Water Works Improvements at Harper, Kan.

Water Works Improvements at Harper, Kan.


Harper, a city of about 3,000 population in the southern part of Kansas, near the Oklahoma border, has just completed what is said to be the largest well in that state and one of the largest in the country. It is twenty-five feet in diameter and about forty feet deep. The water stands at the 20-foot level at all times under ordinary services, and it is impossible for the pumps working at present capacity to empty the well. Its present cstimated capacity is 4,000 gallons per minute or 8,760,000 gallons per day, based on the discharge of the pumps when running at a speed capable of keeping the water level in the well constant. This well is but an enlargement and deepening of the old well formerly used by the city and is circular in shape. An excavation 28 feet in diameter was dug around the old well and as it went down the casing of the old well was removed until the bottom was reached. At this point, an 18-inch wall of bricks set in cement was built on a concrete shoe as shown by the accompanying drawing. As the well was deepened and the clay excavated from under the shoe, the casing settled. In the meanwhile masonry work was going on at the surface and the top of the wall was kept level with the platform at the surface. By this procedure, even though the earth was of a slimy clayish nature, no cave-ins nor slides were encountered. The original well was ten feet in diameter and extended one-third through the vein of clay and was fed by seepage. In course of time it failed to have sufficient capacity and holes were bored down about twenty feet further to gravel bed and pipes driven therein. This has been the sole source of supply since 1894, furnishing sufficient water for all domestic purposes. Upon connecting the pumps at the power plant to the well, it was found that there was a considerable drop in water level when all the pumps were operated simultaneously. Even under these conditions there was sufficient supply for Harper and the industrial establishments therein. While an increase in consumption was inevitable, the matter of making improvements was delayed because of the lack of necessity of a larger supply at the time. However, last summer when the city had an application from Wellington, Kan., tor water at the rate of 40 cars or 400,000 gallons daily, it had to refuse the request. This opportunity of commercial profit together with the drought and shortage of water everywhere, and the fact that the well was incapable of supplying the full pumping capacity, caused the authorities to act and the new well is the result. It supplies enough water to completely fill the stand pipe in fifty minutes and also sufficient to keep all pumps working.


The quality of the water is excellent, 98.8 per cent, pure according to recent chemical tesss, the only impurities being a little lime. The normal water supply of the city is provided with a standpipe pressure of about 40 pounds. The standpipe is 125 feet high and has a capacity of approximately 150,000 gallons, and when full gives a pressure of 45 pounds. It is connected with the 10 inch main shortly after it enters the city and in case of fire it can be cut off and direct fire pump pressure of 150 pounds can be applied. This is more than twice sufficient for estimated needs of fire protection. The pumping plant is equipped with two steam pumps, supplied by a 12-inch intake and discharge is made through a 10-inch main to the city. The low service pump has a capacity of 2,500 gallons per minute working at its maximum capacity. The high pressure fire pump has a capacity of 4,500 gallons per minute at a pressure of 150 pounds.

The plant is equipped with two 120 horsepower boilers designed to use both coal or fuel oil. At present fuel oil is used for steam purposes. Four men are employed to operate the light and water service and read the meters. The city water plant has always been self-sustaining, and the water rates exceptionally low.

The completion of the well is the last of a series of extensions and repairs begun over a year ago. The first of these was the extending of the 10-inch main to the Orient Railroad for the purpose of supplying that road with water for engine transportation purposes. Then the Santa Fe system required a supply for its engines at Harper and finally a sewer system was installed which materially increased the consumption. The city water works was built in 1887 by private capital under a city franchise. The original cost was $45,000. It was operated at a loss until 1893, when the plant closed down. The owners sold the entire system to the city of Alva, but gave the city of Harper the option of taking it back at $6,000 plus $1,500 taxes. The desire of Mayor Muir, then holding office for the first time, was that the city purchase and operate the water works. It was finally arranged to purchase the system and in this manner Harper came to own its plant and likewise became the pioneer in municipally-owned and operated water works in Kansas. The plant was always operated within its income, and for several years has been a profitable investment. Mayor Muir is now completing his eighth term as mayor, having served 16 years out of the last twenty-four, and to him is due the municipal water, light and sewer systems.

The city council of Ely, Minn., has combined the offices of city engineer and superintendent of the water and light department.


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