Documentary History of American Water-works

Introduction Historical Background Chronology Geography Biography Technology Ownership and Financing General Bibliography
Pacific States
Washington Walla Walla

Walla Walla, Washington

Walla Walla was incorporated as a city in 1862.

The first waterworks were built by the Walla Walla Water Company in 1867.

After a long legal battle where the company prevailed in the United States Supreme Court, the city bought the company in 1899 for $250,000.

Water is provided by the City of Walla Walla.

1882 Walla Walla from "The Water-Supply of Certain Cities and Towns of the United States," by Walter G. Elliot, C. E., Ph. D.

1888 "Walla Walla," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 1.

1890 "Walla Walla," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 2.

1891 "Walla Walla," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 3.

1897 "Walla Walla," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 4.

1898 City of Walla Walla v. Walla Walla Water Company, 172 U.S. 1, November 14, 1898, United States Supreme Court

1918 Lyman's History of Old Walla Walla County, Volume 1, by William Denison Lyman
Pages 149-150:  While the water system was at first a private enterprise, it became public property in due course of time, and, hence it is suitable to begin the story in this chapter.
In 1866 and 1867 four of the most energetic citizens of the town took the initial steps in providing a system of water distribution. H. P. Isaacs, J. C. Isaacs, A. Kyger and J. D. Cook obtained a charter in 1866 and the next year established at a point near the present Armory Hall a plant consisting of a pump, a large tank, and a supply of wooden pipe. It almost makes one's bones ache in these effete days to think of the amount of labor which the pipes for that pioneer water system demanded. The pipe consisted of logs bored lengthwise with augurs by hand. It would not comport with the dignity of a historical work to suggest that the whole proceeding was a "great bore," but it was duly accomplished and the pipes laid. Water was derived from Mill Creek, but the system seems to have been somewhat unsatisfactory to the projectors, and Mr. Isaacs entered upon a much larger undertaking, that of establishing reservoirs in the upper part of town. It was not until after the date of county division that the reservoir system was fully installed. In 1877 the reservoirs were built on both sides of Mill Creek, one on what is now the property of the Odd Fellows Home and the other in the City Park. These reservoirs were filled from the large springs and for some years supplied the needs of the town. Mr. Isaacs is deserving of great praise for his unflagging energy in endeavoring to meet that primary need of the town. The corporate name of Mr. Isaacs' enterprise was the Walla Walla Water Company. The controlling ownership was ultimately acquired by the interests represented by the Baker-Boyer Bank, and Mr. H. H. Turner became secretary and manager. That, however, was long subsequent to county division and the further history of the water system belongs to another chapter.
Pages 301-:  Municipal Ownership of the Water Works
Municipal ownership of water works and the creation of a system of sewerage have been two of the most important of all questions in the city. We have already described the water system inaugurated by J. D. Cook, J. P. Isaacs and H. P. Isaacs and subsequently acquired by the Baker-Boyer Bank. On July 11, 1881, the first election on municipal ownership occurred, and the proposal was defeated by an adverse majority of sixty-five. But the natural evolution of a city calls for the public ownership of the water system, and the agitation continued. In 1887 the Walla Walla Water Company had made a contract with the council by which, upon the fulfillment of certain improvements, they were to have exclusive right to furnish water for twenty-five years. But in spite of the contract, an ordinance providing for a public system was presented to the voters in 1893 under the mayoralty of John L. Roberts. By an overwhelming vote the ordinance carried. The water company brought suit to restrain the city from installing its system, pleading its contract. After a tedious course of litigation the suit at last reached the Supreme Court of the United States. There it was decided in favor of the Water Company. The city was thus left in a hole, after much expense. But popular opinion had become thoroughly committed to the policy of public ownership and by a special election on June 20, 1899, an ordinance was passed for the purchase of the entire property of the Water Company for the sum of $250,000. With the purchase of the water system went also the adoption of a sewerage system. Many improvements and extensions have been made of both. In April, 1907, the headworks and intake on Mill Creek were installed. Extracts from the last report of Water Supt. R. F. McLean are here inserted and from them can be derived a view of the present condition of the water and sewerage systems:
The present mileage of the pipes in the water system is approximately seventy miles, of which something more than twelve is in the conduits extending from the intake to the city, and something more than fifty-seven is in the distribution pipes. The number of fire hydrants is 300. There are 524 gate valves for isolating different districts as desired. On December 31, 1916, the date of the report, there were 3,961 water services, and of these about eighteen per cent, or 789 are on meters. The meter rate runs on a sliding scale from twenty cents per 1,000 gallons to eight cents per 1,000 above 100,000 gallons. The flat rate is $1 monthly for each kitchen, with 25 cents for each bath and toilet, and $1 for each lot irrigated.
The financial exhibit is in the highest degree encouraging to believers in the municipally owned system. The earnings of the system for the year 1916 were $87,852.26.

2020 Morris A. Pierce