Documentary History of American Water-works

Introduction Historical Background Chronology Geography Biography Technology Ownership and Financing General Bibliography

Ownership and Financing of American Water-Works

Water Works Rates

With few exceptions, all American water works charged their customers for water service. These were initially based on building characteristics such as size, number of occupants, or number of fireplaces.

1913 "Water Rates," Fire and Water Engineering 54:320 (October 15, 1913)
Rates at Joliet, Ill., are a peril to salvation, according to the pastor of a colored church of that city, who says that his church will have to discontinue the baptism if the meter rates are not changed.



Year City State Comments
1774 New York City NY Christopher Colles proposed that each house pay 40s. per year, or £2
1788 New York City NY A petition: We do hereby declare our approbation of a design for supplying the same by means of waterworks and conduit pipes, and will (as soon as the same shall be compleated) be satisfied to pay our respective proportion of a tax for the purpose, provided the same does not exceed twenty-six shillings for each home per annum, at an average.
1798 Boston MA Aqueduct Corporation, Mansion houses or families, will be divided into three classes.  The first, having five persons, or a less number will pay eight dollars per annum.- The second, having six or a number less than twelve, will pay ten.- The third having twelve or more persons will pay twelve dollars.
1798 Portsmouth NH The Portsmouth Aqueduct in 1798 supplied 127 customers at an average cost of $5
1798 Philadelphia PA Benjamin Latrobe proposes that each house pay $10 per year for water.
1799 Morristown NJ The Morris Aqueduct charged non-subscribers to its stock $7.00 per year
1799 New York City NY Manhattan Company,  THE RATES at which the water will be delivered, are as follow.
1. To houses, containing not more than three fire-places, at 5 dollars per annum; if occupied by two families, 7 dollars and 50 cents.
2.  Houses, of five fire-places, 6 dollars and 50 cents; if occupied by two families, 7 dollars 50 cents.
3.  Houses, of six fire-places, 7 dollars 50 cents; if occupied by two families, 9 dollars.
4.  Houses, of seven fire-places, 8 dollars 75 cents, if occupied by two families, 10 dollars.
5.  Houses, of eight or more fire-places, 1 dollars 25 cents for each fire-place.
1799 Philadelphia PA February 7, 1799 ordinance provides that water from "conduits emptying into the streets, be for the free use of all persons," and that subscribers to the water loan "shall enjoy the use and convenience of said supply for the full term of three years, free of any charge of water rent.
1800 Albany NY Every house or building containing not more than four fireplaces there shall be paid [?] per annum, the charge against any one private house not to exceed $10 a year.
1801 Philadelphia PA Subscribers to the loan entitled to use water for three years from the first of July next, or three years after pipes have been laid in the streets before their houses.
Any citizen who is not a subscriber to the said loan shall be entitled to receive water at the rates of five dollars per annum for private dwelling houses.
1802 Beaver Borough PA Water was supplied free to residents from 1802 until an annual charge of $2.00 "per kitchen unit" was imposed in 1967.
1803 Haverhill MA The price at first charged was $4.50 for houses and beasts, providing subscription for taking the water was made before the logs were laid, otherwise it was to be $5, and an additional charge was made for each additional post.
1805 Salem MA Salem and Danvers Aqueduct.  The annual sum to be paid for the use of the water from the Aqueduct, shall be as follows, viz.
1st. - For a family of 5 persons or less, 8 dollars
2d.- For a family of 6 persons, or less than 9, 9 dollars.
3d.- For a family of 9 persons, or less than 12, 10 dollars.
4th.- For a family of 12 persons or upward, 12 dollars.
5th.- For a public or boarding house, 12 dollars.
6th.- For a West-India goods stores, from 8 to 12 dollars
7th.- For a mansion house and West-India goods store, under the same roof, from one tube only, not to exceed 16 dollars.
8th.  Six months rent to be paid in advance, and the expence of the branch with the ventstock shall be paid for as soon as it shall be fixed into the house or premises of any person whatever.
