The Only Remedy at Hand to Stop the Present Wanton Waste of Water.

The Leading Journals Advocate Extension of the System.

The New York Tribune of the 11th instant has a very comprehensive article on the subject of water waste in this city. It says in substance: At the same time that New York city is planning to spend $161,000,000 for a new watershed it is permitting 80,000,000 gallons to run to waste daily, or enough to supply all the faucets in Boston. If all this waste water were poured into Broadway, and the side streets dammed up, it would in twenty-four hours cover that thoroughfare, sidewalks and all, to an average depth of two feet front Bowling Green to One hundred and eightieth street. It would fill Madison Square Gardeh to the roof in twelve hours. In thirteen days /it would cause the new reservoir in Central Park, which holds 1,000,000,000 gallons, to overdo w. In one year it would inundate the whole island of Manhattan, were its surface perfectly flat, to the depth of six feet. If sold at the regular, metered rates this waste water in one year would bring to the city an added revenue of $4,600,000. ⅛ * * * Whether or not most New Yorkers fully understand how tremendous is the city’s waste of water, many of them appear unwilling to take the lesson to heart as long as their own supply is unlimited. They have so long been accustomed to the antiquated system of paying water rates, which is still in vogue in the dwelhnghouses of this city and which is based not on the actual amount of water used, but on the frontage of a building, that they strongly oppose any change. “The average customer (says one expert) has grown to believe that he has the right, not only to use, but to waste all the water he pleases, and he resents any attempt to curtail or limit that right. He has grown to assume that water should be as free as air.” * * * * What would check the waste of city water and at the same time permit the public to use all that it really needed, according to engineers who have made a special study of New York’s water problem, is the water meter. If the city would install a meter in every dwellinghouse, tenement house and apartment house in the entire city, these men say 77,416,800 gallons of water could be saved in Manhattan, The Bronx and Brooklyn in one day. The old frontage system of calculating water rents must go, these experts say, and, with it, the chances of graft which certain politicians have used to build up snug fortunes. The Citizens’ Union favors the passage by the board of aldermen of a resolution which was introduced the other day, and which will authorise the water commissioner to put meters in all dwellinghouses. * * * * Frontage rates vary to such an extent that they are a Chinese puzzle to the uninitiated. The water rate for a dwellinghouse one story high and sixteen feet wide, for example, is $4 a year, while for a building of this character five stories high and thirty-seven and a half to fifty feet wide the rate is $18. The basis of the frontage rate for a house is that it shall contain only one family. An additional dollar is added for each additional family. Extra baths cost $3 a year, and other sanitary, fixtures $2 a year. * * * The loss of revenue to the city because of its failure to install more water meters is shown by the fact that, although only one-fifth of the water consumed in Manhattan is metered, yet this water brings in $t,000,000 more rent than the four-times greater volume of unmetered water. At the present time there are no meters in private dwellinghouses, tenement houses or apartment houses which do not maintain a plant for the generation of light and power. In other buildings, or parts of buildings, meters mpy be installed at “the discretion of the water commissioner.” * * * Although the board of aldermen has the power to extend the meter system to all buildings in the city’ and thus save 80,000,000 gallons of water a day, it has never dared to take this action. Certain demagogic members of the board always raise the cry that water meters will raise rents for the tenement house dwellers. They say that landlords will put the extra expense on the tenants. Accordingly, the water meter resolution, which was introduced the other day by Alderman Myers, the Republican leader, is being denounced by many of its enemies in an effort to catch the poor man’s rote. Advocates of water meters, however, say that, if water is paid for according to the quantity used, landlords in the end will find their expenses less than at present. The present metered rate, they say, should be lowered, so that, with the establishment of meters, water rates will not be increased but equalised, while at the same time the consumption of water will be greatly decreased. In Cleveland the water meter has even cut down water rates below the old frontage rates. The owners of nine out of ten dwellinghouses in that city in which meters were recently installed discovered that they were saving monev under the new system. Of 26,000 consumers in business and residence districts, 17,000 averaged each only 3,000 cubic feet in six months. That meters cut down water-waste and of necessity make the reduction of water rents possible has in fact been proved in every city where they have had a fair trial. In Cleveland, where the meter system is being extended farther each year, the consumption of water per-capita in 1901 was 172 gallons; in 1905, 130, and in 1906 it is expected to be no more than 120. A comparative study of ten American cities showed that, in cities where less than one-tenth of the taps were metered, the average per-capita consumption was >53 gallons; in cities where from one-tenth to one-fourth of the taps were metered, no gallons; in cities where from one-fourth to one-half of the taps were metered, 104 gallons; and where more than half the taps were metered, sixty-two gallons. The cities investigated are contained in the following table:

