ECONOMY IN WATER SUPPLY.
Welcome as it was, the relief which a few showers afforded to the drought-stricken inhabitants of our great Northern cities was very slight. Day follows day, week follows week; but the rainfall column in the meteorological tables still remains for the most part blank. We cannot deny the possibility of the commencement —to-morrow, next day or next week—of six months of rainy days. Such a thing has happened. But in the meantime the springs are becoming lower than ever; and the question is, what will the country do if the weather continues as rainless as it has been for the last eighteen months and more ?
One of the first points to examine—come wet, come dry—is the extravagance with which we dispense the first necessary of life. How much water do we want ? If we look to the accounts of water supply we find evidence of the wildest caprice in this respect. To say nothing of the 300 gallons per inhabitant that were daily poured into Rome by her eight (afterward nine) aqueducts, the capital of Italy at the present time enjoys an allowance ot 130 gallons for the daily need of each inhabitant. Chicago draws upward of too gallons a day for each inhabitant from the inland sea on the shores of which the city is built; a tunnel two miles long being driven beneath the lake in order to obtain a pure inlet. New York is contented with 74 daily gallons per inhabitant ; Philadelphia, St. Louis and Baltimore each distribute 66. Glasgow draws 55 daily gallons per inhabitant from Loch Katrine ; Plymouth obtains 55 gallons from a natural source utilized in the time of Queen Elizabeth. Edinburgh and Newcastle are each contented with a daily supply of 40 gallons per head.
But a much closer economy is observed in our great northern centres of manufacture and commerce. Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham each distribute from 21 to 22 gallons per head daily ; and of this one-third is supplied for manufacturing purposes. Nottingham and Sheffield distribute 18 and 16 gallons, of which about 12 gallons suffice for the domestic supply. And where engineering experience is allowed full play without any complication arising from commercial interests (as in some of our barracks) 10 daily gallons per inmate is an ample supply of water.
The costly and elaborate returns of local expenditure which are issued by the local government board have the same fault which turns so many blue books into waste paper—that is to say, the omission of a few points of special information which would render all the other figures far more useful. By patient research, it is possible to ascertain from the annual local taxation returns that out of 1576 urban and rural sanitary authorities, less than a third—that is to say, 504—supply their constituents with water. For this purpose they have incurred a debt which on Lady day. 1886, stood at ^31.870,895 ; and they support an annual expenditure of ,£Si6,ooo in working costs. But when we ask how much water is provided for this outlay, or how many persons are supplied, the blue book is silent. Nor is there any available information that deserves the name as to the number, capital, distribution and expenditure of the water-works in private hands. We cannot tell, from the defective nature of the returns, either the cost per million gallons of water or the cost per inhabitant in these 504 cases. But, where it is possible to compare the proportion of water-cost to ratable value, we find that it is much higher in towns where the water is supplied by the municipal authorities than in towns served by private companies. Thus, in London, according to a careful analysis made in 18S4, the charge for water amounted to 4.79 per cent on the ratable value of the houses supplied by the eight great companies. In Liverpool, in the same year, the proportion was 6.74, in Manchester 7-73. In Birmingham 7.71, in Wolverhampton as much as 8.5 per cent on the ratable value.
The average supply of water per head afforded by the water-works throughout the country is usually taken at from 30 to 33 daily gallons. Allowing a fifth of that quantity to be used for trade purposes, we still have a domestic daily use of from 24 to 26 gallons per head. The experience of Liverpool and some other towns, as well as of barracks and other establishments where the distribution of water has been made a matter of careful study, is enough to show that, apart from trade purposes, something like half of our artificial water supply is wasted. The saving that might be effected by systematic regulation of the water supply is a matter for serious consideration. Our existing sources of supply under such an improvement as experience shows to be possible would have their efficacy increased by 30 per cent. Twenty-five pounds per million gallons is a low average for the cost of the English water supply, the actual cost reaching ^30 per million gallons in London, ,£34 at Liverpool, ,£35 at Sheffield, and only falling below ,£21 or ,£22 in a few places where ample flow is provided from unsullied rivers or artesian wells. And a saving of 3500 gallons per head in annual supply is readily within the control of the engineer. But for the urban districts alone, exclusive of the metropolis and of the rural districts, the cost thus saved would exceed £1,200,000 a year.—St. James’ Gazette.