1807 Baltimore MD Houses $10/year
1810 Wilmington DE All buildings and all families situated and residing within 100 yards of any of the pumps or hydrants, which have been erected by the said Spring Water Company, or which may be erected by the Borough Council, shall be assessed for, and pay a Water Tax, in the matter expressed by this ordinance.
No building will be assessed more than 4 cents, nor less than 2 cents on every hundred dollars of the real value of such building; nor more than 10 dollars, nor less than one dollar for each family per annum, except in cases of extensive manufactories requiring much water, when the matter shall be left open for contract, by motion of either of the parties.
1811 Philadelphia PA Dwellings, Schools, Bottling establishment, &c $5
Dwellings, north of Vine and south of Cedar, $7.50
1813 Philadelphia PA Back small dwelling, $2.50
Dwellings, &c. $5
1815 Albany NY Per Annum
1st Class dwelling houses, Every 3 story double house $16
2nd Class dwelling houses, Every 3 story house with three windows in front on the lower floor, or two front rooms, with an L $14
3rd Class dwelling houses, Every 3 story single house and 2 story double house $12
4lh Class dwelling houses, Every 2 story house with two front rooms and an L $10
5th Class dwelling houses, Every 2 story single house (of two rooms on first floor) of brick, or fronted with brick $8
6th Class dwelling houses, Every other dwelling house of whatever deseription $6
Every additional one family in any house, to $3 (or the house to be debarred water) $3
If more than one additional family in any house, each such additional family to pay $2
Every store, or store house, not otherwise rated $6
1818 Philadelphia PA Dwellings, schools, private stables, &c.  $5
Back houses $2
Back dwellings $2.50
1820 Mobile AL Mobile Aqueduct Company charter allowed company to receive "from every private family, any sum, no exceeding one dollar per annum, for each and every person, including servants and children, of which said family may consist."
1822 Haverhill MA Haverhill Aqueduct. The Annual sum to be paid for the use of the water from said Aqueduct, shall be as follows, viz.
For all families less than nine persons in a family, Eight Dollars.
For all private families of nine persons, or more, Nine Dollars.
For a Tavern or public Boarding house, Eleven Dollars. And if for a House and Stable, Fifteen Dollars.
1829 St. Louis MO Wilson & Fox "shall not receive from any private family, for a supply of water, more than the sum of twenty dollars per year."
1831 Fayetteville NC For every one story frame house, $1.50
For every story above one, $0.50
For every one story brick house, $2.50
For every story above one, $1.00
1834 Huntsville AL Families of five persons and under were charged fifteen dollars per annum; families of six, sixteen dollars per annum; families of seven, seventeen dollars per annum, etc. The local tavern was assessed forty dollars plus three percent of rent or annual value.  A confectionary where liquor was sold paid twenty dollars, but only fifteen dollars was assessed against a confectionary where no liquor was sold.
1835 St. Louis MO The following rates a year shall be paid for the use of water works of this city:
For each private family not exceeding eight persons in number, at the rate of ten dollars.
For a family of nine and not exceeding sixteen persons, at the rate of fifteen dollars.
For each family exceeding sixteen persons, at the rate of twenty dollars.
For each private boarding house at the rate of not less than ten nor more than one hundred dollars.
1835 Winchester VA The whole cost to the corporation did not exceed $12,500. The water is now conveyed in these pipes through all the principal streets, and by lead pipes leading from the iron, into the yards of a majority of the citizens, without their paying any water tax for the privilege.
1837 Pittsburgh PA Rates from $3 to $10 per family, but details not known.  In 1835, 1,826 dwelling houses paid $9,372 in water rent, for an average of $5.12 per house.
1839 New Orleans LA Commercial Bank of New Orleans.  A family of six persons pays annually twenty dollars as water rent, for every person over six two dollars additional; two children under fifteen years of age are counted for one person. The owner of a public house (hotel) pays fifty dollars per year, and three per cent. of the house rent. For a horse is paid three dollars, for a carriage three dollars, for a bath in a private lodging five dollars, for a bath in a public house fourteen dollars per year, etc.
1841 Erie PA In 1841, water was brought from a spring a mile or two distant, through wooden pipes, each consumer to pay $1 rate for his supply.
