Pennsylvania May Compel Restoration of Privately Owned Water Supplies.
The State Water Supply commission of Pennsylvania, received numerous complaints during the drought of this summer, regarding the service of various local water companies. In a majority of instances investigation has shown that the companies were doing the best they could under the circumstances, but in some cases the commission has recommended changes for the benefit of the consumers.
Many communities are suffering because, prior to the adoption of the act of 1905, corporations, both railroad and private, grabbed up nearly all the streams and water rights in the State, until the matter became a great scandal. Prior to the law of 1905 it was possible for corporations to take up water rights by eminent domain and hold them for speculative purposes, or for use in later years, thus preventing the development of municipal water plants to meet the needs of growing cities and towns.
Mr. Penny packer, then Governor, saw what this was leading to, and at his recommendation the Legislature passed a law putting an end to the wholesale confiscation of water rights. Many of the water companies organized prior to the act of 1905 are supposed to be subsidiary to the Pennsylvania Railroad company, which is generally understood to be holding large water rights along its lines for use in the future operation of its locomotives and its shops.
The experiences of the present dought may result in an effort at legislation to give the public more power over the private corporations holding water rights. At present the State has no control over these companies, except to institute legal proceedings against them in the event of their violating any of their charter obligations, and this involves long and tedious proceedings in the courts. Many of the private water company charters granted before the act of 1905 were so broad in their terms that the companies can do nearly as they please with the water they control.
Companies chartered since the adoption of the act of 1905 are subject to the conditions imposed by the State Water commission, which passes upon all applications for charters Only where a legitimate purpose is shown to construct adequate waterworks for supplying cities, towns or factories.
No figures are available as showing the exact amount of water controlled by private cor orations. Most of the cities and” larger towns ave their own water plants, but many of the smaller places are dependent on private sources of supply. These companies, in most instances, art working under old charters, and are subject only to the terms of these charters and the franchises granted by the communities they serve. Cities located along the larger creeks and rivers are independent of private water rights, as the large streams cannot be appropriated by corporations.
The drought of 1909 first became noticeable through continued lack of rain and the low conditions of the streams in the latter part of July. By the middle of August the conditions of the streams in the eastern, middle and southwestern parts of Pennsylvania were the same as they were in the middle of September. 1908. Since June there has been no rain of any duration or large amount of precipitation in either the eastern, central or southwestern sections of Pennsylvania,
In March, 1909, the precipitation throughout the State was very light, whereas in April there was more than a normal precipitation. In May, however, it fell below normal over almost the entire State, and for June was a little above normal Since June it has fallen greatly below normal in nearly all sections of the State.