Posts Tagged ‘Des Moines Water Works Green Iniative’

March 14, 2013

Earth Day Trash Bash

TRASHBASH_700x300Des Moines Water Works is a sponsor for City of Des Moines’ 2013 Trash Bash on Friday, April 19.  This year’s event is dedicated to improving Iowa’s waterways and water quality.  Teams of volunteers will kick-off the event at Nollen Plaza, where DMWW will have an educational booth and the DSMH2O Mobile Water Station for visitors to fill up their reusable water bottles!  Trash Bash volunteers will then set out to pick up trash in various locations around the city, including Water Works Park.

Last year, over 1,000 volunteers on 64 teams in 50 project locations removed over 24,000 pounds of litter, brush & recyclables as well as beautified our public lands, cleaned up storm damage, and cleared away invasive species in an effort to improve Iowa’s water quality and waterways. They even collected 37.7 pounds of cigarette butts.

Volunteers are needed for Iowa’s largest Earth Day volunteer event to continue these efforts! For more information, visit and sign up by March 29, 2013.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , , Posted in Environment, Parks January 7, 2013

Seeking Applications for Environmental Impact Awards

The Greater Des Moines Partnership, Center 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, 2013 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

Last year’s award winners were DART Central Station, Oakridge Neighborhood Teen Center, The ReWall Company, Unity Point Health – Des Moines, Iowa Legal Aid, and City of Des Moines Parks and Recreation.  Their many sustainability initiatives are highlighted at

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: Linda Kinman No Comments
Labels: , , , , , Posted in Environment, Green Initiatives November 21, 2011

Winterize Your Home

Cold, winter weather will soon be upon us. Take advantage of the temperate, fall conditions to do some winterizing around your home.  Here are a few tips to help you prevent your pipes from freezing:

  •  Cover the pipes in your attic, crawl spaces, and unheated garage with pipe insulation, heat tape or heat cables.  Make sure you use material safe for pipe insulation. The more insulation you use, the better your pipes will be protected.
  • Seal any leaks allowing cold air inside your home with caulk or insulation.  Leaks are commonly found around dryer vents, pipes, and electrical wiring.  Even a small air leak can cause your pipes to freeze during severely cold weather.
  • Disconnect garden hoses and store them indoors during the winter.  Cover your outdoor faucets with faucet covers, or wrap them in old rags and cover with plastic.  If possible, drain water from pipes leading to outdoor faucets by shutting off the indoor valve.
  • Open cabinet doors that cover plumbing on extremely cold nights.  This lets heat move to areas in your home where pipes are not insulated, such as under sinks.
  • Set the thermostat no lower than 55F (12C) if you are leaving your home for an extended period of time.  Turn off the water and drain your pipes. Fire protection sprinkler systems will deactivate automatically after the water is shut off.

Reminder for Winter Vacationers:

Contact a Des Moines Water Works Customer Service Representative at (515) 283-8700 with your departure and expected return dates.  If you plan to leave your water on while you are gone, ask a trusted friend or neighbor to periodically check your home.  Also, make sure you leave emergency contact information with that person.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , , Posted in Customer Service, Customers October 6, 2011

The Dirt on Detergent

It has been known for hundreds of years that alkali solutions (solutions with a high pH, the opposite of acids) remove dirt from clothing. This is why lye was once used as a detergent.  Most of today’s laundry detergents are anionic surfactants that become alkaline in wash water.  A surfactant is something that can dissolve (or dissolve in) two dissimilar substances – like oil and water, for example.  An anion is a negatively-charged particle.  Since dirt is largely positively-charged, the negatively-charged anions from the detergent attach to it, and then the complex dissolves in the wash water, away from the clothing.

Hard water contains a lot of positively-charged calcium and magnesium ions.  Remember that dirt is also positively-charged.  This means that the detergent must chelate, or “lock up” the calcium and magnesium ions before it can affectively clean.  This explains why hard water requires more soap for cleaning.  The chelating agents in detergent combined with calcium and magnesium ions often appear as soap scum.  Animal fibers (silk and wool) are not affected by alkaline wash solutions – this is why they need dry-cleaning.  Some non-ionic (neutral) detergents may be used for these fabrics.

