The Commissioner of Public Works has recently issued several circulars, announcing that there is a short supply of water for New York, and requesting all consumers to use no more at present than they are actually obliged to. He alludes to the dangers of a water famine, or a conflagration, either of which might work irreparable injury upon the city. The large fires two weeks ago gave abundant evidence, as many previous ones have done, that New York enjoys no immunity from the’ flames. Our efficient Fire Department has heretofore saved us from great conflagrations, but even this enterprising force cannot accomplish miracles, and we have no reason to anticipate that New York will long escape those fiery disasters from which other cities have suffered. All the conditions for a great conflagration are now present—thousands of highly inflammable buildings, the season of high winds, and a short water supply—and if large fires are not of frequent occurrence, it will be attributable more to good fortune than to intelligent provision for such emergencies.

We recently called attention to the fact that the Fire Commissioners had caused an inspection of fire hydrants to be made, and found that in many of them the supply of water was so short that it would not flowin the least. This was regarded as so alarming that the Commissioners immediately communicated with the Department of Public Works to see what could be done in cases of emergency. While the water supply has been short, owing to the prolonged drouth, it has been necessary’ to partially shut off the street mains, so that a less quantity flows through them, which accounts for its not running at the hydrants. In case of a large fire the gates could be opened, and a full flow in the street mains permitted. But in a large part of the city the street mains are too small; they were put down many years ago, and are wholly inadequate to the present requirements. Many of them are but four or six inches in diameter, while corrosion and the deposit of sediment in them has reduced their capacity materially’. A four-inch main will not furnish much more water than a single Steam Fire Engine will need at a fire, under the improved methods of delivering large fire streams, while it is frequently necessary to put several into service at a single fire. As a consequence, the surplus ones have to attach lo distant hydrants, and force water through long lines of hose, thus impairing their efficiency. As a mere matter of economy, small street mains are a great mistake, for iron pipe is cheaper than hose, and will last much longer. True economy would supply large mains, and fire hydrants at frequent intervals, so that the least amount of hose possible would be required, It is, therefore, the height of folly for a city having such vast interests at stake to be dependent for its water solely upon one source of supply. The long, stone aqueduct that brings this supply to the city, is an old, imperfect affair, and not of sufficient capacity to bring to us each day the quantity of water required for daily consumption. It is liable to get out of order, or to give way entirely at any moment. A greater calamity could hardly be anticipated. Not only would the city be deprived of its supply of water for domestic and manufacturing purposes, but would be exposed to the horrors of a conflagration that it would be powerless to cope with. The fires that now occur average from four to five every twenty-four hours. With the present water supply, they are mostly strangled in their incipiency, and great conflagrations are thus avoided. But cut off the water supply, and these daily fires would spread from house to house and block to block, till nothing was left for the flames to feed upon. Long immunity from disasters of this kind has led many to think them impossible. The experience of the great cities of Europe, and also of^our own country, teaches that no city can claim exemption from devastating conflagrations, and should lead us to adopt every precaution to prevent them and to supply every means for combatting them when they are threatened.

New York city has no good reason for being deficient in its water supply. The Atlantic ocean flows through the rivers at either side of it, and to conduct its waters through every street of the city would be less of an undertaking than ‘many private enterprises. With such a water supply New Y’ork might with truth claim immunity from conflagrations. Salt water is more effective than fresh water in putting out fires, and is no more injurious to property. Objection to the use of salt water for putting out fires has been made by some underwriters on the ground that it is more injurious than fresh water to certain kinds of goods. Experience, however, shows this objection to be fallacious, for the salvage in the fires extinguished by salt water is quite as great as in those that have been put out by fresh water. When goods have been soaked at a fire they are always sold as damaged goods, and the question as to what kind of water was used in soaking them is never raised. But this question of salvage is of small consequence in comparison with the preventing of conflagrations. The fact stands that today, dependent as the city is upon a scant supply of fresh water, every fire alarm causes quaking in the breast of every underwriter and every Fireman who has a knowledge of the situation. With an abundant supply of river water, delivered at every street hydrant under fire pressure, there would be no such anxiety, for a conflagration would be impossible. In THE JOURNAL, some time ago, we printed a diagram showing in detail how easily the river water could be utilized as we have suggested. By this plan it would be practicable to concentrate, upon any given point, sixty powerful fire streams^ delivered under sufficient pressure to project them over the roofs of the tallest buildings. To introduce this system into all that part of the City lying south of Thirty-fourth street would cost in the neighborhood of $10,000,000. Yet the city authorities will listen to no proposition of the kind, for the reason that they seem determined to duplicate our present Croton system at a cost of anywhere from $25,000,000 to $50,000,000. With an auxiliary system of water supply, the capacity of the Croton system would be adequate to satisfy all domestic demands for the next fifty years, provided it was limited to legitimate uses. Salt water could be used for nearly every purpose for which the Croton is now used, except purely domestic uses, and it would be so abundant that it would be made to effect a great saving in the cost of street cleaning. By using it freely in washing streets and foul places, the city could be kept cleaner than it has ever been known to be, and the death rate materially reduced. But the politicians are determined to extend the Croton system, because it calls for a greater expenditure of money, and the ‘‘pickings and stealings” are, consequently, greater. But we maintain that it is a suicidal policy that compels a great city, like New York, whose wealth can scarcely be estimated, to depend upon one system of water supply, which system is liable to be destroyed or seriously interfered with at any moment, by accident or design. To deprive New York of water for a single day would be a calamity, the results of which would be direful in their consequences ; but add to such calamity the terrors of a conflagration, and the imagination cannot picture the devastation that would ensue.

