THE WATER SUPPLY OF CITIES.
THIS is one of the burning questions of the hour. It is not because there is a lack of water. We have an abundance of streams, from the smallest brook that rushes down the mountain side, meandering through the fields and meadows, between flowery banks, over gravely beds, or through rich soil in cultivated bottom lands to the great Father of Waters, fed by the hundreds of streams permeating the immense territory spread out in magnificence between the Alleghunies on the east and the Rocky mountains rearing their lofty summits to the sky on the west This vast system of streams carries the almost unlimited supply of water that falls from the clouds, by day and by night, down to the boundless ocean, rendering the magnificent valley of the Mississippi the fairest, loveliest, and most productive portion of the surface of our terrestrial sphere. We have that immense chain of lakes from Superior to Ontario—that beautiful system of inland seas that divides the “Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave” from the British possessions on the American continent. We cannot, therefore, complain that, in a general way, there is aecarcity of the aqueous fluid ; although, when the burning summer sun pours down his scorching rays upon the thirsty surface of the earth, the rains cease to fall, the brooks dry up, the creeks diminish in volume, the rivers grow narrow and shallow, not permitting boats to navigate them, and in places even becoming fordable. Yet, in the main, there is water enough in the streams to supply the wants of the population living upon or near their banks.
What is it, then, that makes the question of the water supply such an urgent one, causing so much complaint, so much anxiety; giving rise to so much contradictory legislation? Sixty years ago we heard nothing about the water troubles. People had their springs or wells, from which they procured water for drinking and cooking, while for washing and cleaning they would catch rainwater in barrels and cisterns, or they would haul water from neighboring streams, leave the barrel standing near the house until the supply was exhausted, and then make another trip to the stream. Even now, in some antiquated cities of southern Europe, Asia, and Africa, there are watercarriers, whosupply the population with water, haul ingit in a cart, carrying it on the bock of a mule or donkey, or even on their own backs. With the modern ideas of comfort, convenience, cleanliness, and health, such primitive means of supplying water would be absurd. The population of theearthhas increased at an enormous rate during the last century, and the general tendency has l>een to congregate in cities; so that now a city numbering less than 100,000 inhabitants is counted little better than a village, and several cities number their inhabitants by the million. Now the problem of furnishing such immense accumulations of people with a sufficiency of water for all uses becomes much more difficult than a superficial observer would imagine.
There are conditions essential to make the water supply of a large city what it should be, and in many places, one, or even two of these are wanting, while in some even all three are deficient. These conditions are: A sufficient quantity for all possi ble emergencies; clearness—i. e., apparent purity; and healthfulness, *. e., freedom from disease-germs.
Ijet us first consider the question of quantity. There is a vast increase in the amount of water used now over that used fifty years ago by the same number of people. Why is this? Do they drink more? No. Do they wash more? Probably; because they have made some progress in cleanliness. Have they more cattle and horses to water? No; for steam and electricity have diminished the demand for horses; and the number of cattle, in proportion to the population, has not been increased. Let us see what has caused this great demand for water in excess of what was formerly required. In every densely populated city the sources of disease are necessarily increased. The air is contaminated where people are closely crowded together. How that can be corrected by the copiom use of water will be explained farther on. The excreta of men and animals contain much that is unhealth’, even when not charged with disease-germs. This necessitates much water to remove them and clear away their traces from the places where they were deposited. The streets want to be cleaned, the alleys and stable-yards, cleaned out, the sewers flushed. A variety of apparatus must be employed to remove filth, which either contains the diseaseproducing bacteria or forms a good nidus for their propagation—all of which requires large quantities of water. But there are other causes for the increased demands for water, as, for instance, machinery. Half a century ago, much of the manufacturing was done by hand, which required but little water. Now we have steam engines for driving all sorts of machinery, and for putting electric dynamos in motion; also water-motors—all of which use up great quantities of water. The water-motor especially, in which class are included the thousands of elevatois found in every city, consumes enormous quantities of water. Formerly the merchants had buildings two or three stories high, and when they wanted to go to the upper part of the house they walked. Now their buildings are from six to ten stories high; and the skyscrapers, built principally for offices, reach the enormous height of twenty to thirty stories. Now, how do the occupants ascend to these dizzy heights? It is by means of elevators or lifts, which are run mostly by water-power, and some by electric motors. Every restaurant and saloon has a motor to bring provisions from the kitchen, beer, ale, and wine from the cellar, to run the fan in the summer to enable the customers to keep cool, while being heated up with the drinks they take, and for many other uses.
