Details of Water Distribution.
THERE is too little attention bestowed upon this important feature of water-works administration, and the result is found in the fact that after a series of years, during which time the water taking population have been educated to a lavish abuse of a liberal supply, it becomes difficult to restrict a waste. This evil cannot be directly placed upon the water consumer; it is owing to a want of proper care being exercised in the matter of size of taps permitted in the water mains, and leaking fixtures.
The maintaining of a constant head is directly due to the conditions of depth of water in distributing reservoirs and stand-pipe and to the speed of the direct pumping system. When distribution of water includes the item of waste, then the head due to what is considered requisite to produce a velocity of flow of water equal to the waste in gallons, during a daily consumption of twenty-four hours, is the measure of efficiency of head lost. It will not answer logically to say by way of excuse, that there is plenty of water, plenty of head and plenty of area of cross section of distribution.
The lake cities are examples of the popular cry : “ Plenty of water,” and the result is enormous consumption of water per capita, creatinglarge expense in pumping and necessitating large water mains for distributing water wasted and legitimately used. Experience in American cities proves that under excessive heads, say above 200 feet, the ratio of waste is greater than under a moderate head of 150 feet. High pressures generate in proportion, corresponding velocities and corresponding waste. Under ordinary heads, waste is diminished proportionately, according to the head. It is difficult to maintain, even at low pressure, a uniform head of water, nevertheless it is easier to maintain it than at high pressure. The waste is proportionate, not only to the consumption per capita, but also in addition thereto the waste will be found greater under high pressure than under low pressure. The theory that high pressure should prevail for fire service is not a sound one, and for the reason, that if once inaugurated for that purpose a sympathetic relation is established at once in the increasing consumption due to waste, and the maintenance of high pressure is difficult to preserve, except at high cost of pumping, increased distributing capacity and increased storage. The mistake originates in the beginning of the scheme of distribution. Small taps in distribution mains will prolong and maintain pressure ; their effect upon the consumer is to increase the time of delivery.
Under municipal control engineers of waterworks pay more attention to the question of source of supply than they do to the question of the phases of distribution. A few hours of study and reflection upon the question of method of distribution would be of vast benefit to many of the profession. It is very well to go on year after year increasing watershed area, multiplying pumping power, increasing trunk mains and duplicating storage and distributing reservoirs. Why is it that details of distribution are not properly considered, and some steps taken to stop the enormous waste which the people using water fail to realize is of but little account, because they are not restricted as to waste ? It would seem as if our large cities through the apathy of engineers pay no attention to the subject of waste of water until every resource, natural and financial, is exhausted. Then the question of restriction of waste of water is sprung upon water consumers, and the cry of a “job” resounds through the community. There is but one conclusion to come to in this important question, and it is in brief, that an educational process is necessary to teach the water consumer that there is, in the matter of water consumed, a measure of limitation. It is therefore the duty of all water-works engineers to consider not only the source of supply as a measure of safety and convenience, but the method of distribution, in that it shall be all that is desirable and necessary and within reasonable figures of consumption compatible with proper sanitary requirements.
It is a well-known fact that the ratio of consumption increases yearly per capita, and it is quite unnecessary to say that it is due to defective plumbing, large taps in mains and neglect of keeping fixtures in repair. An experience in water-works administration leads to but one conclusion, namely, that no water-works will or can hope to diminish consumption of water that is known to be wasted, except by a proper and well organized meter system. A well organized meter system at the expense of the city water-works or private corporation, is practically in the line of duplicating a water plant, just to the extent of what may be saved and has been heretofore wasted. Any sum of money spent to stop waste is better invested than the same sum to provide for more waste, inasmuch as diminishing waste practically increases the means to furnish legitimate increase of supply occasioned by lawful demand.
A NUMBER of passenger engines are being equipped for steam heating at the Pennsylvania and Reading shops in Reading, Pa., fifteen having been fitted up. “ By an ingenious arrangement,” says The Reading Telegram, “they are able to use„the hot water heaters that are at present on the cabs. The steam pipes are employed to convey steam to several steam jackets on the train, where the water is heated that circulates in pipes throughout the cars.” The system has, it is stated, proved very successful, and of course does away with the dangerous car stove, which, before many years, it is to be devoutly trusted, will have become a hideous memory of the past.