1842 Chicago IL Chicago Hydraulic Company, March 1842
Family of five persons per year, $10; office, store or shop, $6; family of six to nine, $12; family of ten to sixteen, $18; tavern, hotel or public house, $50 to $200; livery stable, $40 to $100; public baths, $50 to $150.
1842 Boston MA Aqueduct Corporation
Rent paid by a family of 5 persons $10 per annum
          over and not exceeding 10     $12
          for a large private family       $15
          large boarding houses $20, $25 and $30     
1842 New York City NY Croton Aqueduct System
For an ordinary two-story Dwelling House, ten dollars.
For an ordinary Dwelling House of three stories or more, twelve dollars.
For an ordinary Dwelling House, not exceeding $1,500 in value, situated on the rear of a lot, five dollars.
The reasonable use of the water for a Bath, and for cleaning the street, windows and yard, will be permitted to private families, paying the above rates, without additional Cost.
1843 Harrisburg PA Tenements, $2.00 and $3.00 annually
Dwellings, $4.00 to $7.00 annually
1843 Pittsburgh PA Average annual rate for 4,191 stores and dwellings was $4.02
1844 :Lynchburg VA Private family $15 a year
1847 Saratoga NY Water rents in the Village of Saratoga Springs were included in the village tax rolls up to the year 1866.
1848 Boston MA Cochituate Aqueduct System
For water introduced at the charge of the City, through the first wall of each Dwelling-House, including full supply for all domestic uses, to each family occupying a house, valued, for the assessment of taxes, at $5,000, or any less sum per annum, $5.00
To each family occupying a house, valued over $5,000, and not over $15,000, $5 to $15.00 At the rate of one dollar for every thousand dollars of valuation.
To each family occupying a house valued over $15,000, $15.00
When a house is occupied by several families taking the water at a single tap, ihe charge will be according to the value of the house, for one family only.
1850 Nashville TN For each family of five and under, $10.00
For each person over five, $1.00
For each private bathing tub or bath house, $6.00
For shower bath, by those do not pay for private bathing tubs or bath houses, $5.00
1851 New York City NY The annual regular rents to be collected by the Croton Aqueduct Board shall be as follows, to wit:—
1. On all tenements coming within the provisions of the law of April 11, 1849, having a front width of sixteen feet and under, and of not more than one story high, the snm of four dollars; of not more than two stories high, the sum of five dollars; of not more than three stories high, the sum of six dollars; of not more than four stories high, the sum of seven dollars; and five stories high and over, the sum of eight dollars.
2. On all tenements having a front width of not more than eighteen feet and over sixteen, and of not more than one story high, the sum of five dollars; of not more than two stories high, the sum of six dollars; of not more than three stories high, the sum of seven dollars; of not more than four stories high, the sum of eight dollars; and of five stories high and over, the sum of nine dollars.
3. On all tenements having a iront width of not more than twenty feet and over eighteen, and of not more than one story high, the sum of six dollars; of not more than two stories high, the sum of seven dollars; of not more than three stories high, the sum of eight dollars; of not more than four stories high, the sum of nine dollars; and of five stories high and over, the sum of ten dollars.
4. On all tenements having a front width of not more than twenty-two feet six inches, and over twenty feet, and of not more than one story high, the sum of seven dollars; of not more than two stories high, the sum of eight dollars; of not more than three stories high, the sum of nine dollars; of not more than four stories high, the sum of ten dollars; and of five stories high and over, the sum of eleven dollars.
5. On all tenements having a front width of not more than twenty-five feet, and over twenty-two feet and six inches, and of not more than one atory high, the sum of eight dollars; of not more than two stories high, the sum of nine dollars; of not more than three stories high, the sum of ten dollars; of not more than four stories high, the sum of eleven dollars; and of five stories high and over, the sum of twelve dollars.
6. On all tenements having a front width of not more than thirty feet, and over twenty-five feet, and of not more than one story high, the sum of ten dollars; of not more than two stories high, the sum of eleven dollars; of not more than three stories high, the sum of twelve dollars; of not more than four stories high, the sum of thirteen dollars; and of five stories high and over, the sum of fourteen dollars.