•Paper ipe: read at the nineteenth annual convention of the American Water Works association, Columbus, Ohio, June 18⅜9.
The average citizen knows very little of how much water is required for such purposes. 1 never had the least idea of the enormous quantities of water that are consumed until I became a member of the water board. Then there are the fires that occur in large cities, where whole blocks and sections would be destroyed, if the fire department, with its vast consumption of water, did not come to the rescue. In order to preserve the health of the city, frequent cleaning of the streets and flushing of the sewers arc necessary. The sprinkling of the streets done by individuals in front of their houses, although consuming a good deal of water, does not contribute much to the cleansing of the city. This work, in order to be effective, should be done on a large scale by means of the fire hose, which prevents the dust, charged with disease-germs, from rising and exposing all who breathe the dust-laden air to the danger of contracting disease. In order to meet all these wants, it is essential to have reservoirs large enough to hold a sufficiency of water to supply the city for at least a week. For, if any^ accident should happen to the machinery to disable it for several days, and the reservoir is too small, great suffering would be entailed on the city. When the citizens of Wheeling, W. Va., my home, were informed that our reservoir, which they had always believed to be ample for our wants, had to be filled from two to three times in twenty-four hours to keep the city in water they were thunderstruck, requiring a sight of the daily records of the water works to be convinced. If the water works are owned by the city, as is tlie case in Wheeling, the city fathers would see to it that a sufficiency of water is provided to meet any such emergency. In our case, the city council, not seeing its way clear to spend the large sum necessary to build a new reservoir, sixteen or seventeen times as large as the one we now have, did the beet it could under the circumstances, giving the water board permission to establish a new pump of sufficient power to keep the city from a water famine in case of accident; kindly permitting the board to pay for it out of the receipts from the water rents. Should a stock company own the water works, the city government would either compel the company to provide for all contingencies, or would annul its charter and establish a pumping station of its own, unless it had been foolish enough to grant a perpetual charter.
Another advantage of a large reservoir is, that it affords facilities for connecting a filtering apparatus, which brings us to the second part of our subject— clearness of the water. Although filtering does not. clear the water entirely of disease-germs, it does so to a great extent; for th y are more apt to attach themselves to the solid material that is found in the water. Besides, filtered water has a decided advantage over that pumped directly out of the stream. It is more palatable and more pleasant to drink; it does not nauseate you when you raise the glass to your lips and make you wish you had a glass of beer instead; it is better for washiug clothes and cleansing of every kind. Besides, the filth that is found in the water duriu , and immediately after a rise in the river brings disease as well as disgust. I will not here enter into a discussion of the relative merits of the two great systems—the English or sand-bed filter, and the American or mechanical filter. Each one has its peculiar advantages and disadvantages. From the very limited investigation I have been able to make, I prefer the sand-bed filter, where a suitable location can be had, where the right kind of sand is easily accessible, and where money is not too scarce, because in this system no foreign substance is required, such as alum or similar substances, which are indispensable with a mechanical filter, for the purpose of coagulating albuminoids.
I will incidentally mention that a filtering apparatus, improperly cared for, is worse than useless. It would act simply as a storehouse for filth and bacteria of every kind,-which would remain in the filter. Then, when clear water passes through, it will be itself contaminated by the filth left in the filter from former masses of impure water that had passed through. Therefore, whenever a filtering apparatus is established in connection with a reservoir, ample provision should be made for cleaning it regularly, with special care after the occurrence of high water. When the plant is owned by the city, all these things can be attended to by the proper authorities, among whom the health officer, with his staff of assistants, should always be included, because a great many questions come up, in the management of filtering apparatus, that affect the health of the inhabitants. From the experience our little city of Wheeling has had, I would very strenuously advocate the city ownership of all the works pertaining to the water supply; so that the city authorities may have entire control of the whole business. There is. however, one disadvantage in this arrangement. I mean the political favoritism that is shown in the selection of officials and operatives, which works harm to the service by handicapping them in the performance of their duty— they being to some extent subject to the caprice of the voters Or, if they adhere rigidly to their idea of what is right, they are subject to being turned out on a change of administration—perhaps, just in the midst of some important improvement they are about to carry into effect. Notwithstanding this drawback, which should not be permitted to exist and which could easily be prevented by establishing a civil service list of all officials and operatives whose frequent change would be detrimental to the service, the city ownership of water works, gas works, electric street lighting, etc., should, in my opinion, be insisted upon in every municipality.
