April 26, 1911: Water Waste

April 26, 1911: Municipal Journal and Engineer editorial. Waste in Public Water Consumption. “We have had occasion several times to call attention to the fact that no class of consumers waste more water than schools and other municipal buildings and that consequently meters or other methods of restricting waste are fully as important here as on any other services in the city, in spite of the seeming anomaly of a city’s measuring the water which it delivers to itself.

An illustration of this is furnished by the city of New Bedford, Mass. During the year 1910 there was metered and charged to the schools, engine houses, police stations, city hall, library, almshouse, city stables, cemeteries, parks, wharfs and electric car sprinklers 88,809,000 gallons. In addition, metered water was supplied for drinking fountains, extinguishing fires, flushing sewers, puddling trenches, street operations and water department work which is estimated by the superintendent to have amounted to 200,000,000 gallons. This total of 288,000,000 gallons is about one-tenth of the total consumption of the city.

How much water was being wasted previous to the use of meters is not known; but all departments now watch their meter records and if an abnormal amount is registered they quickly locate and remove the cause, while hitherto they have concerned themselves very little with leaky fixtures. The school department, previous to the installment of meters, had several very large motors operating ventilating machines. One of these was metered and found to use over 27,000,000 gallons a year, and it is fair to presume an equal amount was being used by each of the others. When meters were installed at the end of 1909, these motors were all discontinued and electricity was substituted as a motive power.”

Reference: “Waste in Public Water Consumption.” 1911. Municipal Journal and Engineer editorial 30:17(April 26, 1911): 579.

Commentary: Fixing leaks and eliminating unaccounted for water is still a big challenge for water utilities today. Utilities realized in the early 20th century that fixing water waste was like finding a new water supply.

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