Aug. 27, 2010

Moving water

by Diana Pounds

The man who stopped on campus Aug. 12 with a pickup load of bottled water didn't identify himself other than to say he was an Iowa State alumnus from Cedar Falls who wanted to do what he could to help. He dropped off 66 cases (nearly 1,600 bottles).

The generous stranger was one of many who stepped up when the university and city needed drinking water in the aftermath of recent floods that compromised the city's water system. Here's quick look at the movement of water (bottled, that is) around campus.

Unlucky breaks

On Wednesday, Aug. 11, water main breaks under floodwaters drained city water towers and also may have contaminated Ames water, which supplies Iowa State. City officials subsequently alerted the community not to consume any Ames water unless it had been boiled.

Fearing that drinking water would not be restored for a number of days, city and university officials scrambled to collect water for free distribution around campus and the community.

Bringing in the bottles

Norm Hill, director of central stores, managed the comings and goings of much of the water on campus. He applauds vice president for business and finance Warren Madden and ISU's critical incident response team for making a quick decision to buy water.

Businesses providing water to Ames, ISU

  • Anheuser-Busch*
  • Hy-Vee
  • Miller Brewing
  • Nash Finch*
  • Pepsi
  • Sam's Club

    *Direct donation to ISU

Two truckloads of water (some 3,000 cases) ordered Wednesday were on campus at 8 a.m. Thursday. The water soon was being passed out to employees who needed to work at the otherwise-closed campus and to students who were already in town.

"Buying water early also ensured that we'd be in a position to be open Friday," Hill said.

Soon thereafter, more water came pouring into the city of Ames and university from various businesses. Iowa State received another 3,000 cases, either directly or through donations funneled through the city.

The city of Ames also received water from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), but Iowa State didn't need any of that water, Hill said.

Still cooking

The university was closed Thursday, Aug. 12, but people needed to eat. Dining director Nancy Levandowski purchased approximately 2,400 cases of water so that employees could keep cooking through the water emergency. They used bottled water for food preparation and handwashing. Levandowski opted not to used boiled water in any of the cooking operations.

"I felt it was too high a risk to take when cooking for so many people," she said.

During the water emergency, dining services fed ISU's athletics teams, community assistants in the residence halls and students participating in the Greek system's fall rush.

"I was very proud of my team," Levandowski said. "We were still feeding people. We made box lunches for them, so they could be out and about doing what they needed to do."

Water, in reserve

The campus and Ames community got the good news that tap water was safe to drink late Sunday afternoon, Aug. 15. Hill said 240 cases of bottled water went to Destination Iowa State (Aug. 16-18), an introductory program for new students. Some water was offered to the Story County Emergency Management Office..

Hill said ISU is hanging onto approxmiately 1,000 cases for future emergencies or other uses.

"They have a couple of years before expiration," he said.

Who was that man?

Officials may never know the name of the Cedar Falls alum who dropped off all those bottles. But Hill said he told the donor, in a phone conversation, that his water had been sent to the power plant to help workers dealing with floods.

"He was a happy camper," Hill said.