We who are engaged in the laudable profession of furnishing water can congratulate ourselves on being connected with one of the oldest undertakings on record. To furnish water to the satisfaction of the consumer is “a consummation devoutly to be wished.” Whether any of us can arrive at that slate where complaints are unknown and praises, however faint, are sung, is very questionable. It is admitted that it is necessary at all times to have an abundant supply of pure water, and, as we who live on the great chain of lakes are not always able to comply with these requisites, what must be the situation of those who are obliged to skirmish round with rivers, creeks, wells, reservoirs, etc? To all such we extend our sincere sympathies. However, we would not have you think fora moment that, because we live on the shores of lake Erie, the water delivered to our consumers is distilled or even on a par with ordinary filtered water. It is otherwise. To illustrate: About three summers ago, I was in the office sitting at a rolltop desk; behind it, facing ine, stood the president of the commissioners, back of him was the door opening into the main corridor of the building. We were discussing questions connected with the business, when this door was opened; from where I sat could be seen a quantity of flowers that adorned the hat of a woman, and from the way they vibrated it was evident that the wearer was somewhat agitated. The following dialogue ensued: “ Are you the sectretary ?” addressing the president, who replied: ” No, madam; you will find him sitting at the desk ’’—indicating with his hand where I was. When the visitor arrived in full view 1 concluded that it was necessary “to pour oil on the troubled waters.” She began: “ Are you the secretary of the water works ?” I replied that I had that honor. “ Well I want you to know that at my house I cannot gel water that is fit to wash dirty clothes in.” To gain time, she was politely invited to be seated and asked the nature of the trouble. “ Trouble! why the water is full of weeds, dirt, and all other undesirable things!” Assuring her that we regretted exceedingly that she was annoyed in this way, I added that she had one consolation in it all, which was, that she had only the water to pay for, that we made no claim whatever for the articles enumerated by her. At this the president suddenly had business elsewhere, and the caller, after looking at me for a full minute, burst out laughing and exclaimed, “Well that is pretty good !” Upon investigation, I found that her house received its supply of water from “ what is known as a “dead end,” which allowed foreign substances to collect and settle in it. A fire hydrant was pi iced there, the water drawn off frequently, say every three to five weeks. The customer had no future cause for complaint. In the fall the lady presented the orifice with a liberal quantity of very fine home-grown peaches, plainly showing her appreciation of our efforts to furnish her pure water.
The next illustration is this: The commissioners, having decided to have the water analysed, samples were taken from the open lake, the bay, the engine well at the pumping station and from faucets at different houses in the city. The report on a sample from a faucet said; “ If fairly collected, not from the sediment, but from near the surface of a water supply,is under the microscope the worst of the speeimens, being remarkable for the great abundance,and offensive character of its sediment. Resides the same vegetation as in No. 3. it showed in the portion examined by me a vigorous naidiform worm with his sets ol dorsal spines in 4’s, also small anguillula worms,as a crust acean carcase crowded by infusorian animalcules which were vigorously dancing round and enjoying their feast.” The Professor with grim humor added: “ This is not the kind of water that people desire to drink.” Are any of us prepared to question his conclusion ? Since the above report was made,the commissioner of water works, in the city of Erie, laid a sixtyinch cast iron intake, under the bottom of the bay, from the well at the pumping station to a point 8.300 feet distant where there is twenty-three feet of water. This improvement cost $141,000, and has been the means of bringing to an end the stories that the water was not fit to wash dirty clothes in, and it was not the kind people wanted to drink. During the past eighteen months regular monthly analysis of water collected from the open lake, mouth of new intake well at pumping station and at the reservoir, has been, made by Dr. W. P. Mason, of Troy, N. Y., u member of this association. For raw water we hsve no superior, and,as to our supply, we have an abundance.
As King Nebuchadnazaer in his palmy days “commanded the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, for to show the king his dreams ” so do consumers of water by meter command us to show them where the water goes to that the meter registers. Suddenly during the last day that water bills can be paid without the addition of a penalty, an excited individual presents himself, stating that the meter bill is higher than usual; he did not have time to call before to have it adjusted, but there was no question in his mind but the meter was all wrong, because it was impossible that he could use more water this quarter than last; he was always particular to tell his employes never to allow the water to run to waste, and he knew that the meter registered against him, and he did not propose to pay for something he never had. In view of all this eloquence, you are urgently requested to make this bill the same as the last one. You do not feel justified in making a slight deduction from $5 to $100, as the case might be, but suggest that he pay the bill and if after a thorough investigation the meter is found to be out of order, the account will be properly adjusted. Sometimes this is satisfactory; again, others act as though “ corporations have no souls,” and go away with an injured air. Upon investigation it is discovered that either the water was permitted to flow continuously to prevent freezing, or, as in the case of one of our best managed institutions of its kind in the United States, where a short time ago the quarterly account was over a hundred dollars more than usual. In this case, it was found that new water closets had been introduced into the premises that had attached to them an automatic flush-tank, so adjusted that it discharged its contents every three minutes of every hour of the twentyfour, and every discharge sent fifty gallons of water on its jourr.ey to the sewer. Do you wonder that the meter showed an unusual consumption of water? When the manager saw how much water this wonderful improvement was disposing of, it was immediately reformed-, they adjusted it so it should operate once in twenty minutes and reduced its hours of labor from twenty-four to fifteen. This heroic treatment made the subsequent accounts normal. In neither of these cases were we asked the second time to allow any deduction from the accounts referred to.