There is one question arising here, which seems to me to be of considerable importance. I said, in the beginning of this paper, that only a small part of the water furnished to a city is consumed by families for drinking, cooking, washing, and other domestic uses. The great bulk of it is used for street cleaning, quenching fires, flushing sewers running machinery; all sorts of motors, lifts, elevators, etc., which are propelled by water power. It would seem to be a great waste of labor and money to filter water used for such purposes as that, from which no benefit whatever would be derived. My suggestion would be to filter only such an amount of water as is consumed for domestic purposes -drinking, cooking, and washiug—besides any fine mechanical work, in the prosecution of which clear water is essential. This would make a very great reduction of the expense of filtering, without invalidating its utility. But here the objector will come in and say: “How can that be done? Can you send filtered and unfiltered water through the same pipes?” Certainly not. You would have to establish two reservoirs and two separate systems of pipes; both to be supplied froa the same pumping station. This would entail considerable expense at the beginning. But the great saving in the cost of filtering would, in a few years, wipe out the additional cost of reservoir and pipes. I throw out these ideas simply as suggestions to induce reflection and study on the subject, leaving it to specially trained minds to make the necessary calculations, and decide on the feasibility of the plan. The proportion of bacteria that can be removed from the water by filteringl am not prepared to determine, but I know that from seventy-five to ninety per cent are claimed by various contractors. I believe that one firm has gone so far rs to guarantee ninety-seven per cent. If this is the case, which I am not prepared to assert, having made no microscopic examination of water before and after filtering, there would be very little more necessary to bring about the third condition: ». e., the purity of the water, or its freedom from disease-germs.
So far as I can see, nothing more can be done by public works, and, if private consumers wantagreater degree of purity, they must boil it in their homes after receiving it filtered from the water works. Many families have been boiling their drinking water for a number of years. But to boil unfiltered water renders it unpalatable, and generates disgust in the one drinking it: so that an unwillingness to drink water ensues, and many persons resort to beverages that are injurious, damaging the consumer both in body and mind. In connection with a filtering apparatus, an arrangement for aerating the water would be of great service. When water is entirely devoid of air, it tastes fiat, lacking that exhilarating quality that makes water so pleasant a beverage, enlivening the tired laborer and making him prefer a cool draught of fresh, aerated, ozonized water to beer or any other of the customary drinks consumed by the masses of laboring men, while it promotes the health and liveliness of children, improving their digestion, assisting in the assimilation of their food and causing them to grow up to be strong, healthy and happy men and women. The method of aerating the water in connection with the filtering process I am not prepared to discuss at present. I am, however, giving the subject some attention, and may possibly be able to furnish a paper on it and kindred topics on a future occasion.
JAMES LEEFEI. STANDARD, SPECIAL AND SAMSON TURBINES.
IIow to prevent the pollution of streams from which the water supply is taken, thus obviating and making unnecessary much of the labor and expense of which I have given you an imperfect description, is a subject of such vast importance and such almost limitless extent that I would not venture to bring it into this paper; having already reached the limit of time allowed. Should I ever feel within myself the ability to cope with that momentous question, I will come out with an essay on it at some future meeting. “Water: Its Uses, Benefits, Indispensablemss, and Purity” constitutes an inexhaustible topic for the medical writer, the sanitarian, the statesman; yea, for every father of a family, and for every housekeeper. An abundant supply of clear, pure,sparkling water, will contribute more to the health, comfort, and happiness of the human race than any other single article that could be mentioned. Every health board— National, State, city, or town—every public official, whose position gives him authority in questions of that kind; every man of influence, who can prevail with those in authority, should strive with all his might to bring about a condition of things that would make good, pure water accessible to every one. The benefits to be derived from that state of things can scarcely be calculated. Water—the best and cheapest of all medicines, the promoter of comfort and happiness—should be supplied to every human being in abundance, in the best possible condition of purity, for the lowest available price that is compatible with the cost of procuring and furnishing it. The city authorities should not be penurious in providing this great promoter of health and happiness to all who live within their jurisdiction. For in spending money for this laudable purpose, they would be casting their bread upon the waters, which would return to them after many days, since the increased health and happiness of the inhabitants would add largely to the wealth of the city, and all would contribute to the general prosperity.
At Omaha,Neb., State Engineer Wilson has granted the application of the Fremont Canal and Power company for right to tap the Platte river for a power canal and to construct a reservoir, the capacity of which shall be 1,254,528,000 cubic feet of water. The water is to be used for irrigation purposes. The reservoir will have an area of 7 700 acres with an average depth of forty feet.