Monthly Archives: June 2014

June 30, 1906: Los Angeles Gets Its Way with Water

William Mulholland

William Mulholland

June 30, 1906: Federal Law Gives Los Angeles Owens Valley Water. “[In 1906] The City hired a prestigious team of engineers to examine the feasibility of the project. Their report states, “We find the project admirable in conception and outline and full of promise for the continued prosperity of Los Angeles.” The Board of Water Commissioners appointed William Mulholland, Chief Engineer, Bureau of the Los Angeles Aqueduct.

That same year, 1906, the final verdict on the Los Angeles aqueduct was rendered by the highest authority. On May 13th, the City submitted an application for rights of way across federal lands for the purpose of constructing the Aqueduct.

In June, California Senator Frank Flint proposed a bill to grant these rights of way. It easily passed the Senate but ran into trouble in the House of Representatives where Congressman Sylvester Smith of Inyo County had organized an opposition to the bill. His argument was that Los Angeles did not require the water now, but was seeking to acquire it for future needs.

The City planned to include power plants in the project. These power plants would require a constant flow of water. This water would be transmitted by the City but was not required for domestic use. The City’s plan was to sell the water for irrigation. Smith argued that irrigation in Southern California should not take place at the expense of irrigation in the Owens Valley. While Smith negotiated a “no irrigation” compromise, Flint went directly to a higher authority.

His appeal to Theodore Roosevelt met with a sympathetic hearing. Roosevelt, on June 25th, called a meeting of Flint, Secretary of the Interior Ethan A. Hitchcock, Bureau of Forests Commissioner Gifford Pinchot, and Director of the Geological Survey Charles D. Walcott. At the end of that meeting Roosevelt dictated the letter which would end the debate,”…yet it is a hundred or a thousand fold more important to the state and more valuable to the people as a whole if used by the city than if used by the people of the Owens Valley.”

On June 30, 1906 Los Angeles had the law which would permit the dream to become a reality. In 1907, the voters of Los Angeles again gave their overwhelming endorsement to this project, approving a $23 million bond issue for aqueduct construction. The only task that remained was to build it.”

Commentary: And thus the Los Angeles water wars began.

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June 29, 1989: SWTR and TCR Regulations Promulgated

0629 SWTR Federal RegisterJune 29, 1989:  Surface Water Treatment Rule and Total Coliform Rule promulgated on this date. These are two of the most important drinking water regulations adopted by the USEPA under the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974. A summary of the SWTR stated:  “This notice, issued under the Safe Drinking Water Act, publishes maximum contaminant level goals for Giardia lamblia viruses, and Legionella; and promulgates national primary drinking water regulations for public water systems using surface water sources or ground water sources under the direct influence of surface water that include (1) criteria under which filtration (including coagulation and sedimentation, as appropriate) are required and procedures by which the States are to determine which systems must install filtration, and (2) disinfection requirements. The filtration and disinfection requirements are treatment technique requirements to protect against the potential adverse health effects of exposure to Giardia lamblia, viruses, Legionella, and heterotrophic bacteria, as well as many other pathogenic organisms that are removed by these treatment techniques. This notice also includes certain limits on turbidity as criteria for (1) determining whether a public water system is required to filter; and (2) determining whether filtration, if required, is adequate.”

Commentary:  The SWTR has been changed substantially by subsequent regulations and the Total Coliform Rule has been radically altered. However, these two regulations contributed significantly to the improvement of public water supplies in the U.S. in the later part of the twentieth century.

June 28, 1917: Water Supply for the Army

U.S. Army Cantonment

U.S. Army Cantonment

June 28, 1917:  Municipal Journal article. Preparation of Water Supply for Army. “San Diego, Cal.-The [local] health department has received the following communication from the state board of health signed by C. G. Gillespie, director of the bureau of sanitary engineering: ‘While the San Diego supply easily surpasses any other surface source in California in the amount of laboratory and field supervision given, we are anxious that it be placed in the rank of the best in the country. This is most imperative now by reason of the location of a large army cantonment in your midst. I believe that we shall insist upon chlorination of all water furnished to the troops. In addition, laboratory facilities should be hastened to enable your office to make daily analysis of samples collected on each individual supply, both before and after treatment. Occasionally the sampling should be done early in the day to check up night operation. Within a few weeks I plan to return to San Diego to devote entire attention to the water system. It is hoped that you will have prepared new forms and begun the more systematic collection of pertinent data by that time. I beg to report that we appreciate the steps along this line now undertaken and the good showing in the absence of B. coli with the present frequency of sampling.’”

Commentary:  This article is interesting because the State of California has obviously extended its regulatory powers over a water supply for a federal facility—an army camp constructed to train soldiers for the First World War. In due time, the Department of the Army would take over those responsibilities.