* Paper read at the convention of the American Water Works associa. lion at Buffalo, N. Y., June, 1898.
Again,you will find that an expensive improvement has been added to the establishment, called an “ elevator,” which requires about one hundred gallons of water to carry a quart of ice water to some one located on the upper floor of the hotel. The elevator.is in constant demand—perhaps,necessarily; but, at the end of the quarter,wheu the proprietor gazes at the meter bill he is paralysed; when he recovers from the shock, he visits the water office, armed with the “ facts and figures” furnished him by the agent when he was solicited to purchase the elevator, wheren he demonstrates to his entire satisfaction that an elevator is one of the most economical water consumers ever invented by man, therefore, the counter or meter must be wrong. Finally he is convinced that it does require an abundant supply of water to make it operative. He has the apparatus on his hands; it must be used; and how to reduce running expenses is a problem. Finally he finds a way out of all his troubles; he imparts this wonderful discovery to you. What do you suppose it is ? Why assess it—establish a rate on elevators. When the rate he suggests is figured out, you will receive about one cent a thousand gallons for the water furnished. You are convinced that his modesty bespeaks his merit. Some elevator manufacturers send you a letter.like one received by us a few days ago, that is so frank and confiding that I beg to give it entire:
Dear Sir:—Knowing that you are interested in the sale of water for your company, and appreciating the fact that hydraulic elevators are big consumers and profitable for the water companies, we address you, asking if there are any parties in your city contemplating the purchase of an elevator. If such is the case and you will favor us with their address, we will immediately correspond with them and will use our best endeavors to make the sale. Should we be successful in making the sale, we will further agree to compensate you for your trouble in writing us.
Hoping you will give this letter your attention, we are.
It is hardly necessary to call your attention to the fact that water works never not built, maintained, and operated without money. After a plant is put in commission,the question is. “ How shall the water be disposed of so as to be fair and just to parties interested as owners and consumers, and obtain pay for all the water yon furnish?
I will answer the question by recounting th* system of doing the business in Erie Pennsylvania. Mains are extended upon “Petitition and Agreement,” wherein the petitioners ask for an extension of a main in a particular street, representing that they own a certain number of feet of property fronting on said street, and agreeing to pay annually in quarterly payments in advance a sum equal to seven percent on the cost of such extension until there are enough consumers on the line to pay the amount required. Seventy cents per linea. foot has been found to be the average cost for six-inch pipe or less, which includes cost of specials, stop valves, fire hydrants, etc. On North and South streets the mains are laid twenty-one feet west of the east line of the street, and on East and West streets the same distance south of the north line of the streets. Connections to mains are made upon written application of the owners of the property benefited, who agree to pay on account of same not less than five dollars annually, in quarterly payments in advance,except when the property is vacant, which begins on the day notice of such vacancy is reported at the office. On unpaved streets the average cost of a three quarter-inch connection is ten dollars.
Water is delivered at the curb line of the street; all mainsconnections, stops, etc., between the curb linejof each street is furnished in place and owned by the water works. Manufacturers, livery stables and railroads are metered, paying six cents for each thousand gallons consumed, provided that the minimum receipts per quarter, for each meter shall be for a 3-4-inch or less, $3.75; l-inch, $4.50; 1 1-2-inch, $6.25; 2inch, $10; 3-inch, $18.75; 4-inch, $38.75. Meters are examined and read monthly, bills rendered and collected quarterly. All other consumers are assessed.
To know what to assess, a thorough house to house inspection is made annually, which is carefully compared with the one made the previous year, together with the changes that have been reported from time to time by the licensed plumbers. The sheets used by the inspectors in this field work show the date of inspection,the street the property abutted on,the number of the feet front owned, the house number, the name of the owner, the name of the occupant; states the kind of fixture, and the floor it is located on, how much each is chargeable with, giving what the annual and quarterly assessments are, also the account number, and whether the stop-box at the curb is visited. When this work is completed, the sheets for each ward are separately bound. From these books a tabulated statement is made, showing the number of each kind of assessable fixtures, together with the items that are assessable on account of having water introduced into the premises, and the amount to be collected therefrom for each ward and the total from the entire city. These inspection books form the basis for the business of the coming year. We believe we are safe in saying that by this system pay is obtained for the water used for all purposes, besides detecting illegal plumbing, which is now reduced to a minimum.
To show the result of a thorough house to house inspection, I will quote from the published report for the year 1896 of the water department of a city on the lakes wherein the superintendent said:
The receipts of 1896 show an increase of $29,091.29 over the previous year. But this was not satisfactory to your board and a general inspection of the consumers’ taps and supplies was ordered and commenced in August, 1896; the previous last general inspection having been made in 1893. The results of the present general inspection are at present being tabulated but enough has been shown to warrant the statement that over $50,000 additional yearly revenue for the bureau has been obtained by the discovery of supplies in use and not previously paid for, as per ordinances.