7. On all tenements having a front width of not more than thirty-seven feet six inches, and over thirty feet, and of not more than one story high, the sum of twelve dollars; of not more than two stories high, the sum of thirteen dollars; of not more than three stories high, the sum of fourteen dollars; of not more than four stories high, the sum of fifteen dollars; and of five stories high and over, the sum of sixteen dollars.
8. On all tenements having a front width of not more than fifty feet, and over thirty-seven feet six inches, and of not more than one story high, the sum of fourteen dollars; of not more than two stories high, the sum of fifteen dollars; of not more than three stories high, the sum of sixteen dollars; of not more than four stories high, the
sum of seventeen dollars; and of five stories high and over, the sum of eighteen dollars.
9. In the apportionment of regular rents upon a dwelling-house, the family or families occupying the same to number not more than fifteen persons; for every ten persons beyond that number, an additional rent of two dollars and fifty cents per year shall be charged.
10. The rents of all tenements which shall exceed in width fifty feet, shall be the subjects of special contract with the Croton Aqueduct Board.
1851 Pittsburgh PA 6,681 dwellings, stores, shops and offices paid $29,184 in water rent, for an average of $4.37
1852 Pittsburgh PA 6,689 dwelling houses, offices and shops paid $31,218 in water rent, for an average of $4.67.
1853 Baltimore MD Private families $10.00 per year
Private families in houses less than 17 feet front, 8.00
Private families in houses 12 feet and under, $6.00
Baths, 3.00
Water closets, 3.00
1853 Philadelphia PA Water Rates Per Annum
Dwellings.
Hydrant in Yard and Kitchen, or either $5 00
Hydrant in Yard and Kitchen, and each supplied by a separate ferule from the main, for each public attachment $5.00
Baths, each tub $3.00
Baths; if supplied by a separate ferule from the main—for one bath only $5.00
For each additional bath $3.00
Water Closets, each $1.00
Urinals, each $1.00
Biddets, or Foot Tubs, each $1.00
Wash Basins in chambers, each $1.00
Wash Basins, or Sinks in Pantries, each $1.00
Wash Pavements of every description, each $3.00
(A screw nozzle on a hydrant in the yard is considered a wash pavement, unless there is a wash pavement charged to the dwelling.)
Small Dwellings
With but one room on a floor $2.50
With one room on a floor and one story kitchen back $3.75
1854 Chicago IL See rate schedule here
1854 Savannah GA City Water Rates. Dwelling houses when valued for the assessment of taxes as follows:
Valuation. Water Rate.
    $1,000                                             $5.00
over 1,000 and not exceeding $2,000   6.00
       2,000                                  3,000   8.00
       3,000                                  4,000  10.00
       4,000                                  5,000  12.00
       5,000                                  6,000  13.00
       6,000                                  7,000  14.00
       7,000                                  8,000  15.00
       8,000                                  9,000  16.00
       9,000                                10,000  17.00
      10,000                               15,000  18.00
      15,000                               20,000  20.00
Which latter sum shall be the maximum for any private family. If the houses are occupied by more than one white family, an additional rate will be charged.
1854 Detroit MI PRIVATE FAMILIES.
For every family not exceeding four persons, four dollars per annum, and for each additional person over four years of age, one dollar per annum.
For Bathing Apparatus, not less than two, nor more than five dollars per annum.
For Water Closet, two dollars per annum.
For Garden Hose, not less than three dollars, or more than ten dollars per annum.
For Street Sprinklers, not less than three dollars, or more than ten dollars per annum.
For each Horse, one dollar per annum.
For each Cow, fifty cents per annum.
For each Carriage, fifty cents per annum.
For Fountains, special rates.
1854 Cincinnati OH House, One Family.  Per annum
2 rooms, $7; 4 rooms, $8; 6 rooms; $9;  8 rooms, $10; 10 rooms, $11; 12 rooms, $12; 14 rooms, $13; 16 rooms, $14.
Each extra family $3.00 per annum.
1856 Cambridge MA Dwelling Houses.  Per year
For the first faucet, $6.00.