New York city, where only one-fifth of the water is metered, uses about 550,000,000 gallons of water a day, or 137.50 gallons per capita. It may thus be seen that three times more water is consumed in this city for each inhabitant than in Providence, where four-fifths of the taps are metered. In Manhattan and The Bronx there are 242,000 bathtubs, 3,180,000 washtubs, sinks and basins, 2,465.000 faucets, 416,000 hydrants and 45,000 meters. Another argument for the extension of the meter service in this city and the saving of all the water possible is that New York is finding it more and more difficult to get an additional water supply. Laws have been passed shutting the city out of Suffolk and Dutchess counties, and now a bill has been introduced at Albany to prevent this “city taking any water from Ulster county. This measure, if it becomes law, will knock on the head the $161,000,000 plan of obtaining water from the Catskills which was evolved by a special commission, and to which the city is committed by the action of the board of estimate. Indeed, the hostility of up-State counties to New York’s projects to obtain more watersheds has become so great that the State water commission, in its first report the other day, said that the city might eventually be compelled to pump water from the Hudson somewhere north of Poughkeepsie. While the search for new and available sources of water supply goes on, the waste of our present supply is worthy of the most serious consideration. A11 the engineers who have studied the water system of New York agree that the waste of water is tremendous, and that it would be almost wholly checked by meters. “Theleakage from the mains themselves is far less than most people suppose,” said the commission on additional water supply in its report of 1903. many of whose findings were based on the report of Nicholas S. Hill, jr., at that time chief engineer of the water department. Mr. Hill made a house-to-house investigation in certain typical districts in the endeavor to learn how much water was wasted. “New York’s distribution system (the commissioner said), needs many new gate-valves and hydrants to bring it into satisfactory condition; but the deterioration of street mains is not such as to require extensive renewals to prevent waste. The house-to-house inspection in typical districts in Manhattan and The Bronx indicates that the loss from leaky and defective plumbing fixtures probably exceeds fifteen per cent, of the total supply, or upward of 40,000,000 gallons a day. The reduction of all waste is effectively aided by the use of meters, which tend to make each householder an inspector of leaks, and thus bring prompt remedy for all obvious waste from leaky fixtures, and, furthermore, lessen the temptation to waste water at night for fear that poorly protected pipes may freeze. It also lessens the tendency to waste large quantities of water while trying to obtain cooler water from the pipes.” L. M. de Varona, chief engineer of the department of water supply at the present time, has long been advocating the establishment of water meters in all buildings. He says that the wealthy classes will always be lavish with water, metered or unmetered, and he says they should be required to pay for whatever they use. Meters would not increase the water rates of the poor, he says : “People (he continues) ought to be educated in the use of water; but this education will count for nothing, unless accompanied by the meter system of paying for water. People should be made to understand, for example, that water is no cooler after it has run ten minutes than when it has run for a much shorter period, and, also, that it is unnecessary to have a faucet running full to prevent the freezing of pipes in extreme cold weather.” Another strong advocate of the meter system for the entire city is John R. Freeman, of the Burr-HeringFreeman water commission, which made an exhaustive inquiry into the subject of water-waste in this city. “I am, from evidence (he said) forced to conclude that the one efficient, economical and practical method for lessening the waste of water in New York city begins with the water meter on every service pipe. At the same time, I must admit that public sentiment in New York (or the other largest American cities) does not appear to be in favor of domestic meters; but I believe that adverse sentiment comes from lack of full understanding of benefits to the public welfare, and from an exaggerated notion of the inconveniences.” The Globe says that “the effect of tetting taps run all night in winter to keep the water pipes from freezing, or in summer to get the cool drink that never comes, is not a new theme. These and other forms of water-waste cause 80,000,000 gallons to flow into the sewers daily without good to any one. If this river could be stopped, and it can be by a compulsory metering system, we could defer the expenditure of the $161,000,000 for the proposed new water supply. New York now uses and misuses 550,000,000 gallons of water daily. This is approximately 137 gallons per capita, or nearly five barrels for every man, woman, and child. Cleanliness is indeed glorious, and Manhattan and The Bronx, as a supreme proof of their civilisation, may proudly point to a population of 242,200 bathtubs, more bathtubs than ever were assembled in one community since the world began; but fifteen barrels of water for the ordinary family is a greater libation than is needed. Wherever meters are required, the use of water falls off from one-third to one-half—a fact clearly established by the records of the water department as well as by the experience of other American cities that have changed from unmetered to metered systems. Alderman Meyers, leader of the majority in the board of aldermen, has no better item on his program than the proposal to compel water metering. Is the city of New York, in its corporate capacity, not able to show the least business sense? Is it impossible to secure action which will increase the public comfort and save the expenditure of many millions? The municipal ownership aldermen opposing the Meyers resolution are putting another strong argument in the hands of their opponents—namely, that, if it is not possible to apply ordinary business methods in the water department, what chance is there of enlarged municipal ownership being economical?”

(To be continued.)

It seems probable that the Springfield, Masswater case may be settled by Springfield and Westfield between themselves, without finally bringing in the legislature by way of forced adjustment of irreconcilable differences.


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