Open Letter by John C. Trautwine, Jr., on Water Situation in Philadelphia

Open Letter by John C. Trautwine, Jr., on Water Situation in Philadelphia

John C. Trautwine, Jr., civil engineer, of Philadelphia, Pa., and who was chief of the Bureau of Water in that city from 1895 to 1899, has addressed the following open letter relative to the Philadelphia water situation to Director Morris Llewellyn Cooke, of the Department of Public Works:

257 S. 4th St., Philadelphia, Pa., July 30, 1914. Mr. Morris Llewellyn Cooke,

Director, Department of Public Works, Philadelphia.

Dear Sir:—You are reported as having said recently that the present water supply of Philadelphia must speedily be augmented, and as having asked Councils for an appropriation of $15,000 to enable you to employ experts to study conditions and make recommendations accordingly. You are reported also as in favor of bringing additional water from some source other than the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers at the present intakes. In your report for 1912, you said: “We are undoubtedly fortunate in lying at the junction of two such magnificent waterways as the Delaware and Schuylkill. But it is not wise to allow this good fortune to be given as an excuse for profligate waste of water—a waste certainly amounting to one-half of all we use. In the same report you described the “Water Conservation Exhibit,” which you installed in the City Hall courtyard, where the use of water meters was advocated by models and by lantern slides. In your report for 1911, you said: “From a study of the results obtained from other cities—there is hardly a doubt that, if meters were placed on those properties wherein waste is detected, the consumption would be so reduced that a good supply could be maintained in all sections of the city.” The minimum daily flow of the Schuylkill at Philadelphia is about equal to the city’s present ridiculous consumption, and it would amply supply all the needs and luxuries of two such cities as ours. The minimum flow of the Delaware at Philadelphia would probably suffice dor ten cities like our own. In short: (1) You know that our works are now pumping, filtering and distributing at least twice as much water as our people can possibly use and enjoy; and that at least half of that water is thrown away, unused, by about one-fifth of our people, who thus victimize the other fourfifths. This being the case, you need no commission of experts to tell you what is wrong with the Philadelphia water supply. (2) You know that the waste could be stopped, the supply thereby rendered abundant, the use of water by our people increased, the quantity rendered ideal, the cost of water diminished, and the present works relieved of overstrain, for a fraction of the amount which it is now proposed to expend immediately for works which would not then be needed. This would postpone, perhaps for twenty years, all necessity for enlarging the works. Even if you were not a specialist in “efficiency engineering,” you yould need no commission of experts to tell you what to do under these existing conditions. (3) You know that the water, brought to our doors by the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers, is absuurdly arrtple for a dozen cities like ours. You. therefore, need no commission of experts to seek out distant sources of supply and to design costly and superfluous dams and aqueducts. In view of your strenuous and admirable advocacy of waste-water restriction (at the beginning of your administration), I am surprised to miss, from a recent lengthy interview. all mention of this vital matter, which you had again shown to lie at the foundation of all our water troubles. We read of “wide variance of mechanical conditions at the various plants,” of “lack of adequate reserve storage of filtered water,” of “inability of our (overworked) filters to remove turbidity,” and of “absence of reinforcing and interlocking mains in the distribution system;” but never a word about the one thing needful. The interview misleads by making believe that the trouble lies in insufficiency of our present works (probably ample for a city of twice our population), and that they must at once be enlarged at heavy cost. Is this remarkable defect of the interview due to carelessness on the part of the reporter?

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