BROOKLYN’S WATER SUPPLY.
Mr. Charles Sewall, manager of the Commercial Union Assurance Company,has sent a long communication relating to Brooklyn’s water supply to the Manufacturers’ Association in reply to one from that association’s committee on water supply requesting information “from the fire insurance standpoint” regarding the subject. He treats the matter from the above point of view under two heads pressure and quantity. Municipal water systems serve many purposes. He claims, however, that the chief is fire protection, without which the whole municipality may be blotted out and, therefore, have no need for water at all. He adds:
The larger the city, the greater will be the force of that assertion. The line that may be drawn between the control of a fire and the loss of that control by the firemen, is a very narrow one, and the ratio at which a fire increases after it has gained the mastery in a great city is unpleasant to contemplate. Long continued freedom from great catastrophes of this nature tends to make us forgetful of the danger that is constantly threatening us; consequently we drift along from year to year and are prone to complain of our water supplies only from the standpoint of quality and occasional scarcity. It is a trite saying, but a very true one, that ” the first five minutes at a fire may be worth more than the succeeding hour;” and it is particularly true if the firemen are favored with a water service that gives them a forcible pressure from the hydrants at once, and does not rapidly diminish or altogether disappear when half a dozen or more hydrants are opened.
Brooklyn uses at fires in one year hardly twenty per cent, of the quantity used by the citizens in one day; but the file department demands that it must get all that water “ at once and without interruption within a comparatively small area in any part of the city, if its operations are not to be seriously, and, perhaps, vitally hampered. This can be guaranteed only by the employment of very large mains or by heavy pressure. The former would be only half-way useful —no water could be put upon a fire except by the force of a steam fire engine, and that force would be diminished by having to lift or draw the water, while with the high pressure many fires might be extinguished without the use of the steamer, and its fullest efficiency could be utilized in forcing water through the ho e, if the pressure forced the water into its cylinders. None but a direct gravity system of water supply is deemed adequate and acceptable by fire underwriters, and the greater the area to be protected and the distance from which the supply is to be conducted, the greattr should be the elevation of the source. The minimum hydrant pressure of any city, large or small, should not be less than seventy.five pounds per square inch, and 125 pounds would be preferable. In a city of large area 125 pounds is necessary at the dissribution reservoir or point of delivery into the distribution system in order to secure seventy-five pounds at remote points; because of the great frictional loss by distance of distribution. In a city of 50,000 inhabitants or less a reservoir distributing over a radius of one or two miles should not be less than 200 feet in elevation above the streets when located continious to the city, and the elevation should be enough greater to overcome any loss by friction if located at a distance.
Mr. Sewall points out that in Brooklyn the main reservoir, which supplies the greater part of the city, is only 170 feet above the tide-level—an elevation lower than some parts of the city; thus necessitating the repumping of a large quantity of the water to still higher reservoirs. The city has outgrown such a system, which, Mr. Sewall insists, will be even of less use ten years hence, after more bridges have been constructed and rapid transit established.
Mr. Sewall shows that the most serious condition in the present state of affairs is the fact that Brooklyn’s resources for increasing its water supply are utterly inadequate; since it has but 150 square miles of watershed, and, with the prevailing average rainfall, scarcely more than 600,000 gallons daily per square mile can be relied upon. The daily supply can not be added to.as it is.however many’wells are sunk. Yet the population continues,and will continue to increase,while even the 25,000,000 gallons additional supply sought for from wells has not materialized—cannot materialize. Long Island is excluded as a source by the legislation secured by Suffolk county. Considering the low elevation of that source Mr. Sewall regards it fortunate(“ from the standpoint of fire insurance”) that such is the case, and urges the adoption of one or the other of the two mainland sources surveyed during the last administration. From either of these sources the engineers reported that 100,000,000 gallons daily could be obtained and at an
elevation which would almost double the pressure of Brooklyn’s present service. If either or both of these sources seemed limited, a glance at the map of this [New York] State would disclose 1,000 square miles or more of ideal watershed between Albany and the New Jersey line.
In reply to the objection that Brooklyn’s financial condition is a bar to its action alone on any of these sources, Mr. Sewall asks;
How is the situation to be bettered by going still fartheraway and by waiting for the aid of New York, which, from present indications, will soon be financially unable to secure its own much needed relief in water supply ? Suppose, after much delay, the State were to refuse to be induced into a municipal water supply scheme ? The time thus lost could not be recalled, and your engineers all warn you that the city now has no time to lose with safety.
In closing Mr. Sewall bears witness to the excellent work always done by Brooklyn’s fire department, hampered as it is by falling pressures and shoit wateron many occasions. When the chief of your department says that he feels a relief when a fire alarm sounds from a locality within reach of the fireboats, it is very significant. He realizes that he will not be short of water for those pieces of apparatus, however short he may be for his land forces. But the fringe of area that may be covered by the fireboats is but a small fraction of the city. Your thirty-nine steamers in service and seven in reserve, and your 750 men have saved your city thus far by their constant alertness and prompt action; but it is not wise to rely too far upon their past good work and good luck. Without water they would be helpless and humiliated, and your city would be ruined.
At a recent fire in Providence, R. I., the firemen of truck No, 5, Captain Johnson.saved the lives of three women. Ladderman Wallace, who, when attached to hook and ladder No. 1 rescued an old man from a burning building.was first up the ladder, closely followed by his comrades Gilbert and Moore. The women were carried through suffocating smoke and fierce flames. The board of fire commissioners has recognized their pluck in highly complimentary terms.