Fabric softeners are positively-charged surfactants.  They are acidic in water.  They alter the surface of the fibers so they feel soft to the touch.  They also may remove some residual soap and dirt particles from the fabric.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone 2 Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in Customer Service, Water Quality August 31, 2011

Encourage Recycling at Home

Recycling has been part of the daily routine for most families for over 15 years.  If your family isn’t on board yet, the good news is that it’s never too late to start!  You just need a recycling container or a convenient drop-off site and a little time to educate the family on what can and can’t be recycled. Making sure the recyclable items are clean and dry before they go in the container is important as well.  

Most likely, your school-age children can recycle at school, too, so chances are good that the youngsters in our communities will grow up with the recycling habit. They learn that waste paper, cardboard, metal, plastic and glass aren’t always “garbage” but can be a resource for reuse.  

There are so many reasons to recycle!  We can preserve natural resources, save space at our local landfill and reduce energy usage and pollution in the “re-manufacturing” process.  We also want to encourage the purchasing of recycled materials.  Many school supplies – pencils, paper, folders and back packs, to name a few – are often made from recycled materials. Companies that sell items containing recycled content are proud to do so, and that information can be found on the packaging if we just take an extra moment to look.


Mary Gillaspey is the Education Specialist at Metro Waste Authority. Des Moines Water Works and Metro Waste Authority partner together for the Urban Environmental Partnership.  The Partnership offers classroom programs and tours to the metro area.

Posted by: Mary Gillaspey No Comments
Labels: , , , , , , , Posted in Education, Environment April 15, 2011

Celebrate Earth Day!

Earth Day is April 22, and is a great time each year to show off your “greenness!”  Earth Day is a reminder of our responsibility to protect our planet so that it is a place of beauty and remains healthy and safe for future generations.

The first Earth Day was held in the spring of 1970 (thanks to Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson and environmentalist activist, Denis Hayes) and was officially declared a day of celebration in 1990. 

You don’t have to be part of an organized event to do your part on Earth Day (and every day). Keep on with the green things you already do and try something new…

  • Take a walk and breathe in the fresh air at Water Works Park
  • Explore a world of plants under one dome at the Des Moines Botanical & Environmental Center.  Enjoy free admission for everyone on Earth Day!
  • Take Household Hazardous Materials (HHMs) to the Regional Collection Center in Bondurant.
  • Purchase more environmentally-friendly products.
  • Don’t purchase more than you will need; then use them up.
  • Buy products that don’t use so much packaging.
  • Use more reusable materials like lunch boxes, sandwich containers, aluminum water bottles and rags.
  • Bag up grass clippings, leaves, sticks and branches and put them in CompostIt! bags at the curb.
  • Clean up pet waste and put it in the garbage so it doesn’t wash down the storm sewers and into the rivers!
  • Keep your car in good repair so it doesn’t leak oil.  Clean up oil leaks with kitty litter or sand and sweep it up.
  • Plant grass and trees so there is no loose dirt on your property.

Even though Earth Day is officially celebrated on April 22, everyday can be Earth Day if you choose.

Posted by: Gail Peckumn No Comments
Labels: , , , , , , Posted in Botanical Center, Conservation, Des Moines Botanical Center, Des Moines Water Works Park, Environment, Green Initiatives, Parks March 3, 2011

A Greener Water Works

Des Moines Water Works has a long history of striving to be environmentally responsible.  Our forefathers believed strongly in protecting the water quality of our river sources, and as such acquired the land that is today Water Works Park and Maffitt Reservoir.  Through the decades, our employees have also invested in upgrading our infrastructure to make it more energy efficient, like installing energy efficient pumps and motors at our water treatment plants and remote pumping facilities.

Last year, Des Moines Water Works formed its first official “Green Team” in March of 2010.  This team is made up of employees from each department within the utility.  Their mission is “to serve as a liaison to employees and customers, communicating, promoting, and implementing sustainability and stewardship initiatives that demonstrate environmental responsibility to the community.”

