Tag Archives: water supply

July 16, 1914: Acquisition of the East Jersey Water Company

Wanaque Reservoir

July 16, 1914: Municipal Journal article. To Decide on Joining Water Supplies. “Trenton, N. J. In a resolution the State Water Supply Commission requested that Newark and the eight other municipalities which have made application for a joint water supply signify within sixty days whether they favor the acquisition of the properties of the East Jersey Water Company or the alternative plan of developing the watershed of the Wanaque River. The commission will hold a final conference with representatives from the nine interested municipalities at the city hall, Paterson, in September. The municipalities included are Newark, Paterson, Elizabeth, Montclair, East Orange, Totowa, Glen Ridge, Nutley and Passaic. The action of the commission was the outcome of a resolution recently adopted by the Board of Works of Newark urging that action be taken to provide an additional water supply for that city without further delay. It is understood that Newark is opposed to the purchase of the East Jersey Water Company plant, but is more than willing that the Wanaque watershed be constructed.

It is further said that the attitude of the State commission is that Newark’s need for more water is imperative and that should the other municipalities fail to come to some agreement by September 11, the State should enter into a contract with Newark and proceed with the Wanaque development. The resolutions adopted by the state commission review at length the negotiations between that body and the nine municipalities, including the authorization of the appraisal of the plant of the East Jersey Water Company.”

Commentary: Ultimately, the Wanaque water supply was developed by Newark and the East Jersey Water Company was rolled up with other private water companies into a regional water agency that became known as the Passaic Valley Water Commission. The Commission is still operational today. The cornerstone of the Commission water supply is the treatment plant built on the original site of George Warren Fuller’s revolutionary mechanical filtration plant at Little Falls, New Jersey.

July 11, 1908: Filtered Water for Springfield, MA

July 11, 1908: Engineering Record article. The Little River Water Supply for Springfield, Mass. “The present water supply of Springfield, Mass., is derived from the Ludlow Reservoir, and has for many years been the source of much trouble on account of the growth of anabaena during warm weather. Repeated investigations and reports had been made on the causes of the growth and the best means of rendering the water, as delivered in the city, free from objection, with the result that a decision was reached to abandon the Ludlow supply altogether and develop the Little River watershed, an entirely new source. While the construction of the new work is under way, the Ludlow Reservoir water is being rendered usable during the anabaena season by a temporary intermittent filter plant.

The supply from the Little River is as good as other waters used in a raw state by Massachusetts cities, but in this case, in recognition of the advancing requirements of quality, it was decided to filter the water, and, accordingly, sand filters of a nominal capacity of 15,000,000 gal. per day will be built to filter the entire supply. The watershed will be developed in part only at the present time, as the run-off is far above the immediate needs of the city. The Little River is a branch of the Westfield River, and the catchment area is located almost directly west of Springfield, the intake dam being about 12~ miles from the city. From this dam the water will flow through a tunnel, not quite a mile long, cut through the rock under Cobble Mountain. The sedimentation basin and the filtration plant will be located near the end of the tunnel and the pure water will flow through a steel pipe line a distance of 74 miles to a covered reservoir on Provin Mountain.

Commentary: Stubborn opinions by sanitary experts in Massachusetts stalled the efforts for many years to install filtration on water supplies in the state. The prevailing view was that water supplies should only be taken from sources fully protected against contamination and that it was wrong to treat marginal or substandard water supplies. With the “recognition of the advancing requirements of quality” at least this Massachusetts city was able to insure the delivery of safe and palatable drinking water. This wrong-headed water supply viewpoint was promoted by Thomas Drown, William T. Sedgwick, George C. Whipple and other professors and graduates of Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1909, some of these same individuals testified against the first use of chlorine on the Jersey City water Supply at Boonton Reservoir.

July 2, 1914: Denver Threatens to Seize Private Water Plant

1914 photo shows Cheesman Dam with water going over the spillway. This was a common sight until drought and growth of Denver made inroads on the storage supply.

July 2, 1914: Municipal Journal article. Threatens to Seize Water Plant. “Denver, Colo.-The Denver City Water Company is trying to prevent the city from building its own plant, but has so far lost almost every legal fight. It is now trying to sell the plant to the city. The city is willing to buy, but the officials insist that the figures are too high. To complicate matters the plant broke down in the last few days. For several days portions of the city were without water and at the mercy of fire. Two conduits gave way, and investigation showed that they were worn out. Temporary repairs have restored an almost normal supply, but the opponents of the company say that the weakness of the plant has been exposed. The voters are opposed to the water company’s scheme to sell out to the city, and the city commissioners are supporting the public. Public opinion was disclosed last February at a referendum election, when the taxpayers, by a vote of more than 2 to 1, decided to buy or build a municipal water plant, and voted a bond issue of $8,000,000 for the purpose. It is estimated that if the city should buy the old plant for $8,000,000, or a lower price, $3,000,000 additional would have to be spent to put the plant in fair shape.

