The Probable Development of Little River Supply at Springfield

The Probable Development of Little River Supply at Springfield

One of the points that the general public has not understood about the Little River water system has been the fact that the city, Springfield, Mass., with a comparatively small further outlay of money, will have an ample supply of water until it reaches a population of 350,000 or 100,000, and will, moreover, be in a position to develop electrical power in sufficient quantity to carry the whole investment of some $3,500,000, thus practically getting its water free. The Springfield system has been an object of the greatest interest to waterworks experts all over the country. It has also attracted attention abroad. According to the Republican, last year a British newspaper had its American representative come to that city to write up the system, which he did to the extent of three or four pages, with pictures. The great majority of people of Springfield have never seen any part of the system. The reputation abroad for having a good water system is of large value to the city, just as it is of direct money value to the city for the insurance men to know that the city has fine pressure and abundance of water. On the other hand, a bad water system works injury to the city’s standing. A Springfield business man relates having met a man abroad who, when informed that he came from Springfield, said: “Oh, yes. That is the place where they have such a vile water system. That, of course, was in the days when the Ludlow supply left a bad taste in everybody’s mouth.


The new Little River supply has stood the test of two years that have been exceptional for their dryness. There has been less rainfall so far this year, probably, than in any year in the city’s history, and yet Little River has not only furnished the city all that it needs, but there is sufficient reserve, so that if it becomes necessary the surrounding towns and cities can be helped out. The extraordinary weather conditions lately have had a far-reaching effect. The shortage in the rainfall has been of large consequence to the municipalities of the neighborhood as well as to the individual farmers and users of water power all over western Massachusetts. Everywhere water powers and supplies are running short, and the occasional storms that have come this summer have only offered a slight temporary relief. Water experts say that it will he a long time before conditions are restored to the normal. It is not merely a question of a few showers, refreshing to vegetation as they are. There was a long-standing deficit to be made up. With the reservoirs deep down, the steady resources of supply for the streams and the springs, have been drained almost to their last drop, and on account of this excessive dryness of the earth it is possible to see a deluging storm having little permanent effect What water does not run off during the storm is absorbed by the parched soil long before it reaches the springs, with the result that the streams, swelled for a moment with the surface water, speedily fall again and will not to have been benefited. It is very likely that even with a normal rainfall in the future it will be a year or two before the equilibrium is restored. Meanwhile the resources of cities and towns are being taxed to their utmost. and there are many places in this State which are face to face with the failure of the municipal supply. There will be distress unless there is a radical change in the weather conditions. How fortunate Springfield has been in securing its new supply is shown by the fact that the Ludlow supply, under the conditions that have prevailed in the last two years, would have failed utterly to supply Springfield, which would then have been in as bad a fix as Worcester or Hartford, or worse. Moreover, it would not then have been in the position of being able to lend a helping hand to needy neighbors, as it is now in the process of doing. Springfield itself is now using about 11,000,000 gallons of water a day. The minimum all the year round supply from Little River is about 16,000.000 gallons, arid it is believed that the low limit has been touched since the system was put into use on account of the extraordinary conditions which have obtained during the last two years. This year is likely to prove the driest in recent history, and it is certain to be so unless there arc a good many heavy storms during the balance of the year. Not one of the first seven months of the year had precipitation which was up to normal, as showm by the weather report from the United States armory, and the rainfall for most of the months was hardly half what the records for a long term of years have shown to be normal. The table given below gives the armory record lor each month this year and the average for each month for a long term of years. It also gives the rainfall for the Borden Brook reservoir, the West Paris filter, the Provin Mountain reservoir and the Ludlow reservoir, which are interesting as showing a considerable variation between the figures in Springfield and on the watersheds to each side of it. The table is as follows: Provin