June 27, 1912: Los Angeles Water Supply Plan

0627 Los Angeles Water SupplybJune 27, 1912:  Municipal Journal article. Los Angeles New Water Supply. “The plan and construction of the Los Angeles aqueduct  have invited the interest and admiration of the engineer and layman generally throughout the United States both from the great distance-240 miles-that the water is to be carried into the city and the unusual obstacles that have presented themselves. The spectacular and novel methods of building the conduit across the Mojave desert, tunneling mountain ranges and bridging chasms naturally have received the most attention from technical and popular writers. The quality and the quantity of the water have been generally overlooked. For instance, it is not commonly known that Los Angles, after going so far for her water supply, will not depend entirely upon the flow of the Owens River and its tributaries, but will have in addition a very dependable supplementary supply from a large artesian area in the Owens Valley, where a number of wells have been bored. It is the purpose of this article to discuss briefly these two features. The final acquisition of approximately 25,000 acres of artesian lands from the United States Government now makes it possible to discuss this feature of the project.

The principal diversion, of course, is the Owens River at a point in the Owens Valley 11 miles north of the town of Independence, Inyo County, California, and at an elevation of 3,812 feet.”

0627 Los Angeles Water Supplya

June 26, 1913: Chlorination in Richmond, VA

Modern Chlorination Facility

Modern Chlorination Facility

June 26, 1913:  Hypochlorite addition to disinfect the municipal water supply was initiated in Richmond, VA. Following a typhoid fever outbreak, Dr. E.C. Levy, who was the Chief Health Officer for the City, recommended the addition of hypochlorite.  Levy was President of the American Public Health Association in 1923–six years before George W. Fuller.

“In 1914, apparatus for applying liquid chlorine was installed. But not until August 29, 1924, was a complete purification plant available, with coagulation basins, mechanical filters, aerators and a clear-water basin, the whole of 30-mgd capacity.”

Reference:  Baker, Moses N. 1981. The Quest for Pure Water: the History of Water Purification from the Earliest Records to the Twentieth Century. 2nd Edition. Vol. 1. Denver, Co.: American Water Works Association, 130.

June 25, 1914: Drifting Sand Filtration

0625 Drifting Sand FiltrationJune 25, 1914:  Engineering News article. A Novel Water-Filtration Plant for Toronto. “It is not often that a city takes up a novelty in water filtration or in any other class of engineering work on so large a scale as the proposed 72,000-U. S.-gal. “drifting sand” filtration plant for which the city council of Toronto awarded the contract on June 8. It is true, as stated elsewhere in this issue, that two plants of a few hundred thousand gallons capacity are already in operation elsewhere and that contracts for two other and much larger plants are well under way. It is also true that a working unit was tested for 33 days at Toronto under the direction of the local medical officer of health and city analyst, and that this same test plant has been under observation for over a year. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the drifting-sand filter is as yet in the working-scale experimental stage, with few data yet available regarding its efficiency and less to be had regarding operating costs.

The drifting-sand filter may be described as a deep mechanical filter with reversion to the early type in the way of absence of coagulation basins and rate-controllers and with the addition of continuous washing and replacing of filter sand. It is claimed that this added feature makes up for the lack of a coagulating basin. To what extent this claim will be made good by experience at Toronto and on different waters at other places, it will be interesting to learn a few years hence.”

Commentary:  The filter plant was built in 1917 and used until 1981 by the City of Toronto. No other large-scale filtration plants adopted this unique design.

June 24, 1915: Wanaque Water Supply in New Jersey

Wanaque Reservoir

Wanaque Reservoir

June 24, 1915: Municipal Journal article. More Cities Want Wanaque Supply. “Trenton, N. J.-Jersey City has also asked to be considered in the Wanaque plan. Commissioner George F. Brensinger told the commission that Jersey City would probably need an additional supply of water if the plan to consolidate the Hudson towns was carried out in the near future. The daily capacity of the present reservoirs which store the supply developed at Boonton is 50,000,000 gallons. The city has actually used that quantity at some periods, but just now is consuming about 47,000,000 to 49,000,000 gallons daily. Jersey City has a protective contract with the New York and New Jersey Water Company. Morris R. Sherrerd, engineer of the commission, suggested that Jersey City could obtain water from the Wanaque watershed through its pipe line that now passes through Belleville. The engineer pointed out that the prospect of getting water in this way within four or five years would enable Jersey City to postpone incurring the expense of building additional pipe lines to Boonton or increasing its storage capacity there.

There is a possibility that Essex municipalities not hitherto considered may want Wanaque water. West Orange is looking forward to new sources now. Its contract with the West Orange Water Company expires in 1918 and its representatives have been talking to the state commission about the prospect of getting a new supply from the Wanaque. Elizabeth put up more money than any other municipality for the Wanaque survey, but the commission has heard nothing officially that would indicate what attitude it will take on the development plans.”