According to the Engineer of the water-works, there is now on hand only a two weeks’ supply of water. All the public fountains and drinking places have been cut off, and street sprinkling has been suspended. The Fire Department has added to its equipment five Steam Tugs, with powerful pumps, and by their use in connection with Steam Fire Engines water can be forced to almost any part of the city. An arrangement has been entered into with the Brooklyn Fire Department by which its force can be called upon, if necessary. The Sappers and Miners Corps is also ready at a moment’s warning to use explosives for blowing up buildings in the path of a possible conflagration. The situation is one that awakens the greatest anxiety.



THE JOURNAL has repeatedly pointed out the peril to which New York city is exposed in consequence of relying solely upon the Croton system for its water supply. The following article from The Spectator, an insurance journal, shows the special danger to which we have been exposed during the prolonged drought and gives reasons why it has been so.

“The prolonged drought with which the country has been afflicted for the past two months has been felt nowhere with more severity than in New York city and vicinity. While the city has no crops to burn up, as in other localities, the hot weather has so effected business that the loss has been as severe as though acres of corn had been dried up by the hot sun, or bushels of potatoes had shrivelled in the earth. But the most serious deprivation to which New Yorkers have been subjected is a scarcity of water. The supply in the storage reservoirs threatened to run low, and the authorities, therefore, took the precaution to limit the supply in the city, reducing the pressure so as to deprive citizens of the free use of water. In many sections of the city, the water would not run on first floors, and in some localities no water at all could be obtained in the houses. New Yorkers have so long been permitted to use and even waste water without any restriction whatever, that to be deprived of it, especially in such suffocatingly hot weather, is a hardship they do not put up with patiently. They resort to their favorite method of ventilating their indignation by writing to the daily papers their chronic growl, having done which, they consider their duty in the premises ended. This does not, however, provide a remedy for the matter complained of.

“ The worst feature of this short supply of water is one in which underwriters have a special and pecuniary interest. In case of a fire, there would be great difficulty experienced by the Fire Department in obtaining sufficient water to stay the progress of the flames. Last week, Chief Bates noticed the scanty flow of water in the Engine House where he makes his headquarters at night—the faucet in the basement of the building yielding only a small, trickling stream—and he was induced to make a personal inspection of the Fire Hydrants in the central portion of the city. As a result of his examination, he found that in the district lying between Broadway and the Bowery, north of Canal street, very few of the hydrants would yield a flowing stream, while some ot them, on being opened, gave no indication that they were connected with the Croton system. Ordinarily these hydrants would deliver a stream of water under from fifteen to thirty pounds pressure. The Chief considered this condition of things fraught with so much danger that he at once reported it to the Fire Commissioners, who called the attention of the Commissioner of Public Works and the Board of Underwriters to the danger to which the city was subjected. What can Ije done to remedy the evil we do not know, but we do know that this short supply of water in the city invites a conflagration, for a single Steam Fire Engine would find difficulty in drawing sufficient water from a hydrant that does rot flow to be of much practical use in fighting a fire. Should the emergency arise when a dozen or twenty Engines would be required to combat a fire, it would be simply impossible for them to get water, and the Firemen, in common with underwriters and citizens, would have to stand idly by and see the fire burn itself out. The Fire Department is constantly apprehensive of a conflagration even when water is abundant, and for years their efforts have been directed to lessening the time necessary for the Apparatus to reach the scene of a fire while in its incipiency, and thus prevent small fires from becoming great ones. In the celerity of the Firemen lies the safety of the city, for all other conditions are favorable to many and destructive fires. But of what avail is this perfection of Fire Apparatus and the celerity of the Firemen if they cannot have water to work with when they reach the scene of danger? During the past few weeks, New York has been exposed to a peril, the extent of which has been realized by but few, and which should not be allowed to exist. There is plenty of water available for use in New York city, not only to give an abundant domestic supply, but to ensure absolute immunity from conflagrations, if the powers that be will but consent to avail themselves of it.

