THE PHILADELPHIA WATER SERVICE.
CHIEF TRAUTWINE, of Philadelphia, in his annual report, states that the water service of the city is in a ‘critical condition between continued starvation on the one hand and enormously increasing waste on the other.” What is wanted is “means for preventing waste and means for filtering the water,” the cost of securing both of which he sets down at, perhaps, $10,000,000 total. The needed improvements can be made gradually—the expense being defrayed out of the surplus earnings of the water bureau, which amount to about $1,000,000 annually. Wherefore (adds Chief Trautwine),
to launch out into contracts with private corporations, binding the city to the annual payment of millions of dollars for fifty years for facilities which the city does not want would appear absolutely inexcusable.
Between i860 and 1897, the increase in the consumption of water has been from thirty-six gallons per capita to 215, and, in its endeavor to grapple with this tapid increase, the bureau of water, notwithstanding its annual surplus of $1,000,000, has been allowed no appropriations for extensions and improvemen’s, except for the repair of reservoirs. The consumption has, therefore, again overtaken the pumping capacity, and a shortage of water at many points will almost certainly take place during the ensuing year. The remedy (says Chief Trautwine) is simple.
The waste must be stopped by making it to the interest of each consumer to avoid waste, at the same time encouraging him to the fullest and freest use of water. This can be done by the general introduction of water meters. Meters will injure those, and those only, whoare now taking more than they pay for—shifting the burden upon the community. Householders can take all the water they want for the most liberal domestic use and for every luxury except waste, and yet reduce their bills below the present schedule charges, which necessarily saddle the careful and conscientious with the wastefulnessof the careless ard unprincipled. The general introduction of meters would, therefore, undoubtedly reduce the revenues, as well as the expenses of the bureau of water, but this, even if it resulted in a decrease of net earnings, would be a matter of small moment when compared with the city’s loss of the control of her water supply. It is often urged that meters would work hardship to manufacturers, whom the city should seek to encourage. The present water rates of thirty cents per 1,000 cubic feet, or four cents per 1,000 gallons, is just about what it costs the city to furnish the water ; but it is considered advisable to give water to any or to all manufacturers at less than cost;the city could do this as well with meters as without them. It is safe to say. that the general introduction of meters would, without in the slightest curtailing any one’s free use of water, reduce our consumption one-half solely by cutting off utterly unprofitable and defenceless waste. It would then practically double the capacity of our present works, giving plenty of water for all. It would cut in two the cost of installation and operation of filter plants or that of bringing water from a distance. Even without the introduction of any means for purifying the water, it would at once improve the quality of that furnished through our mains; for we could then more safe’y cease pumping during the seasons of muddy or coal-polluted water, and give the water in the reservoirs a longer time for subsidence. The minimum flow of the Schuylkill would once more exceed our maximum draft upon it; our annual conflict with the Schuylkill Navigation Company would be avoided; and the spectre of the city’s acquisition of that company’s properties would be once more suppressed. Finally, the improvement and development of the supply would be brought well within the city’s own means.
Chief Trautwine would meter (1) all manufacturing establishments and other large consumers; (2) residences upon application of owners; (3) residences without consent of owners on proof of waste. Waste must first be stopped. As to puribtion of the water: He would at once improve the West Philadelphia supply and filter ail the water now pumped from the Delawareand other extensions.present or future. He would also increase the pumpage from the Delaware within, or near the city limits. But, as Chief Trautwine points out, “ no competent manufacturer would apply costly processes of improvement to needlessly wasted material. ” The loan bill recently approved appropriates $3,700,000 “ for extension, filtration, and improvement of the water supply” ; but $1,000,000 of that amount is to be expended on West Philadelphia. This nearly covers the $3,863 750 for the extensions and improvements for 1898 (West Philadelphia’s money being included). The difference and cost of a filter plant on the Delaware will be covered by less than half the estimated net earnings of the water bureau in 1898.
Chief Trautwine unhesitatingly condemns all the various bills that have been, or are before councils for improving the water supply.
As a whole (he says) they are mischievous, as diverting effort from the one thing needful * * * because they commit the city to the wholesale adoption of untried and almost unknown methoos * * * involve a change in the source of supby [and], most of them, heavy expenditures, for which there is no occasion * * * The present flow of the Schuylkill is ample for our needs and luxuries, barring the luxury of waste.
As to the pollution of the supply: In spite of the intercepting sewer, much pollution enters the Schuylkill and Delaware through surface drainage and otherwise—one great source of pollution being the Manayunk canal, whose banks are lined with cotton, woolen, and paper mills and dwellings of filthy Hungarians and “other foreign laboring people of most uncleanly habits.” All this district, as well as ail others contributing to the pollution of the stream, which is within the citv limits, should be under a thorough and effective police control; if outside their jurisdiction, by the State board of health.
Chief Trautwine next shows how the pumping stations are starved and stand in need either of new engines or boilers (sometimes of both) or of extensive repairs—the four large engines at the Queen Lane, for instance, having been badly fractured, while, owing to other causes, they may give out at any moment. At Belmout and Roxborough high service stations also the old engine in each house, which has formerly done duty elsewhere,may meet with an accident and,by throwing the system out of service, deprive the city of water. Chief Trautwine sums up his report by declaring that,
as a result of no appropriation being made for 1896, 1897. and 1898 for new pumpirg and supply mains, in connection with the waste of water, we learn of growing insufficiency of supply in important sections of the citv, of the throwing of the Fairmont reservoir out of service, and of the inability of the Queen Lane system to perform the functions for which it was in tended. In spite of the expenditure of $3,500 000 appropriated prior to 1895, in the addition of 194,000,000 gallons per day to our pumpage capacity. 530,000,000 gallons to the capacity of our reservoirs and fifteen miles of large mains (additions in themselves sufficient for the supply of all our legitimate needs and luxuries), our supply is scarcely in better condition than before.