MUNICIPAL-OWNED WATER SYSTEM OF HOUSTON
When the City of Houston, Tex., wan settled in 1830, it was only a small hamlet, but in less than 40 years it had grown to a city of over 35,000 inhabitants. In 1878, the Houston Waterworks Company constructed a plant, taking its supply from Buffalo bayou. The system was pumping to standpipe and direct into mains. Subsequently, however, the source was augmented by sinking artesian wells, which now number nearly 50, and form the main supply. An illustration of the first pumping station is given herewith. As will be seen, it is a round brick structure covered with plaster. It contains two engines, which may be commissioned at any time to furnish the city’s supply. The first pump installed was a Worthington Duplex ot 3,000,000gallons capacity. The pump well is 24 feet deep in diameter, with the pump at bottom. The standpipe was constructed of plate iron, 20 feet in diameter and same depth. The total cost of the works was $300,000.
Prior to 1000, Houston, Tex., was served by a corporation-owned water system. In October of that year it was taken over by tile city at a cost of $901,000, and immediately a campaign of reconstruction and improvement was begun, which to-day has given Houston one of the finest water systems in the country. The purchase of the water system by the city was not because of any dissatisfaction on the part of the city against the corporation, t nder the management of the Houston Water Company, the city was well served, and improvements had been added to the plant as rapid as private capital could hcinvested on a business basis. Established m 1879, the Houston Water Company began pumping water from Buffalo Bayou with two pumps aggregating a capacity of 3,000,000 gallons per day W ater was dispensed on a flat rate and was pumped from above a dam after filtration. In 1880 the water company increased the capacity of the plant by the addition of a 5,000,Odd-galloii pump, while improving the service by pu_____ part of the water from the artesian wells it, conjunction with the Bayou supply. The purchase of the system by the city probably is due entirely to the success of the commission form of city government which succeeded the old aldcrmanic form in Houston in 1905. Under the old form of government the city was laboring under hampered conditions, due to the continu ous embroilment of politics. The city was in debt to the extent of over $100,000, her credit was worthless, and Houston for the first time in her history, was marking time It was during this period that an attempt was made to take over the water company by the city. August 10, 1903. the proposal was overwhelmingly defeated at the polls; hut May 17, 1900, after less than a year of the commission form of government, the same proposition carried by a vote of three to one. The reason for this turn in sentiment was apparent The commission form of government had instilled confidence in the minds of the people in the future administration of Houston. The city took on new life, credit was restored and the people as a unit supported the new administration in the rehabilitation of a city’s credit and honor. Progress and expansion followed on the heels of the inauguration ol the new form, and city building was undertaken with a fervor which to-day has made Houston one of the greatest cities in the South, and the most powerful in the Southwest. The transition in tile water plant was well in keeping with tile renewed life of the city. Growing from a little 3,000,000-gallon plant, established in 1879, and occupying 200 square feet of space, pumping water from a sluggish bayou, to a plant to-dav covering 16 acres, taking water entirely from 15 superb artesian wells, and with a maximum capacity of 33,000,000 gallons every 24 hours, Houston’s waterworks is not paralleled in Texas, while none in the South outstrip it. lien the city took hold of the system, large improvements were contemplated and immediately put into effect. New pumps were added, air compressors installed, new mains laid and the lire service extended. Under the management of the citj the cost of operation was increased about 15 per cent., hut the revenue litis increased over 40 per cent, because of the increased area served. To-day the equipment of the Houston water system is represented as follows: One 2,000,000 gallon and one 1,000.000 gallon pump installed in 1879; one 5,000,000-gallon pump installed in 1886; one 8,000.000-gallon pump installed in 1893; one 15,000.0(>0 gallon pump installed in 1909; one air compressor of 3.200 cubic feet of free air per minute installed in 1901; one duplex air compressor, driven by a cross compound condensing crank and flywheel engine, with a capacity of 3,600 cubic feet of free air per minute, installed in 1910; three new boilers of 290 horsepower each; one new steel and concrete reinforced chimney, eight feet diameter by 125 feet in height; one new engine house and one new boiler house of brick; one new direct connected steam-driven electric generating set of 85 ampere capacity. On the outside of the station is an auxiliary pumping plant of 1,500,000 gallons capacity. The capacity of the artesian water supply is indicated by the 71 wells, some of which have been drilled for 30 years. The wells average in depth from 120 feet to 1,330 feet. There is a superabundance of water, and experts say the supply is inexhaustible. Of the 74 wells, hut 45 are regularly drawn upon, yet in case the artesian supply should suddenly cease, the intake could he immediately transferred from the wells to the bayou, and the only inconvenience the consumer would suffer would be the change from the purity of the. artesian water to the filtered product of the bayou. To-day the plant represents valuations and service .as follows: Total value of plant and system’,’$1,300,000; total annual income, ending February 28, 1911. $221,239.10: annual’-operating cost-, ending February 28, 1911, $128,898.58, total Humber of consumers, 11,000; total mileage of main, 97 8-10 miles, from 1 to 24 inches; total revenue above cost of operating and interest on bonded indebtedness and sinking fund for fiscal year ending February 28, 1911, $95,340.52. With the enumeration of the plant’s equipment it is apparent Houston is well provided for the future. Although the plant has a capacity of practically 33,000,000 gallons every 24 hours, the average demand on” the plant is little in excess of 6,500,000 gallons per 24 hours. The plan of water distribution is on both the flat and meter rate basis. The division is nearly half, perhaps 55 per cent, being by meter. April 1, 1911, there were 4,717 meters in operation over the city. These meters cost from $10.80 to $60 each, varying in size, and are let out to the consumer at a monthly rental. Fifty cents per month is charged for the fiveeighths and three-quarter-inch meter until the sum of $14 is paid in, when the meter becomes the property of the consumer. Seventy-five cents tier month is charged for the inch meters, until $16 is paid in, when the meter becomes the property of the consumer. The larger sizes of meters are bought outright by the consumer. In the former cases the rental in reality is but the sale of the meter on the instalment plan. Being in the oil belt, the Houston water plant is favored by the prevailing lost cost of fuel, with the added convenience and cleanliness oi oil. The fuel oil is purchased in carload lots and stored in a tank at the plant, having a capacity of eight cars, or 24,00″ barrels. The oil is purchased by contract for 80 cents per barrel. The Houston waterworks system since its purchase by the city, the period which has marked its greatest strides, has been under but two administrations. Upon the inauguration of the commission form of government. James A. Thompson was chairman of the water, light and health committee, and H. Baldwin Rice, mayor. It was during this regime that the plant was purchased. In April, 1908, the present water commissioner, Robert L. Jones, succeeded to the administration of the water plant, with Mayor Rice still in office. The people of Houston have just expressed confidence in the administrations of Mayor Rice and Commissioner Jones, by returning them to office for a term of two more years. But now the transformation is complete. Within five years the people of Houston have been given a water system satisfactory in every respect, the cost of production and distribution has been cut down, a saving to both the city and the consumer, improved service is being given, larger salaries are being paid, an increased revenue flows into the city treasury, and all consumers share alike, with the operation and administration of a municipal water system on a successful business basis.
The Lincoln, Neb., municipally owned water plant reports a surplus of $10,471.25 for the fiscal year ending August 30. Total receipts were $136,749.31, all but $37,000 being collected on meter readings. W ater is sold for 15 cents per 1,000 gallons. Owing to dry weather and a slightly increased use of water during the summer months, the receipts exceed those of last year by slightly more than $5,000.