to video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-LxCwX_Y2M&feature=c4-overview&list=UUJgCngYb6htSqTCgjCPy0iw

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , Posted in Customer Service, Customers, Rates September 26, 2013

Frequently Asked Questions on Water Service Line Coverage Available through HomeServe

I thought DMWW owned the service line.  Why would I pay for something the water utility is responsible for?

Many customers don’t realize the entire exterior water service line that connects your home with Des Moines Water Works’ water main is your responsibility as a homeowner. If you were unfortunate enough to suffer a break in this line, or discover an inoperable shutoff valve, it would be up to you to find a plumber and face potentially costly repairs. For more information on homeowners’ responsibilities, please visit Service Line Overview.

Why offer this program?

Utility staff recognized the need to explore offering a service line maintenance program for two reasons.  Primarily, warranty companies, including HomeServe USA (HomeServe) and their competitors, were already soliciting customers in the Des Moines market. However, because these companies were not working in collaboration with DMWW and didn’t necessarily understand the customer’s responsibility for their service line, those program offerings did not offer adequate coverage that would best meet our customers’ needs. For example, no unaffiliated program offered coverage of the external shut-off valve (stopbox), which accounts for about 75% of our customers’ repairs.  Customers were purchasing coverage that was not necessarily well-suited for their needs. Secondly, Des Moines Water Works staff speaks with customers weekly who have difficulty funding the unexpected expenses that come with a service line leak or inoperable stopbox. These customers are looking for options to help manage their risk related to their water service line.

What process did Des Moines Water Works go through to select HomeServe?

The utility sent a Request for Proposal to several companies in 2012, and after a thorough review of responses, Des Moines Water Works selected HomeServe as the utility’s recommended provider. Utility staff worked diligently with HomeServe to customize a program that offers comprehensive coverage at a price of $5.99 per month (2020 rate). The HomeServe program covers repairs to the shut-off valve (stop box), and in addition, has no coverage limits or deductibles like many plans have. Des Moines Water Works is not aware of any program that matches this program’s benefits and price.

I’ve heard HomeServe has a negative BBB rating.

As part of Des Moines Water Works’ due diligence, staff thoughtfully considered BBB information for all companies submitting proposals, and found both positive and negative ratings specifically for HomeServe. Staff found the negative ratings stemmed from the company’s marketing practices in areas where the company did not collaborate with the local utility, causing confusion with the utility’s customers. DMWW staff is directly involved in the development and approval of the marketing materials to ensure customers are aware the program is optional and to ensure coverage and costs are clearly stated. It is important to note that HomeServe’s BBB rating is currently an A-.

Who pays for marketing?

HomeServe pays for all marketing materials. Des Moines Water Works’ contract allows four mailings to be sent per year. Des Moines Water Works staff participates with HomeServe in the development of the mailings and approves the materials before they are mailed to customers. Customers are able to opt out of mailings by contacting HomeServe at 1-855-695-1493.

How many DMWW customers have signed up for the program?

About one in four customers have chosen to enroll in the optional program, and while staff has not spoken with every customer who has made a claim, several customers we have spoken with have related positive experiences.

How many customers really experience service line issues?

The table below shows the number of external shut-off valve repairs and the number of water service leak repairs Des Moines Water Works has coordinated with customers each of the last ten years.

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

Valve Repairs

411

763

677

504

868

1,008

917

644

555

581

 

Leak Repairs

180

187

137

86

132

143

176

146

163

154

 

Total Repairs

591

950

814

590

1,000

1,151

1,093

790

718

735

 

Isn’t this just a way for Des Moines Water Works to make money?

Des Moines Water Works receives a 5% billing re-imbursement fee from HomeServe for each new enrollment that covers the cost of billing on DMWW’s monthly statement. The primary objective in offering this program is to provide an optional service to customers—not for the revenue.

Why don’t you offer sewer line coverage?

Des Moines Water Works offers its customers this optional coverage for water service line. Sewer line coverage is available through HomeServe, but because Des Moines Water Works is not affiliated with that product in any manner and has not reviewed the plan in terms of coverage, cost, exclusions, etc., we do not endorse it.  In addition, the cost for sewer line coverage or any other product offered by HomeServe is not available for billing on your monthly DMWW bill.

Who is eligible to enroll in the program?

  • Single-family residents in the City of Des Moines and Des Moines Water Works’ total service areas
  • Landlords with sole responsibility for the water service line, which may support up to six residential units.

Residences not affixed to a permanent foundation, recreational vehicles and properties used for commercial purposes are not eligible for coverage.

What is covered by the program?

You will be covered for qualified costs to repair or replace the broken or leaking exterior water service line, from the water meter inside your home to the Des Moines Water Works water main, including the cost to repair the exterior shut-off valve. This includes all service call charges, labor and materials for covered repairs, and basic restoration.

If I have a meter pit what is covered by the program?

The line is covered from the main to the where the line enters the primary residence on the property.  Repairs to the pit itself are not covered by the program.

Who will be doing the work?

HomeServe contracts with local, licensed and qualified plumbers.

In the event of a home emergency, just call HomeServe toll-free at 1-855-695-1493. A local, licensed and insured plumber will be dispatched to your home to make your repair or replacement. Once covered repairs are completed, just sign the repair form and HomeServe pays the plumber directly for you.

How do I enroll in the program?

You can contact HomeServe directly at 1-855-695-1493 or visit HomeServe

Posted by: Laura Sarcone 4 Comments
Labels: , , , , , Posted in Customer Service, Customers