This shows that the rainfall on the Little River watershed has been considerably heavier than at the armory and at Ludlow. Estimating from the armory figures alone, there has been a shortage so far this year of just about a foot of rainfall, and if the remaining months should have a precipitation up to the normal, the year would have a total rainfall of only a little over 30 inches, which is practically the low record for 60 years. These figures are important as showing why so many towns and cities thereabouts are hard hit. Springfield meanwhile is in a fortunate position, but in one of responsibility as well. The city, during the past summer, has been obliged to help West Springfield, whose supply had hopelessly given out. The probability is that Little River water will have to be let into the West Springfield mains in greater or less quantity throughout the fall. Other neighboring towns want Springfield water, and it may become necessary to supply it. Whether Springfield does so or not until it is absolutely necessary is largely, a business proposition. It has enough water so that it can do so if the need becomes urgent, but it is a contingency that the water department wants to have as remote as possible. Nevertheless if the supplies of other places, even Chicopee and Holyoke, should give out Springfield would have to extend a helping hand. Moreover, in the future the city may very likely be compelled by the State authorities to supply those towns which cannot, by reason of the seizure of the watersheds by the cities, get supplies of their own. Holyoke is already having its troubles. It is feared by the Springfield water department that Chicopee’s fine system may not be able, on account of the nature of its watersheds, to stand a great deal more shortage in the rainfall. The West Springfield situation is very troublesome, largely on account of the great quantity of water used by the Boston & Albany Railroad. Part of this, it is thought, is due to the fact that West Springfield is compelled to supply engines which really ought to get their water in Worcester or Pittsfield, neither of which has water to spare. This great demand from the railroad, over 1,000,000 gallons a day, is something that was not originally contemplated, and but for this increase the town could have got along comfortably for a long time, the quality of the water being excellent. Springfield wants to postpone supplying these outside demands as long as possible. If one town comes in to share the Little River supply permanently the others will want to, and when they do Springfield will almost immediately find its margin of safety in the present development of Little River exhausted. Absolute safety must be assured, and with West Springfield taking 2,000,000 gallons a day and the other towns getting what they need, along with the rapid growth of the city itself, the difference between 11,000,000, Springfield’s present consumption, and 16,000,000, the amount that Little River can safely be depended upon to furnish in a year as dry as this, would be quickly used up. Little River can be developed to supply a much greater amount, but it will cost a good deal of money to accomplish it and the water department is anxious to get past the worst part of the financial drain, on account of the first Little River cost before it puts out more bonds. The “peak of the load” will come in 1913, on account of the way the bonds fall due. Nearly $275,000 must be paid in that year. After that time the city will have a much diminished burden tb carry on account of its water department, though it will be 25 years before it is entirely extinguished. There are various ways of amplifying the Springfield water supply, but the water department holds the theory that the best way and the most economical is to develop Little River practically to its capacity when anything more is done there. It would be possible to create more storage by placing a reservoir on the other branch of the Little River, as has been done on Borden Brook. This would cost some $300,000 or more, but it is regarded as better economy to put $750,000 into it and throw a high dam across the head of the gorge, thus impounding practically all the water on the watershed. with the possibility of adding to this, far off in the future, by one or more storage basins farther up. which would save all the Hood water that it would be practicable to try to save. The dam across the head of the gorge would easily give a daily yield of 35,000,000 gallons a day. A good deal of piping and other work that has been done on the supply, the total cost of which with the present development will be about $2,000,000, has been done with reference to the larger supply. so that there will be little waste in tearing up work that has already been done. The water department looked a considerable way ahead before it did a stroke of work in developing Little River. The big reason why it will be more economical to put through the full development of Little River at once is that the city will then have available a large water power that can be utilized at a cost of some $500,000 additional when the city gets the authority for it. The dam at the head of the gorge would enable the city to use practically all the water of Little River for power purposes before it is used for the city water,supply. The amount of this power and the cost of getting it have not been precisely estimated, but it is certainly over 3,000 horsepower, and may reach 4,000, and the value of this power in this locality would probably be between $40 and $50 per horsepower per year. In other words, the power would be worth to the city $120,000 or $150,000 or even more a year. This, of course, is a very valuable asset, and in fact an income of that size would give an investment return on the whole system, including both water and power. The extra cost for povyer would probably not be over $500,000, including the transmission lines necessary to deliver the electric power into the city. The question of what to do with this power when the city gets it is an important one. There are those who believe that the best thing to do with it would be to use it for municipal lighting. There is enough power, certainly, to take care of Springfield’s lighting for many years to come, but there are others who believe that the city could use the power to better advantages by selling it commercially. It is argued, for example, that the city could get more good out of it by selling to manufacturers at a reasonable rate and therefore giving them an incentive to locate here. Another argument is that the city, having this power at its disposal, could force the electric light company to make the best possible terms with the city in its lighting contracts. It is furthermore argued that the lighting company, being left in business, would continue to pay its large taxes and that the city, by not proposing to engage in electric lighting, would escape the hostility of those with special interests and of those who look askance at municipal ownership in whatever operationS it might propose to engage. Legislative sanction for the city’s own use of the power or for its sale commercially will have to be obtained, but lately there has been a precedent for this in similar rights granted to the metropolitan water district of Boston, and it is not an impossibility that the city will go before the Legislature at the next session with a bill providing for the use of power, even though development might not come for some years. There would be advantage in having so recent a precedent of importance.


