MANAGEMENT OF WATER PLANTS IN SMALLER CITIES.
The first and foremost duty of a watewrorks enterprise is to supply its patrons abundantly and constantly with a good, clear, clean and wholesome water. How well or how poorly that duty is performed rests solely with the management of such an enterprise. Most of our larger Cities are providing such a satisfactory quality of water to their patrons, it is likewise true that there are many others which are not doing so. Good water is one of the prime necessities of human life, and to serve it meagrely where an abundant supply is obtainable, or to serve an unfit and impure quality, should be no longer tolerated by an intelligent community, nor should it be considered good business management on the part of the enterprise. Each succeeding year as we note the ever increasing pollution of our streams and public water supplies, the demand is proportionately, and very properly, becoming more and more insistent for a better water. And with these changing conditions, so great has been the advancement in sanitary engineering that with modern methods of filtration, the vilest supplies, even though thick with mud, foul of smell and ladened with the germs of disease, may he so purified as to become entirely potable and safe for human use In former days it was supposed that only the larger cities could afford upto-date water plants with their splendid filtration systems such as we have all been privileged to examine here in Indianapolis, and while it is still true that our smaller cities cannot afford such extraordinary equipment, yet none are so poor but what they can well afford to dispense at least a good safe water. For us in this age to be satisfied to serve our patrons an impure and inferior product is at once to acknowledge our own delinquency in the highest official duty with which we are charged. Whether the plant he municipally or privately owned does not matter. The standard of quality should be placed just as high in the one case as in the other. Nor should there be any doubt existing in our minds as to what the standard of purity should be. The time for haphazard suppositions or guess-work has long since passed by. Every waterworks man should really know his product, and in order to do so, wherever possible, he should install his own laboratory equipment for making the necessary tests. But in cases where this may not be done, nearby laboratory assistance could doubtless be easily obtained; or the State if called upon is always willing not only to furnish analyses but to give valuable expert assistance and counsel at any time, to the end that the healthfulness of the people of the State residing within the borders of our municipalities may be properly safeguarded and conserved. Water which is merely good enough for fire-protection, manufacturing purposes and lawn sprinkling in our smaller cities is, and should be, no longer regarded as satisfactory. Any city, however small, if it is large enough for a waterworks system at all, is large enough to afford, and can afford a water of good quality for its citizens. The demand of the times as related to all human sustenances, to water supplies as well as to food supplies, is for a higher standard of purity -the best which nature and science can produce Therefore, in the judgment of the writer, with such a demand existing on the part of the public, it is not only bad management but may we not say the grossest sort of mismanagement for any municipality or company to furnish its consumers with any kind of water but good water. Though actuated by no higher motive than purely selfish business policy, it is still the best evidence of good management, even in our smaller cities, when a high-grade water is produced. In the discussion of this topic the writer has dwelt upon the quality of water supplied for the reason that more especially in our smaller cities this fundamental consideration in the management of waterworks utilities is all too frequently disregarded. whereas it should be of paramount importance both to the enterprise itself and the public which it serves. Wherever water exists at all it is possible to make it good, and that, too, at a price easily within the reach of all. The public wants the best, and as a general rule is willing to pay the necessary price for it, notwithstanding the fact that some neighboring city may charge a somewhat lower rate for a poorer water. The old. time-worn and antedated theory that all cities of about the same size should pay about the same rate for water, no matter how different the cost of production or how dissimilar the service, thanks to the growing intelligence of our times, has about run its course. Such a theory was discarded by the larger cities years ago, and there is no surer indication of progress on the part of our smaller cities than when observed following their good example in this regard. Next to furnishing a good water, it is the highest mark of good management when the rate for water is made to depend upon the cost of the finished product, without regard in any way whatever to the rates in vogue in any other city, whether higher or lower. No fact is better recognized or more firmly established among the fraternity than that rates are comparable only so long as conditions in the different cities are comparable. It is likewise recognized that no two cities have precisely the same conditions to meet. Hence the utter impossibility of exactly similar rates. Thus, having first of all, produced a good water and having established a fair rate of charge for the same, the management of an enterprise of this character has taken upon itself responsibilities and duties that are legion. Not merely must a clear, wholesome and sparkling water be produced, but the service must be up to the standard in every particular. The pressure must he as constant and unvarying as is possible to give. In case of fire, the equipment must be in such condition as will permit it to be instantly brought into action for its highest and most efficient duty. It a manager must know his product, so must he also know his plant, its capacity for constant service, its durability under intense strain, and the proper economy with which it should be operated, not only as related to fuel supplies and attendance, but economy in conserving the output as well, the accomplishment of all of which will he found to tax to the limit all the watchfulness and skill of which the most active manager is capable. If flat rates should be in vogue, a frequent inspection of all fixtures in any way connected with the system is necessary in order to keep the waste and leakage reduced to the minimum. Water closets will get out of order. Urinals will become opened too full. Faucets will be turned on to prevent freezing, as doubtless most managers have been brought to realize during the unusually severe cold weather of the past few weeks. Rigid rules to conserve the supply, and a rigid enforcement of them are indispensable and imperative necessities as against those who wilfully abuse the flat-rate privilege. Wherever such conditions of wastefulness prevail the department should very promptly enforce meterage or shut off the supply. Indeed, meterage to begin with, is the only fair or equitable way to sell water; and as we approach the entirely metered system just so much nearer do we come to the ideal toward which all our cities, large and small alike, should constantly strive. But even water meters are sometimes prone to err. They, also, need attention from time to time as well as leaky fixtures or wasteful patrons. Every meter in service should be zealously looked