This is evidence strong enough to justify a rigid annual inspection.
On January first of eaoh year a statement showing in detail the amounts assessed is sent to each customer, asking him to examine the same carefully and, if correct, or if he does not understand it, to notify the office before the fifteenth of said month. With this statement is inclosed the bill for the January quarter.
As stated, allowance is made for vacancy. Here the working of the human mind is wonderful; it being swift to remember that it is necessary to report a vacancy to obtain a credit, but in many cases utterly forgetting to inform us of an occupancy. This compelled us to adopt two plans to keep abreast of the times—First, turn off the water, if possible, from the property reported vacant, which would not be turned on till the owner made written application, wherein he agrees to pay for all water used by any occupant of the property at the established rates. The second was to create a “vacancy list,” wherein is kept a record of each vacant piece of property, with all necessary data. Inspectors are required to visit these monthly, reporting the state of the same at the office. One day the reports of the owner of property and the inspector caused considerable merriment. It was this: A party who owns a number of tenements reported one vacated that morning; in the evening an inspector reported a tenement belonging to this party, that had been vacant for some time, as occupied that day by a family by the name of-. Upon examining the records it was discovered that this family had moved out of the place reported vacant by the owner in the morning into the house reported occupied by the inspector in the evening—showing, in a marked degree, how one can educate himself to look closely after his own interests.
The debit accounts are kept by wards and are arranged in five divisions designated, “Assessed,” “Metered,” “Special,” “Plumbing,” “Building.” Each account is known by number; the number indicating which ward the property is in, and at the same ti re informs you to which of the above divisions it belongs. These accounts are kept in a specially prepared ledger that lasts one year. The bills are made either on postal or plain cards of uniform size,so arranged that in receipting them a coupon is cut off and retained, which forms the foundation for the cash record. The “cash book” shows only the date, the number of the account.and the amount of money received. Two books of special design and construction—one showing the daily and monthly, the other the monthly and annual cash transactions—were christened, by the office force, the “Black Books.” They are indispensable in conducting the business, as by them you can instantly ascertain the receipts from any ward, from all the wards, from any of the divisions of accounts or the sum of all the divisions for any day of a month or for any number of days or months. They also show, as clearly, the daily, monthly, and annual deposits, warrants issued, balances in the city treasury and office, also the total cash resources for any day during the year. We have another book, christened the “Frill,” which shows the daily condition of accounts, including the additions, deductions, and payments; by this we know what is due from all kinds of accounts, which, with the cash, makes a daily exhibit of personal resources. Permit me to assure you that these books are kept up to date, knowing each day how we stand. Information of this character is stale, if twenty-four hours late. We are firm l elievers in accuracy, promptness, and neatness.
Disbursements are made under the voucher and warrant system, each voucher being numbered, certified to as to quantity,price, and ccmputation by proper officials, after which they are approved for payment, including issuing of warrant. The voucher and its corresponding numbered warrant are signed by the commissioners. On the back of each voucher is made the distribution, showing the accounts to which it is chargeable, giving the amounts to each. The disbursements are arranged in seven divisions, viz: “Construction,” “Maintenance,” “Operating,” “Accounting,” “General.” “Sundries,” “Legal”—each of these being subdivided as occasion demand. When warrants are paid and returned to us by the city treasurer, in our monthly settlements, they are canceled, then each is secured to its corresponding numbered voucher—giving us a complete record of the entire transaction. All vouchers ate indexed, so that any one can be produced on a minutes notice.
In conclusion, I offer quotations from two sources, the first from a paper on “Systems of accounts on engineering works” by F. A. Bridgman.
Public accounts might be kept in less detail than is outlined above; but any public work is liable to investigation, and it is desirable that the statement of all expenditures and receipts be peifectly clear, and that the corresponding vouchers and certificates be easily accessible. It may be stated that there is considerable machinery in connection with these methods; but may it not also be said that it is good machinery?
The next and last is from the report to councils by Hon. W. W. Gingrich, comptroler of the city of Erie, on his audit of the accounts of the commissioners of water works, in the city of Erie, from January 1, 1879 to January 1, 1897.
Since June 1, 1891 [the date the present system of accounts was inaugurated], three errors have been discovered, amounting to $22.45. All of these are clerical mistakes in bills rendered to the commissioners, which were evidently overlooked before the bills were approved and paid. Since the date just mentioned above the books of the department have been well and accurately kept. By the methods now used for keeping the accounts, chanc s for mistakes are reduced to a minimum; then they are quickly discovered and immediately rectified. The first impression one gets of the present system is, that it is too cumbersome and elaborate for practical use, and that in some instances it goes into useless details; but. after becoming more familiar with the work, the needs of the department,and the promptness with which any information can be obtained, the necessity of such a system becomes apparent,and can only be commended.
Proposals will be received until August 15, at Laporte.Ind., for furnishing between three and four miles of twenty-inch pipe and forone pumping engine. G. R. Tyrrell is superintenddent of water works.