An Optimistic Paper

An Optimistic Paper

The paper on “The Effect of the War Period 1914-18, and Public Control Upon the Water Works of the United States” which was read before the American Water Works Association at the Buffalo convention by Leonard Metcalf, the well known water works consulting engineer, and from which we publish excerpts in this issue of FIRE AND WATER ENGINEERING, is on the whole distinctly optimistic in its tone. Mr. Metcalf, in the preparation of this paper, had reviewed some 500 decisions, more or less, affecting water works, as handed down by courts and commissions, and his resulting comments are highly illuminating and instructive. He calls attention to the fact that the jurisdiction of commissions in public utility regulation and control is becoming more nearly complete and that the reversals by the courts of interpretation of fact by the commissions is more and more rare. Thus the more equitable distribution of rates is marked, the commissioners generally insisting that the payment for fire protection should be commensurate with its cost, and that the division of the cost of domestic and commercial or industrial service should be equitably made. The position of the public service commission has increased in power and recognition, as the ability of its members has grown and broadened by experience. “The mutual respect and cordial relations which exist between the commission and the corporation managers in many States,” says Mr. Metcalf, “clearly reflect a better understanding of the real difficulties of the problem and of a desire on both sides to reach workable standards of service, which shall be of common advantage to the public and capital, to the operators and the employers of public utilities.” After citing statistics showing the effect of the war upon the water works. Mr. Metcalf disclaims any intention to appear in the role of prophet, but nevertheless, manages to make some very comforting forecasts as to the future. He suggests that the conclusion to be drawn from what his investigations have disclosed is that “necessary improvements should go forward as rapidly as possible.” Besides the restoration of public confidence involved in this, and the necessary employment of labor, “improvements are seriously needed to restore our normal high standard of water service, to adequately safeguard the public health. While city officials and water works officials are hesitating, the manufacturing interests are going ahead with their construction work . . . confident that postponement will . . . involve loss in service or profit far exceeding any saving in construction cost.” Mr. Metcalf concludes his paper with the following warning which can well be heeded by each and every water works man: “The public is far more vitally interested in thoroughly good and adequate present service, than in any probable saving to be effected by delaying construction to a later date, in anticipation of further more or less problematical decline in costs.”

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