Water Distribution in London.

Water Distribution in London.

“If it were not for the inconvenience and discomfort of the thing,” says a writer in The Boston Herald, “the plight in which London finds itself with us water supply frozen would be comical to a practical Yankee. The water pipes are frozen simply because the Briton has never profited by his experience of his native winters. Year after year they have freezing weather in London, and year after year London’s water pipes freeze, hurst, and there cometh a water famine.

“Last winter the cold lingered somewhat longer than for several years past, and London was reduced to a condition that was indeed pilinblc. The Londoners’ water pipes freeze, not because the weather is intensely cold, but because the pipes are insufficiently protected. Too often they are left exposed to all the winds that blow.

“Entire districts in London, square miles, districts as large as many good-sized American cities, bad their water supply entirely stopped last winter. Imagine the inconvenience, even the distress and danger, attending such a condition of things! But the fault has been with the Londoner, and not with the weather, 1 passed through a district thus afflicted one dismal day, and saw the workmen digging up the road to get at the pipes. In the street where these operations were going on the supply pipes for all the houses (the pipes running in from the water mains) were laid within a foot of the surface of the ground. The water was Irozen in all the pipes. Eighteen inches below the surface the frost had not penetrated. But the Englishman deliberately puts his supply pipes within reach of the frost,

“ The pipes would never freeze if they were put a few feet under ground, for the frost in London rarely penetrates the earth more than a foot or two. But the Londoner does worse than this—he often runs the water pipe up the outside wall of his dwelling, without protection of any sort. He has another cheerful habit which is fast becoming the fashion, and which is now put in practice in all the better class houses. The drain pipes, at any rate those from the sinks and bathtubs, are cairied down the outside walls, with a break at every story, where another inlet or outlet is made into a small open trough, Irom which another pipe leads down another story, and so on to the bottom, where the water flows into a gutter and thence into the sewer. The system fully accomplishes its object, sewer ventilation, but this could be equally well secured by a less primitive arrangement, and with one that would not freeze in the winter and cover the side of your house with dirty ice.

“When I said that the Londoner is not prepared for the annual freezing of his water pipes I did not adhere strictly to the truth. Kor the good gentleman is prepared in a certain way, or perhaps I should say that the water companies are prepared, And the preparation is peculiarly British, as you will see. When your street freezes up—that is to say, when it freezes down a dozen inches below the surface and blocks all the supply pipes, an official from the water company puts in an appearance, after a day or two, and has an apparatus fixed into a little hydrant close by the curbstone.

“ The apparatus consists either of a wooden or an iron pipe, as the case may be, which stands upright above the ground, ami which has an inch faucet affixed to it. To this fount the entire neighborhood must come, with pails, and pans and cans, and jugs and mugs, and carry away the precious fluid. The water companies keep these primitive plugs in stock ; some thousands of them were in use in the metropolis last winter, but it never occurs to anybody to place the supply pipes deeper in the ground and thus prevent freezing. This, then, is the way the Londoner, or his water company, prepares for the annual visit of Jack Frost. But the preparation is effective only when the water mains are laid well below the surface. When they are not there is a water famine throughout extensive districts, as at Brixton, at Hampstead and other places in London town.

“ Why not lay the water pipes deep enough ?

“If you had ever lived among these droll people you would not ask that question. The pipes have never been laid deep enough, and therefore never will be : not this side of the millennium.

“ The water supply of London is bad enough at its best. At its worst in the winter it is too bad for words. Nobody but these droll people would submit, year after year, to the ridiculous system of supply and the outrageous charges. But the Briton is a patient soul. He believes that whatever he has is the best of its kind, and he resents any suggestion to the contrary. A water supply that was good enough for his grandfather is good enough for him; moreover, it is good enough for you. There’s the rub of the argument. ‘It’s good enough for you.’ Why, in the name of justice, should “you, a foreigner, com plain? Out upon you for an ungrateful alien!’ Nevertheless, one has to suffer from this drollery. When he does not suffer he can smile. But that is the utmost he can do. You cannot change the habits of a nation. And you cannot induce 5,000,000 people to put their water pipes five feet under ground if they think five inches sufficient, and if they have had them five inches under ground for generations.”


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