Tag Archives: Houston

October 6, 1906: Houston Buys Water Works

Ground Subsidence in Houston Area

Ground Subsidence in Houston Area

October 6, 1906The City of Houston bought the private Water Works Company for $901,700—the amount of debt owed by the company. With the sale, the City acquired the Water Works plant, 55 wells and 65 miles of mains. The newly organized Water Department rapidly drilled sixty-six new artesian wells to augment the recently acquired infrastructure.

Commentary:  Go to This Day in Water History for September 25, 1982 to see the consequences of the rapid withdrawal of groundwater under Houston–subsidence!

September 25, 1982: Houston’s Thirst

Land Subsidence in and Around Houston, TX

Land Subsidence in and Around Houston, TX

September 25, 1982New York Times headline–Houston’s Great Thirst is Sucking City Down Into the Ground. “It started to the east of the city some years ago, when homes and industry began to slide into Galveston Bay. Now the entire city of Houston is sinking into its base of sand and clay, including the glittery new residential, commercial and retail developments that have sprung up like weeds in the prairie to the west of downtown. The cause is water. The vast aquifers beneath the city have been overpumped to feed the breakneck development of the last decade. But the solution will cost money, big money, or compel a slowing of growth, so the issue is potentially as much a political one as a geological one in a town in which unbridled growth is gospel.”

September 19, 1886: Houston Water Supply Problems

Germ Theory of Disease

Germ Theory of Disease

September 19, 1886:  Loss of life and property in Houston, Texas  demonstrated the inadequacies of the Water Works operations and underscored its failure to supply uncontaminated, potable water and adequate water pressure to Houstonians. Many of the town’s citizens were deeply concerned.

The Houston Post newspaper rallied to the company’s defense in the following article, printed on September 19, 1886:

“A great many people think that the water furnished by the water works is unfit for drinking or culinary purposes, but in that they are greatly mistaken. The supply is obtained from a portion of the bayou which is pregnant with springs, and the water is free from all impurities and is pure and wholesome to drink. Of course, after heavy rains the banks of the bayou wash into the stream and the water is then discolored slightly. But even then it is good and much better at all seasons than Mississippi river water, especially at St. Louis, where the river is muddy and dirty.”

Commentary: Full acceptance of the germ theory of disease and development of bacteriological monitoring methods would be necessary before the public or the newspapers really understood the quality of their water supplies.

September 6, 1893: Houston Water Supply Contaminated

0919 dead-cow in waterSeptember 6, 1893:  The Houston Daily Post ran a series of investigative articles about the Water Works Company and the pollution in Buffalo Bayou–an early surface water supply for the City of Houston, Texas. In a September 6, 1893 article, Houston Cotton Exchange officials charged that the bayou was “an immense cesspool, reeking with filth and emitting a stench of vilest character.” The newspaper noted in 1895 that a dozen privies, a smallpox graveyard, a dead cow, oil mill, and cattle yards had been sighted in the waters above the Water Works’ dam. In another article later that year, reporters wrote that cattle from the Southern Oil Mill stockyards were discovered wading in the bayou alongside decomposing cow carcasses. A drain from the mill ran directly into the bayou creating additional unsanitary conditions. “It is our opinion that the use of this water is a menace to the lives of the people of this community,” avowed the investigative reporters.

Commentary: How many dead cows per liter are allowed before a water supply can be considered unfit?

October 6, 1906: Houston Buys Water Works

1006 Ground subsidence in Houston TXOctober 6, 1906The City of Houston bought the private Water Works Company for $901,700—the amount of debt owed by the company. With the sale, the City acquired the Water Works plant, 55 wells and 65 miles of mains. The newly organized Water Department rapidly drilled sixty-six new artesian wells to augment the recently acquired infrastructure.

Commentary:  Go to This Day in Water History for September 25, 1982 to see the consequences of the rapid withdrawal of groundwater under Houston–subsidence!

September 25, 1982: Houston’s Thirst

Land Subsidence in and Around Houston, TX

Land Subsidence in and Around Houston, TX

September 25, 1982New York Times headline–Houston’s Great Thirst is Sucking City Down Into the Ground. “It started to the east of the city some years ago, when homes and industry began to slide into Galveston Bay. Now the entire city of Houston is sinking into its base of sand and clay, including the glittery new residential, commercial and retail developments that have sprung up like weeds in the prairie to the west of downtown. The cause is water. The vast aquifers beneath the city have been overpumped to feed the breakneck development of the last decade. But the solution will cost money, big money, or compel a slowing of growth, so the issue is potentially as much a political one as a geological one in a town in which unbridled growth is gospel.”

September 19, 1886: Houston Water Supply Problems

Germ Theory of Disease

Germ Theory of Disease

September 19, 1886:  Loss of life and property in Houston, Texas  demonstrated the inadequacies of the Water Works operations and underscored its failure to supply uncontaminated, potable water and adequate water pressure to Houstonians. Many of the town’s citizens were deeply concerned.

The Houston Post newspaper rallied to the company’s defense in the following article, printed on September 19, 1886:

“A great many people think that the water furnished by the water works is unfit for drinking or culinary purposes, but in that they are greatly mistaken. The supply is obtained from a portion of the bayou which is pregnant with springs, and the water is free from all impurities and is pure and wholesome to drink. Of course, after heavy rains the banks of the bayou wash into the stream and the water is then discolored slightly. But even then it is good and much better at all seasons than Mississippi river water, especially at St. Louis, where the river is muddy and dirty.”

Commentary: Full acceptance of the germ theory of disease and development of bacteriological monitoring methods would be necessary before the public or the newspapers really understood the quality of their water supplies.