A new municipal plant can he built for about $9,000,000. ‘If the water company isn’t giving the city the service it should give, or if it uses any extreme methods, such as cutting off water on the people who are unable to pay for service six months in advance, then we shall exercise the police power imposed in this city and take such steps as may be necessary until the service is restored and the water company employs reasonable methods in the collection of its rates,’ said City Attorney I. N. Stevens.

Finally, by unanimous vote the city commissioners recently agreed to extend indefinitely the provisions of the resolution providing for seizure of the company’s plant if its service shall at any time be adjudged insufficient for the city’s needs. This decision was reached after Commissioners Nisbet and Thurn had declared they believed the company was supplying the city with all the water possible with its present plant. The adoption of this resolution means that no action will be taken at this time by the city to interfere with the water company. It means also that the water company must maintain the present standard of service or risk action looking toward taking control of its system out of its hands.”

Commentary: The final selling price was $14 million which is interesting given the discussion in the article above. Throughout this period, there was a struggle between public and private ownership of water systems in the U.S.

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

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.

June 28, 1917: Water Supply for the Army

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 had 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.

Commentary by Catherine Ma: Chester Gillespie was the first Chief (1915-1947) of the Bureau of Sanitary Engineering (established 1915) in the CA State Department of Public Health.   It’s interesting to note the persuasive but firm tone he used in enjoining a regulated entity to properly treat its water supply—it’s for the Army troops readying for battles, i.e. “ I believe that we shall insist upon chlorination of all water furnished to the troops.” It was nothing like “Thou shall treat or else.”

According to the oral history left to us by Henry Ongerth: “Chester Gillespie was a tall, slender, very friendly, rather shy person….He had a tremendous knowledge of the details of water supply and sewage disposal all over the State of California. He spent much time making field trips throughout the State and his men all referred to him as “The Chief,” though not when talking to him directly.   At least in the latter part of his career, Chester Gillespie worked largely by persuasion rather than through formal methods of law enforcement.” Note :   “ …One of the major events of the Gillespie administration was the suit by the State Department of Public Health against the City of Los Angeles. This suit which went to the State Supreme Count, resulted in a judgment requiring Los Angeles to install treatment for its sewage discharge to the Pacific Ocean.”

Mr. Chester Gillespie was one very classy regulator and public health engineer!

By the way, as far as I can remember and at least for the past three decades, our California Water Program has had regulatory jurisdiction over all federal water systems.

June 27, 1912: Los Angeles Water Supply Plan

June 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.”

Commentary: Of course. The Owens River. What could possibly go wrong?

June 21, 1961: First Practical Desalination Plant; 1881: Filter Inventions

June 21, 1961: “President John Kennedy pressed a switch installed in his office in Washington DC to dedicate first practical plant for the conversion of seawater to drinking water; built in less than a year at a cost of $1.5 million at Freeport, Texas by the Dow Chemical Co.; capable of producing about a million gallons of water a day, supplying fresh water to the city of Freeport at a cost of about $1.25 per thousand gallons; May 8, 1961 – Office of Saline Water, U.S. Department of the Interior opened the plant; reverse osmosis has replaced large-scale evaporation method used then as scientific advances have produced special polymers suitable for use as filtering membranes.”

Filter Backwash Process

June 21, 1881: “Patrick Clark, of Rahway, NJ, received a patent for a ‘Process of Cleaning Filter-Beds;’ “…the novelty of the process consists in the employment of jets of water for the purpose of agitating a bed of sand or other suitable granular material which forms the upper part of the filter bed. By this means the silt and other impurities are separated from the sand, and, being of inferior specific gravity, rise above the filter bed, and are removed preferably by a natural current of water in which, when practicable, the apparatus will be immersed”; assigned to Newark Filtering Company (incorporated by Clark, John W. Hyatt, Albert Westervelt in December 1880); origin of modern rapid filter; June 21, 1881 – John W. Hyatt also received a patent for a “Filter”; could be cleaned mechanically; assigned to Newark Filtering Company; prototype for rapid filtration concept.”