Frequently Asked Questions
Here are a few of the most common questions DMWW receives. If you have a question that isn’t answered here, please contact us.
- Some water utilities measure the water in cubic feet and others measure it in gallons. What's the difference?
Water meters measure water consumption in either cubic feet or gallons, depending on the make and model. In Des Moines, water meters measure in cubic feet, so this unit of measure is used to generate your water bill. Other communities, such as Pleasant Hill, use gallons.
It's easy to convert cubic feet to gallons by multiplying the number of cubic feet by 7.5. Here is an example:
150 cubic feet x 7.5 gallons per cubic foot = approximately 1,125 gallons
- Do you have a program where my payment can be deducted from my bank account each month?
Yes, it's called DIRECT PAY. For more information on this program, view the DIRECT PAY form.
- My water bill has been significantly higher the last couple months. Could this indicate I have a leak somewhere?
Yes, a noticeable increase in water consumption could be an indication of a water leak in your home. One of the most common culprits is the toilet. Toilet leaks can waste up to 200 gallons a day! Even though a toilet isn't running, it can still be leaking water. If you suspect a problem, put a few drops of food coloring in the tank and let it sit for several hours. If the dye has colored the water in the bowl, there is a leak. Also, look inside the tank for water going into the overflow pipe. If a problem is identified, contact a plumber to make repairs.
You also may want to check for dripping faucets. A simple washer replacement is often an easy, inexpensive repair that can eliminate drips in faucets.
Another way to check for evidence of leaks is to read your water meter before going to bed at night. Check it again first thing in the morning. If the reading has increased and no water was used during the night, you may have a leak. Remember to account for icemakers, humidifiers, or other appliances that operate during the night hours.
Lastly, never underestimate the amount of water that is consumed for normal, everyday tasks around the home. Here are some average water consumption amounts for routine household tasks:
- Shower: 25-50 gallons (5-10 gallons/minute)
- Bath: 36 gallons (full tub)
- Toilet flush: 5-7 gallons (less with new low-flow toilets!)
- Brushing teeth: 2 gallons (tap running)
- Hand washing: 2 gallons (tap running)
- Shaving: 3-5 gallons (tap running)
- Dish washing: 20 gallons (tap running)
- Automatic dishwasher: 12 gallons (full cycle)
- Clothes washer: 30-60 gallons (full cycle)
- Outdoor watering: 5-10 gallons per minute
Don't be surprised by a large bill! DMWW offers online customers a feature called a "consumption alert" that will notify you when your daily consumption has exceeded a threshold you set. To learn more information, logon or create an online account and navigate to "Account Services."
- Shower: 25-50 gallons (5-10 gallons/minute)
- What is a stop box? What is it used for? If it is broken, who's responsible for fixing it?
A stop box is a valve located between the water main and your home. Often, you can see a metal cap approximately 4-6 inches in diameter in your lawn near the street or in your sidewalk or driveway. Stop boxes allow DMWW employees to turn off the water to your home.
Most often, this is done at the homeowner's request so plumbing repairs can be made or when someone is moving out of the property and wants the water service terminated. On rare occasions, DMWW will turn off the water to a property due to a payment collection issue.
To avoid having your water cut off, please contact us to make payment arrangements if you are unable to pay your bill in a timely fashion. If it is not operational (after many years, they can corrode and break), the homeowner is responsible for repairing the stop box as well as the service line from the home to the water main. Des Moines Water Works maintains and repairs the water main, as well as the water meter and meter reading equipment.
- What do I do if something is wrong with my water meter?
If your water meter does not seem to be operating properly, or if it is leaking, call DMWW at 515.283.8700 to report the problem. We will ask you several clarifying questions to determine if a service call is needed. If so, we will be happy to set up a mutually convenient time for us to check the meter and solve the problem.
- My friends in other parts of town see an individual take a meter reading each month, but I never notice anyone in my neighborhood. Why?
In most service areas, DMWW uses an automated meter reading technology, called fixed base radio frequency. These systems use a radio signal and cell phone technology to provide us with your water meter reading twice each day. This information is then used to generate your water bill. While this reading method is used for most customers' meters, there are small pockets of our service area that continue to be read manually by a meter reader.
- Can I pay my DMWW bill by credit card?