” The trouble with New York’s water supply lies in the fact that the ring politicians that control the city have decreed that the Croton system must be duplicated, new storage reservoirs constructed at the sources of supply, a new aqueduct built to bring the water to the city, and new reservoirs made within the city. The estimated cost of such work is some $20,000,000 ; the actual cost, if the work is entered upon, will not be less than two or three times that sum, for we all know how cost piles up when the politicians get hold of a big job by means of which they can plunder the city. The present aqueduct is capable of bringing to the city some 90,000,000 gallons of water daily, an amount largely in excess of the actual needs of the residents, provided the consumption was limited to a reasonable amount to each individual. If the aqueduct has not been carrying to its full capacity during the hot weather, it is because the politicians have determined to make the city suffer until citizens shall sanction their pet scheme of plunder. There is abundance of water in the region whence our supply is drawn, and if proper care was taken to preserve it there would be no shortage. But we are assured by persons well informed on the subject, that even during the prolonged drought, millions of gallons of water have been allowed to run to waste instead of being stored up. There are also sources of supply contiguous to the storage reservoirs that might be utilized in times of emergency. All that would be necessary to do to connect them would be to put in pumping machinery, which would cost comparatively little, and could be done in a week. We are confident, therefore, that the shortage of water in the city duiing this trying time is entirely due to the neglect of the authorities to make provision for taking care of what is subject to their control, and we believe this neglect is in pursuance of a pre-arranged plan to make the residents of the city suffer to such an extent that they will consent to the politicians having their own way in squandering from $30,000,000 to $50,000,000 of the people’s money. Last winter a bill designed to give them this privilege passed the legislature, but the Governor vetoed it; now those interested in the scheme are making the citizens suffer from a short water supply and exposing the city to destruction by conflagration, solely to work up a public sentiment in favor of duplicating the Croton system that shall be so strong as to compel the authorities at Albany to sanction their scheme for plundering the city treasury. We believe the secret of the short water supply this summer to be the result of a deliberated plan formed by the ring to force taxpayers to consent to be plundered.

“ We have frequently set forth in these columns what we believe to be necessary to insure an adequate water supply for New York city. First the water accumulating at the sources of the Croton supply should be saved to the full extent of the capacity of the storage reservoirs. Second, consumers should be made to pay proportionately to the amount of water consumed. This would prevent waste, and would render the present Croton system equal to the demand for water for purely domestic purposes for the next quarter of a century. Third, there should be an auxiliary water system, from which citizens could draw unrestrictedly. This system may be supplied by salt water from the rivers, by means of pumping stations at different points, the water being pumped direct into the mains under sufficient pressure to place it on the roof of the tallest building in the city. This would give an inexhaustible supply for fire purposes ; it would give adequate Fire Streams from the hydrants and enable us to dispense witn Steam Fire Engines; it would also give a supply from which hotels and manufacturing establishments could draw for those purposes which now lead to the greatest consumption of Croton ; it would also give a supply for washing streets and foul places, and so contribute more to improving the sanitary condition of the city than anything else. In this latter respect alone, it would be worth more each year in reducing the death rate than its entire cost. This we believe to be the most effectual and economical means of providing the city with an abundant and inexhaustible supply of water. But there is still another means by which an auxiliary system can be supplied and that with fresh water far superior to Croton in purity. That is by the driven well system. The large man-

ufacturing establishments in and about the city have demonstrated that the soil of the greater part of Manhattan Island is a huge reservoir of fresh water that only needs to be tapped intelligently to yield abundantly. Driven wells could be put down at various points within the city, stand-pipes erected, an abundant supply of fresh, cool pure water pumped from the earth to its summit and thence distributed to every part of the city. This is no visionary scheme, but its feasability has been demonstrated. Certainly, it is time underwriters took action in this matter for their own protection. For weeks now a large portion of the city has received an inefficient supply of water, and, in case of fire, these portions have been exposed to unusual perils. All this results from the determination of the politicians to carry out their pet scheme for duplicating the Croton system at an enormous expense, and refusing to listen to any other plan of procuring the needed supply. A great conflagration in New York would be a serious matter to underwriters, and if it does not come speedily it will be due more to the watchful care of Providence than to the necessary precaution of citizens.”