It is not possible to estimate with much accuracy what the life of the Little River water system will be; that is, the term during which it will be ample for the needs of the city. The experts believe that, fully developed, it will easily furnish a daily supply of 35,000,000 gallons. It might be stretched to considerably more than that, but the extra amount might cost so much as to make the effort inadvisable. Meanwhile the per capita daily use of water is about 120 gallons, or, for a population of 90,000, nearly 11,000,000. With the same per capita rate of use, the system would supply a population of somewhat less than 3000,000.

It is expected, however, that the per capita rate will diminish. It is much smaller in other cities, as in Worcester and Hartford, and it is expected that the universal use of meters in Springfield will have the effect of reducing the per capita use, but Engineer Lochridge does not expect that it will ever be brought down lower than 100 gallons per capita. He says: “It is not good policy to be too stingy, in the use of water. It is a good advertisement in dry times, when other cities are sending out warnings against the use of water and are cutting off the street fountains, to go into a city where there seems to he plenty of water, where the hose can be used freely on the lawms and where the fountains are playing. It is good business, too, when a manufacturing enterprise wants to locate here, to be able to say that the city can take care of it, no matter how much water it wants. That does not mean, however, that water ought to be wasted, and the water department will continue to cut off as much undesirable use of water as it can. If it succeeds in getting the per capita consumption down to 100 gallons a day the system could then care for the city until it grew to be 350,000, which we may consider as being some way off yet.”

There remains also for use the Ludlow supply, which has a minimum flow of about 9,000,000 gallons a day. If nothing more is done with that system than to keep it as a reserve supply and to furnish the adjacent towns, it nevertheless is paying its way, for it is an important consideration to insurance men that the city has this emergency supply, and the effect is a very tangible One, measured by the dollars and cents of reduced insurance rates, which is pretty nearly the same thing as a reduction of taxes. But eventually the Ludlow supply can be utilized. If it should ever be desirable the Ludlow water could be sent into the mains along with the Little River water, in spite of the difference in pressure. This could be accomplished by pumping it, which would not be an expensive matter, as all that has to be done is the raising of the pressure a few pounds to the square inch. Another method of using the supply would be to conduct it to some of the lower sections of the city, where it would have ample pressure, these parts being shut off from the Little River water by gates that could readily be opened when desirable The suggestion has been made that the Ludlow water could be used for power, but it appears that this is not practicable on account of the cost of laying the necessary separate pipe lines. The water department feels that it is of more value as a reserve supply than it would be as producer of power, after the necessary outlay had been made for its development for that purpose. The Springfield water department hopes soon to be able to plan for a big reduction in the water rates. The universal use of meters means a considerable less cost to the users as a whole, but the department rather hopes now to be able to slash the rates in 1911. A big bond load will then have been taken care of, and unless the city by that time has had to make further large expenditures for water supply development the department will probably be in a position where it can reduce the rates.


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