By using your online account or calling to speak with a customer service representative, you can pay your bill from the convenience of your home with a Visa or Mastercard or electronic check. Please note that online or over-the-phone payments made by credit card are subject to a $2.00 convenience fee, while electronic checks can be made at no cost. Des Moines Water Works also has automated payment options to choose from for the ultimate in convenience. To learn more, login or create an online account and navigate to "Payment Options."
- One month last winter, I noticed that my water bill was "estimated," instead of being based on an actual meter reading. Why?
Occasionally, we are unable to read your water meter. This can happen for a variety of reasons, but generally it indicates a problem with your water meter or the meter reading receptacle on the side of your house. In many cases, this corrects itself and we are able to read your meter the next month.
When we are unable to obtain an actual meter reading, we calculate an estimate of your typical water usage. In most cases, a customer will only receive an estimated bill once or twice. Once an actual read is obtained, your account is "trued up." The estimated amount is deducted from your account and a new actual bill is generated. Your payments are applied to this new amount and a new balance is calculated.
- I'm moving next month. How much notice do you need to turn off my water service?
Please complete a service request online or call our offices at 515.283.8700 one working day prior to the day you will need water service. In most cases, you do not need to visit our office to transfer water service.
- If I see water in the street, who should I call?
Please call our offices at 515.283.8700 to report water in the street. Our Water Distribution team can determine the cause and arrange for any necessary repairs. With early detection, a repair can be made more quickly.
- How hard is my water? I have installed a new water softener and I need to know the appropriate setting in terms of grains of hardness.
DMWW strives to maintain the total hardness of the drinking water to less than 150 mg/L or 8.76 grains. There are no adverse health effects associated with exceeding this level, however excessive hardness may adversely impact your home plumbing. Up-to-date hardness information can be found on the Water Quality page.
- How do I get a new garbage toter?
DMWW is the billing and collection agent for the City of Des Moines which is why garbage charges are shown on your DMWW statement; however the City of Des Moines performs all the administration for garbage toters and recycling receptacles. Please call 515.283.4950 for any assistance regarding these toters.
- I don't have a stormwater drain near my property, but I'm still being charged for stormwater. Why?
DMWW is the billing and collection agent for the City of Des Moines which is why stormwater charges are shown on your DMWW statement, but the Des Moines City Council oversees and directs the stormwater utility. The Des Moines City Council enacted the Stormwater Utility in 1995 to provide funding for the maintenance of existing stormwater facilities and for the construction of new facilities. The fee is paid by all residents, businesses, governmental agencies, and tax-exempt organizations because the benefits are system wide; that is, all within the City benefit from some part of the stormwater system even if there is no storm facility in the immediate vicinity of the residence or business.
- Why does someone have to be home to have the water turned on, but no one has to be there when you turn it off?
DMWW requires someone to be at the property when water service is turned on to protect your property when water is restored. We need to be sure no faucets were left on and that no leaking occurs when the service is restored. No one has to be home when we terminate water service because these same risks do not apply. Upon request, DMWW offers a written liability release that can be signed by the property owner (i.e., tenants are not eligible to sign) indicating they assume all risk for damages that could occur. If this waiver is received by DMWW, we will restore water without requiring somebody to be at the property.
- If my water is turned off for collections, how soon after I make a payment will my service be restored?
In most service areas, DMWW is committed to restoring water service the same day payment is made, providing that payment is received no later than 8:00 PM. If payment is received before 12:00 p.m., DMWW makes every effort to have service restored by 4:00 PM that same day. All payments after 12:00 p.m. will be turned on no later than 9:30 p.m. For payments made after 6:00, an after-hours fee will apply in addition to the termination fee. Fees and charges can be found in Rules and Regulations.
When payment is received after 3:30 p.m. in Runnells, Alleman, Cumming, and Southeast Polk county, an after-hours fee will apply in addition to the termination fee. If payment is received after 9:30 p.m. in these service areas, water will be restored the following business day.
- Can I schedule a time to get my water turned on the same day I make a payment if it was terminated for non-payment, or get a 15 minute courtesy notice by phone?
While we are committed to restoring your water service the same day payment is received, DMWW cannot schedule specific times for same day service orders, nor can we offer a 15 minute courtesy notice. Previously scheduled orders take precedence over same day orders. Service orders to restore water service that has been terminated for non-payment are called out to our field staff throughout the day, and we appreciate the flexibility to work these orders into our schedule with the greatest efficiency and least interruption to other customers.
If your circumstances don’t require that water be restored the same day, we can offer more precise scheduling and advance notice if water is restored the following business day.