CONSERVATION OF JERSEY WATERS

CONSERVATION OF JERSEY WATERS

The New Jersey State Water Supply Commission in its third annual report to the Governor pleads the necessity of conserving the potable waters of the State. Happenings of the past two years, the commission says, has aroused public sentiment and riveted attention upon the importance of such conservation. The rapid increase of population in the northern part of the state, greater than that in any of the neighboring states, has, in the judgment of the commission, made the subject one of vital interest. In addition to discussing the advisability of a storage resorvoir and its commercial value the commission recommends that legislation be enacted forthwith which would prevent the transmission out of the state by pipes, conduits or otherwise of sub-surface or underground water. It also recommends that such waters be placed under the control of the commission. The necessity of such legislation, it is shown, has been emphasized by the attempts of the Hudson County Water Company to divert sub-surface water for the purpose of supplying Staten Island. Should the company succeed in its purpose the commission is unwilling to say to what lengths the precedent thus established might supplies in the Passaic Valley, which has not go. In introducing the subject of a conservation reservoir the report shows that from 1850 to 1905, the population of the counties of Essex, Hudson, Passaic, Bergen and Union increased from 133,154 to 1,252,877. During the same period the population of eleven municipalities in these counties increased from 61,914 to 777,302. Based upon this percentage of growth the commission argues that when the next federal census is taken this year the population of these five counties will have increased to 1,500,000, and the number of inhabitants of the eleven cities will have become at least 900,000. The water furnished by public and private supplies within the counties above mentioned is at the rate of approximately 135,000,000 gallons daily, and the quantity which will be needed will rapidly increase as the population grows. The inauguration of any plan for the storage of water in adequate reservoirs, from which it may be distributed as the growing needs of the public demand, must be deferred until the creation of a district. The necessity and wisdom for so doing at an early date has been clearly demonstrated more than once during the year past, from the facts disclosed during hearings on applications considered by the commission. The most important and desirable source of water yet been acquired by municipalities and private corporations, and is, therefore, still in a qualified sense, under the control of this commission, is that furnished by the Wanaque River. The applications for the grant of the right to use this source of supply, which were made by two municipalities—Newark and Paterson —already abundantly provided from sources owned by them, or by private companies owning abundant sources, demonstrated that their present supplies would be sufficient for several yeans to come. The objection to granting the request of either of the municipalities is that the supplies sought for arc far in excess of their needs for many years, and by making a grant to either injustice to others would without doubt result. If the legislature should deem it wise to create a water district or districts, it would be possible for the commission to adopt and carry out plans whereby these waters could be stored and disposed of from time to time in sufficient quantities, upon equitable terms, not only to the communities whose applications the commission was reluctantly forced to decline, but other municipalities as their needs might hereafter arise. This distribution could be made in such a manner and in such quantities as would not consume the whole supply in many years to come, basing quantity consumed upon the present and the probable growth of the communities dependent upon such a supply. It is true that the commission can, under existing law. prevent the pre-emption of the waters of new sources of supplies by one municipality to the exclusion and consequent injury of others, but until the districts are created it is without power to provide for a wide distribution of the same. It submitted that the plan and one which would meet all reasonable objections and be the easiest of realization would be to authorize the creation in the first instance of a district which should comprise only the lands to be occupied by the site of the proposed reservoir, together with such other lands as might be required for a site for the dam and necessary structures and to provide against the pollution. In order to safeguard it legislation should be enacted whereby the commission would have no power to incur any indebtedness until it should have first ascertained that the revenue to be derived would warrant the erection and operation of the reservoir and works and until the raising of the funds necessary for that purpose should have first been assured. There should be given to the commission power to negotiate provisional contracts with municipalities in need of new or additional supplies and arrange with them for providing means in amount sufficient to warrant the beginning of the work. When these were assured the law should enable the commission to proceed with the development of the plan. It should also be made lawful for any municipality to enter into such contract and to provide for raising its proportionate share of the necessary funds for the acquisition of lands and the commencement of the works. The commission should then have power to pledge the reservoir and its appurtenances, together with the water rights, as security for the payment of the bonds by it issued from time to time for the completion of the work. If adopted, the commission at first would simply erect reservoirs, impound the waters of the State, provide for compensation for riparian and flowage rights and deliver water at its reservoirs to those needing it from time to time in sufficient quantities for their wants and at prices, which, while affording a living profit, would not be subject to the dictation of those who are now alone able to furnish the supply. If the district for the Wanaque only should be created upon the lines indicated, the commission would have at its disposal a supply to furnish at least 70,000,000 gallons daily, It could distribute the waters in such manner as needed, not to one municipality only but to the many, even to those whose present supplies it is claimed will not long continue sufficient. This plan of conservation and distribution is one which it is believed will commend itself as one far better than that which would permit the taking of this great supply to the exclusion of others by any single municipality whose present needs do not require the one-seventh part of it and whose future needs will not in all human probability require as much as the half of it for nearly fifty years to come. The plan of establishing a reservoir at Mountain View has the most to commend it. in the opinion of the commission. It will give protection against flood damage and furnish the means of impounding the greatest quantity of water at the least relative cost. The watershed has an area of 380 square miles while the Wanaque embraces only eighty-three. Several other sites are available, but they are more removed and the watersheds contiguous thereto are much less in extent. In the Mountain View reservoir there could be stored 65,000,000,000 gallons, with a daily yield of 250,000,000, while the storage capacity of the Wanaque reservoir would be only 11,000,000,000, with a daily yield of about 70,000,000. The time when the needs of the general public would tax the capacity of the reservoir is not far distant, as measured by the lapse of time in the growth of the State. The quantity of water furnished by public and private supplies in 1905 to the communities who will eventually and of necessity be dependent in whole or in part on the waters of the reservoir was about 105,000.000 daily and and in 1910 on the same basis of supply, the amount required will be about 135,000,000, a daily increase of 30,000,000. The present sources are capable of furnishing a supply sufficient to meet this increase, but no more. Assuming the same rate of increase in daily consumption of water which must be obtained from sources other than the present, it will have reached approximately 40,000,000 in five years thereafter and for each succeeding five years such increase in daily average will be more rapid. The consumption of the 200,000,000 gallons, the daily capacity of the proposed reservoir, allowing 50,000,000 to be released in order to maintain the low flow of the Passaic, will have been attained about the year 1930. If water be furnished at the rate of $25 per million gallons, the revenues capitalized at four per cent, would represent a plan worth at least $35,000,000. The commission would urge early action on the score of economy. The lands necessary for any site can now be acquired and the works built at much less expense than at a later period. Each year’s delay will inevitably add to the cost. During the past year the increasing number of applications from municipalities and corporations desiring new or additional water supplies has necessitated many public hearings. Nearly all of these meetings have been held in the communities whence the application came. Four applications have been granted and three refused. The commission has endeavored to protect with equal thoroughness the interests of all communities affected. The assertion of the state’s rights to all unappropriated watersheds and its endeavors to secure an equable division of the potable water supply among the communities needing it. is now generally regarded as the only manner by which the rights of all can be effectually protected.

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