One of the first activities of the Green Team was to expand DMWW’s recycling program to the new single-stream recycling now available.  As part of that project, additional recycling bins have been located to make it easier for employees to recycle and in some departments the number of trash cans have been reduced.  DMWW is also recycling batteries, ink cartridges, computer equipment, cell phones, light bulbs, used oil and oil filters, anti-freeze, tires, scrap metal (including old hydrants, valves, and pipe), and concrete from main breaks.

Des Moines Water Works is also participating in the first Sustainability Circle in Des Moines.  As part of this program conducted by Natural Capitalism, Inc., DMWW is working with six other organizations in the metro area to learn ways to reduce waste and save money.  We believe strongly in doing our part to protect the environment both now and for future generations.

DMWW’s Green Team has a variety of projects planned for 2011 and beyond to help create a more environmentally responsible workplace and utility for its employees and community.

Posted by: Jenny Puffer No Comments
Labels: , , , Posted in About Us, Des Moines Water Works Park, Employees, Environment, Green Initiatives January 5, 2011

DMWW Reports Carbon Footprint

Des Moines Water Works recently reported its greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions to The Climate Registry, a nonprofit organization that is a collaboration of North American states, provinces, territories, and Native Sovereign Nations.  The purpose of the organization is to set consistent and transparent standards to calculate, verify and publicly report GHG emissions.  Reports for CY 2007 though 2009 can be viewed through the Climate Registry Web site:

DMWW analyzed and reported its GHG emissions to gather information regarding sustainability of treatment and distribution processes, as well as contribution of GHGs to the environment. The analyses did provide a few surprises.  Electrical power usage contributes over 90% of total energy use and GHG emissions.  Clearly the greatest opportunity to diminish GHG emissions is to reduce electrical demand and improve energy efficiencies.  Most of the electricity is used to pump large volumes of water where distance and elevation are the primary variables to energy requirements.  Location of facilities as well as design is an important factor in overall efficiency.  The two lime softening treatment plants (Fleur Drive and L.D. McMullen at Maffitt Reservoir) were very similar in their GHG emissions per million gallons of treated water, even though the newer McMullen facility is a more efficient design with newer and better equipment. This analysis provides a baseline to compare energy efficiencies of differing technologies, such as the all-membrane treatment process at the new Saylorville Water Treatment Plant versus lime softening at the Fleur Drive and L.D. McMullen plants.

Documenting GHG emissions according to rigorous reporting protocols provided invaluable information on power use and inefficiencies, and identified opportunities to improve energy efficiency.  The process identified potential capital investments that will reduce the utility’s risk to a limited energy supply, so DMWW can continue to provide a sustainable supply of water to customers in a cost effective and environmentally responsible manner.

Posted by: Gordon Brand 1 Comment
Labels: , , , , , Posted in About Us, Green Initiatives October 5, 2010

At DMWW, It’s Cool to be Green

It’s Cool to Be Green is the theme of this school year’s free environmental education programs offered to Des Moines area schools by the Urban Environmental Partnership. Mary Gillaspey (Metro Waste Authority) and I are busy traveling to area classrooms to teach about taking care of the world around us.  In all of our 16 different programs, we try to get across the message of watershed protection in a fun way.

Young kids love Dewey the waterdrop puppet as he takes them on a journey of water traveling through Des Moines. When the Raccoon River Players (Mary and I) visit a classroom to perform three humorous skits, kids get to learn about how water becomes polluted (and how to prevent it) and about breaking the nasty litterbug habit. Students get the chance to hone their recycling skills in our Recycle Me presentation. Older students get to learn about how watersheds and landfills work through the use of table-sized plastic models.

The water cycle comes alive with a puzzle activity of where water goes at it travels through Des Moines. Students learn about the steps it takes to get drinking water and wastewater clean through large picture cards or a Powerpoint presentation and chemical samples, or they can come on a tour of Des Moines Water Works and walk through the steps of water treatment.  A highlight of the tour is a visit to the laboratory and the opportunity to see some of the testing our microbiologist and chemists do every day to make sure the water is clean and safe to drink. Teachers can schedule our programs and tours by emailing me at [email protected] .

Posted by: Gail Peckumn No Comments
Labels: , , , Posted in About Us, Education, Employees, Environment, Green Initiatives, Health