PHILADELPHIA’S FIGHT AGAINST WATER WASTE
First of a Series of Articles Telling the Story of a Successful Campaign on Broad Lines-—Water Waste Division Organized—House-to-House Inspection and Pitometer Night Surveys—Mapping the Gridiron
IN the year 1806, shortly after the first water mains were laid in Philadelphia, an act of city councils made it a misdemeanor, punishable by fine, to wilfully waste water, or to allow it to run for any but useful purposes. Since that time in almost every annual report, the chief engineer of the bureau has urged that steps be taken to reduce the waste, the remedy generally suggested in recent years being the compulsory installation of meters. This remedy, however, formerly met with great opposition. In 1904 city councils passed an ordinance prohibiting the installation of meters on any premises, and later on in the local papers constantly appeared articles in this strain: “There is a strong prejudice against the installation of water meters in private houses and it is doubtful if this can ever be overcome.”
But the percapita consumption was increasing by leaps and bounds from 131 gallons per capita per day in 1890 it had increased to 222 per day in 1900, and in 1903 the alarming figures of 239 gallons per capita had been reached, and the chief engineer in his annual report predicted that by 1910 the consumption would reach the unheard-of figure of 380 gallons per capita. This alarming prospect brought about earnest efforts to cut down waste by means of inspections and night surveys and. as a result, in 1910 the per capita had been reduced to 203 gallons per capita. But in 1910 and 1911, despite the best efforts being made at the time, the per capita rate remained practically stationary, being 202 gallons for the latter year.
This heavy draft overloaded the pumping stations, and they were facing a breakdown. Accordingly, in 1912, there was instituted a thorough water-saving campaign. A water conservation exhibit was held in City Hall courtyard, and was visited by thousands daily. Here, by diagrams, charts and models, a direct appeal to civic patriotism was made. In addition, practical demonstrations were given with a view to removing the existing prejudice against meters and paving the way to the cooperation on the part of the householders with the houseto-house inspectors.
In the fall of 1912 the water waste division was organized and a large force of house-to-house inspectors was put to work. During the next three years the pitometer surveys were systematically and vigorously used, and when they were discontinued in 1916, for reasons to be gone into later, the city had been covered, as shown in Figure 3.
The results are as follows:
It is the purpose of this article to briefly describe the pitometer surveys that produced this result, and to show some other advantages which accrued as a result of these surveys.
The original equipment of the pitot division con sisted of six Simplex portable pitot recorders and a dozen Simplex round pitot rods, coefficient 0.72.
The field force was made up of six assistant engineers, known as pitometer operators, under supervision of an assistant engineer. The pitometer operators, in charge of parties, each consisting generally of two inspectors and two laborers, made the night surveys, and their work was followed up the next day by house-to-house inspections. Their function was to find the leakage in those blocks, shown by the pitometer to have high night rates. After the high blocks had been thus thoroughly inspected, they were again measured by pitometer and the remaining night rate, if any, systematically hunted down. In this manner, by the end of the first half of 1913, the average daily pumpage for the whole city was reduced from 315,900,000 gallons per day for the three months of May, June and July, 1912, to 301,000,000 gallons per day for the corresponding period of 1913. By the end of the year it was found that the city was saving 30,000 tons of coal per year.
For the six months preceding September, 1, 1912, 59,000,000,000 gallons of water were pumped, requiring 78,000 tons of coal. In the following six months 54,000,000,000 gallons were pumped and 73,000 tons of coal used. During this six months’ period, 113,808 buildings were inspected, of which 20,780 showed waste of some kind, all of which was stopped. In this fashion the whole city was systematically covered, with the results indicated in Fig. 5.
Other Results of Night Surveys
On making the night surveys, it was found that the street valves were in such poor condition that perhaps 25 per cent, of them could not he operated at all without first having been repaired. So before starting the night surveys in a district, the party first went over it in the daytime, operating every valve and reporting the defective ones to the distribution division for repair.
Mapping of Gridiron
In this connection, it was found convenient for the chief of the party to sketch up each street intersection, showing locations of valves and fire hydrants in a small notebook provided for that purpose. This data was, later on, plotted in map form and card index, and incorporated in the water bureau records.
Two sets of tracings were made:
- Street intersection maps showing each intersection in detail and to the scale of 10 feet to the inch.
- Large tracings 20 inches x 30 inches—100 feet to the inch, as shown in big. 6. These were reduced photographically to prints 5 inches x 9 inches, as convenient notebook size, for use of engineers and foremen in the field.
It will be noticed that each pipe is shown by two lines spaced to scale and the larger pipes shaded, so as to make them stand out. The contour lines were put in with blue ink, and while not conspicuous in the figure, showed up well on the blue prints and were of great service.
An additional feature of these plans is that all the sheets matched up, and a sheet could be pasted to any or all of the contiguous sheets with a perfect match. The main advantages of this feature are best appreciated by a field engineer.
Thus, we see that a district once covered by the pitometer corps had been improved as follows:
1st—Leaks had been found and eliminated.
2nd—All valves and fire plugs had been repaired, used and left in good condition.
3rd—The district had been accurately mapped and the data plotted in convenient form.
Night Surveys Discontinued
Meanwhile, the immense amount of water waste data coming in in the form of night surveys and leak inspectors’ reports, was classified and filed away for use which will later appear. During 1914, 13,000 meters were placed. But as there were 300,000 dwellings in Philadelphia besides other buildings, it would require at this rate 20 years to have the city 100 per cent, metered. At this point the water waste figures were brought forward to show, which they did in the most positive and convincing manner, that the solution of the water conservation problem lay in the universal use of the house service meter. The fact that a meter makes each water taxpayer his own inspector, taken with the results of the night surveys, made an unanswerable argument for universal metering of house services.
For the results of the night surveys were simply that the major portion of Philadelphia waste was of the “wilfull or careless” kind. Leaking house fixtures constituted 75 per cent, of the leaks. And leaking spigots the far greater portion of the house leaks. A publicity campaign in connection with this leaking spigots was carried on. Cards urging the householders to “Turn Off the Spigot”, and photographs showing the aggregate loss due to leaking spigots (see Fig. 2), were left at every house.
The meter campaign was, meanwhile, pushed to the utmost, every inducement being made to get the public to install meters. The bureau to overcome the initial prejudice, undertook to test and install all meters free of charge, the owner to provide the meter.
These vigorous measures were not without results, and the number of meters was increasing in geometrical ratios until interrupted by the war.
In conclusion it may be said, water waste surveys were a good investment and a great benefit to the city. Aside from the permanent improvement to valves and maps, they gave the bureau immediate relief from an intolerable situation.
The Philadelphia Bureau of Water in 1912 was facing an actual water shortage, unless something were done immediately. The water waste surveys gave immediate relief, and enabled the comparatively slow process of metering to effect a permanent cure.
(To be continued)