AND still the fire losses keep on rolling up. A conservative estimate up to the close of last week put them at over $115,000,000 for the portion of the year elapsed and from the number and destructiveness of the fires since reported the grand total for 1891 will probably somewhat exceed $125,000,000. The worst of it is that this drain upon the resources of the country is increasing steadily, at a rate evidently out of proportion to the growth of population and increase of destroyable property, when one takes into consideration the addition to the number of water-works and fire departments, and the general improvement in the fire protective facilities of our cities and towns, which is constantly going on. However, this is an age of progress, and there is good reason to believe that we are upon the eve of the adoption of many changes and improvements in our methods of, and tools for, fire fighting, and that the next generation will see a marked diminution in the proportion of the annual fire waste.
A SOMEWHAT surprising decision has just been given in a Chicago court, to the effect that a fire insurance policy cannot be held to cover damage when the fire is the result of a gas explosion, caused by the familiar leaking pipe and lighted match. It is difficult to imagine upon what grounds it can be held that this is not destruction by fire within the meaning of the insurance contract, and in all probability the case will be taken to a higher court. A fire caused in this manner is simply the result of accident or one of the many acts of carelessness such as the insurance companies expect to meet, and against the consequences of which they insure their customers. It has been established that the insurance contract does not cover a loss by fire breaking out in the ruins of a building after its fall from some other cause, but it would puzzle one to discover any analogy between this case and the other, and unless there were some other circumstances connected with the occurrence which are not mentioned in the reports, it will be, we think, somewhat surprising if the decision stands.
WHILE the capture of an incendiary in one of the large cities has been proved to be, for obvious reasons, a very difficult matter, it really doesn’t seem as if it should be so hard a task in the smaller towns and farming communities, where persons and their habits are, comparatively speaking, so well known to their neighbors. And yet we hear, with a frequency which becomes monotonous, of towns and villages, especially in the Middle and Eastern States, kept in a constant state of alarm for months at a time by the operations of incendiaries, who usually escape arrest, despite the watchfulness of so-called “vigilance committees” and the rewards offered by the authorities and the underwriters. Out West firebugs, as a rule, don’t seem to be quite as fortunate, possibly for the reason that the people place more value upon professional detective work than upon the spasmodic efforts of village vigilantes. A gang of incendiaries which has during the past year been plying its nefarious trade at Sandoval, III., at an expense of about $30,000 to the community, has just been caught, and at St. Paul, Minn., a detective has also probably succeeded in ridding the city of a band of these pests. He wormed himself into the confidence of a suspected man and secured from him a confession that he had burned five houses in St. Paul, securing a portion of the insurance money. He then took out a policy of insurance on a building, arranged with the firebug to burn it, and managed it so that the man was caught in the act of starting the fire. Another of the gang is stated to have been bagged as well, with a probability that the rest of the precious lot will also soon be behind the bars. There are detectives and detectives, but it stands to reason that the quiet work of a sharp man must prove more effective in the detection of incendiaries than anything which can be done by amateur watchers and street patrols.
THE usefulness of roof hydrants on business structures of medium height in enabling the fire department to better handle fires in nearby buildings, has been shown two or three times in Boston and New York. Now Chief Swenie of Chicago has, from the accounts in the local papers, demonstrated practically the fact that, by means of a stand-pipe attached to a tbirteen-story building, the department can not only take care of a structure of this height alone, but also of its neighboring skyscrapers, as could not possibly have been done by playing directly from the street, or even from a water tower. On the eastern side of the Chicago Chamber of Commerce building, which is about two hundred feet high, there is a combination fire escape and stand-pipe. A steamer and two lines of hose were attached to this and water was forced up to the roof of the building, and, through one hundred feet of hose attached to the gate there, an effective fire stream was thrown over the Brunswick-Balke Billiard Hall and the Chicago Opera House, or, say to a horizontal distance of about two hundred feet. Chief Swenie is quoted by The Chicago Herald as saying, in effect, that this experiment shows that with the aid of such stand-pipes attached to the high buildings in the city, the fire department will be enabled to handle a fire in the highest of them. There can be no question that these devices will greatly aid the firemen in their work. There is a great deal of interest felt, however, as to what will be done for the better protection of Boston’s business district, and a strong suspicion that our staid and sober neighbor is likely to show us, after all, the newest improvement in this line.