after from month to month to note any unusual variations in readings. Frequent tests should he made to verify their correctness. As meters almost invariably register in favor of the consumers when incorrect, such watchfulness will he found to result in largely increased returns to the water department or company, as the case may he. Records of all tests and repairs should be made and conveniently filed for reference. Because a waterworks plant is small is no adequate reason for laxity in its system of records and accounting. Indeed, all the greater should be the necessity for accurate, convenient, systematic and comprehensive records. Good book-keeping and well-kept records are absolute necessities to the successful conduct of any enterprise, no matter how small or large it may be. Even in the smallest waterworks plant such a system should be employed as will disclose at any time the actual working conditions of the business. Moreover, it should be in such form that comparisons may readily be made with any enterprise. To the alert and wide-awake manager such comparisons are fraught with many enlightening suggestions which he will find to be valuable aids in the prosecution of his work. For instance, in the purchase of coal, a comparison of the results obtained from the different grades will disclose which is best and most economical to use. A comparison from day to day of pumpage records, laboratory test records, coal consumption records, recording pressure gauge records and watchmen’s clock-dial records will all lie found to be abundantly worth while. Likewise, a comparison from month to month of cash receipts and disbursements, when properly classified, will tend to emphasize conditions needing correction, and by so pointing out the way to the right sort of management as the business develops and grows, will make failure improbable and some degree of success, at least, not too difficult to he realized. The office records should show completely of what the physical plant consists. Every water main should be definitelyshown as to location, connection and size. Every valve, re-hydrant, curb stop-box and service pipe should be correctly mapped, and each service record be made to fully indicate every fixture and purpose for which it is to be used by the consumer. These really important matters too many of our smaller cities entirely disregard. Good accounting will not permit the capital investment account to be charged with replacements and tepairs. nor will it attempt to deceive by overlooking and failing to take into consideration the very important item of depreciation. So. with good water, fair rates, a proper public demand, good operating equipment for the service required and with a good system of accounting, all that can remain essential to make the concern a success, are the right men on the job. nd of these at least a passing word is here thought to be well worth while. It is observed that the larger cities and water companies which have achieved the greatest successes in our field ot operation have and keep in their employ the very best help they can obtain. They are in constant touch with every phase of waterworks development in other cities. And although the heads of these larger enterprises are high-class, capable men, whenever difficult problems arise either in construction work or management, they are quick to avail themselves of the help of eminent professional waterworks men upon whose aid they know they may safely rely. With our smaller cities, however, as a rule such a progressive tendency is not so marked. Too frequently does it occur that as managers we are found lacking in a full appreciation of the importance of the work devolving upon us to perform. The manager of a waterworks plant, however small, has in his care many thousands of dollars of invested capital, represented by the physical value of the plant. To properly care for the same and to obtain therefrom the highest economy, efficiency and returns, he should avail himself of every aid in his power to obtain. The best trade journals should come regularly to his desk. Conventions of waterworks men should be attended, and every available opportunity should be taken advantage of in order to learn what others are doing and to keep in constant touch with the advancing progress of the times. And if those of larger capacity and a much wider range of experience than we could possibly possess require the assistance of expert knowledge in their work occasionally, how much greater is our need for help from time to time when important problems in our own work must be met and solved. Indifference on the part of a manager as to what others are doing will, in nine cases out of ten. result in the stamp of failure being placed upon his work. If we would make our business a going-concern, therefore, it is imperative that we should bring to our aid as much of the knowledge and experience acquired by other companies and other cities as possible, and this the progressive manager will not be slow to do. Another thing the right sort of manager will do : No matter how heavy his burdens, or how great the provocation, he will bear in mind “that a soft word often turneth away wrath,” and also that a smile once in a while will cost him nothing at all. Courtesy and consideration toward the public, as well as patience under unwarranted criticism, in the long run he will find always to pay. And if we deal courteously with the public, what shall we say of our help, upon whose every-day loyalty and untiring efforts much of our success must of necessity largely depend. Every helper in the enterprise from the highest to the lowest should be made to feel that he is a valued partner in the business, in spirit at least. Having once obtained good, loyal help the most cordial and mutually helpful relations should be maintained. Frequent changes of help not only look bad for the management, but detract from the highest state of efficiency in the service as well. One of the most baneful influences of municipal ownership of our utilities is the tendency to repay political obligations with these positions without proper regard to the qualification and fitness of the appointees, sometimes changing the entire force with each successive administration change in the city’s political affairs. Under such conditions any substantial progress is almost beyond the realm of human probability. No department of public work has devolving upon it larger and more farreaching responsibilities toward the public than the water department, the correct and successful handling of which requires years of constant study and the most untiring devotion to duty that is possible for any man to give. Without good men to direct, and without loyal co-operative help on the part of employees, even the best of physical plants must fail. Ultimate and lasting success cannot be achieved in a day or a year. If it comes at all it must be to those who by their work are able to prove their worth. Intelligent supervision and the most diligent application to the multitude of details and duties which daily arise constitute the price of success in the waterworks business, just as they constitute the price in any other enterprise. In all our cities, whether large or small, there is no better or worthier work to be performed than to supply our fellowbeings with good water, and in doing this, if we are able and willing to pay the price of success in our work, we surely cannot entirely fail.
Read before the Indiana Sanitary and Water Supply Association. Indianapolis February 16. 1912. by E. L. Loomis Sup’t Valparaiso Home Water Company. Valparaiso, Indiana.