For each additional faucet, $2.00.
For the first water closet, or bath tub, $2.00
For each additional water closet, or bath tub, $3.00
Boarding Houses.
For the first faucet, $10.00
For water closet, or bath tub, when used by boarders, $10.00
Other charges as above.
Where the same tenement is occupied by more than one family -
For each additional family, for first faucet, $3.00
Other charges as above.
Where water is carried over a private dwelling house, the tenant, if he so elects, may pay for such use in lieu of the above charges, $30.00
[Where two faucets are used - one for hot and one for cold water - both emptying into one vessel, but one charge will be made for both.]
1856 Cleveland OH Dwelling Houses, not exceeding three rooms, $5.00
Each additional room up to sixteen, 0.50
Over sixteen rooms, each, 0.25
Bathing tubs, 2.00
Water Closets, 2.00
1856 Wheeling VA For each person in a family, using the water of the city, seventy-five cents; and in addition thereto four per centum of the rental value of the dwelling where the water is used.
For every Private Bath, for the first five in each family, one dollar each, and fifty cents for each person over five.
1858 Philadelphia PA There hereafter there shall be levied a tax, to defray the expenses of the Water Department, to be styled a Water Tax, against each and every dwelling-house situate on any street, lane, alley, court, or other place where the water pipe is laid; and as fast as it may be laid along the line of any such property as aforesaid, it shall be the duty of the Chief Engineer to assess a rate of tax of such amount against every dwelling-house as it now charged where the water is introduced.  Provided, That the owners of such properties cannot show that the said property obtains water from other sources than the Water Department of the City of Philadelphia.
1858 Rutland VT It was arranged that persons already holding posts in the Aqueduct Company should have water from the new pipes at the rate of $5 a year for a family of five persons, and at proportionate rates for a larger number.
1859 Washington DC The annual rents to be collected by the water department shall be as follows, to wit:
On all tenements two stories in height having a front width of sixteen feet and under, the sum of three dollars, and for each additional front foot twenty-five cents, and for each additional story, one dollar per story.
1859 Nashville TN For a family of three persons or under, $10
For a family of five persons or under, $12
For each person over five in a family, $1.25
For each private bath, or bath house, $6.00
For each Shower bath, by those who do not pay for private bathing tubs and bath house, $5.00
Water closet in private houses, $4.00
1860 Louisville KY Louisville Water Company
1. Private Dwellings. Per Annum.
For 1 or 2 rooms, $4; for 3 or 4 rooms, $5; for 5 or 6 rooms, $6; for 7 or 8 rooms, $8; for 9 or 10 rooms, $9; for 11 rooms, $10; for each additional room, 50 cents. For houses occupied by more than one family, ‘to the above rates add for each family over the above one the sum of $3.
2. Boarding Houses and Hotels. Per Annum.
For 1 or 2 rooms, $6; for 3 or 4 rooms, $7.50; for 5 or 6 rooms, $9; for 7 rooms, $10.50; for each additional room, $1.50; for hotels, each room, $1.50 ; or for 1,000 gallons, by meter or estimate, 15 to 35 cents.
1860 Pittsburgh PA SMALL DWELLINGS.
Fronting on courts, alleys, or small tenement houses on public streets, occupied exclusively as dwellings, for use of outside hydrant of convenient access, whether on premises or not, for each family—
1 room charged $1.00; 2 rooms charged $2.00 to $3.00; 3 rooms charged $3.75;4 rooms charged $4.50
Each additional room, 75 cents. Extra use of water, or additional fixtures, rated according to "dwelling" charges. All persons without water, not on the lines of main pipes, at reduced rates.
DWELLINGS.
Fronting on public streets, occupied exclusively as dwellings, for each family occupying the premises, with hydrant in yard and kitchen, or either—
2 rooms charged $4.00; 4 rooms charged $6.00; 6 rooms charged $7.50; 8 rooms charged $9.00; 9 or 10 rooms $10.50; Each additional room $1.00
Baths supplied with cold water, each, 1.00; Baths supplied with hot and cold water, each, 2.00
Baths supplied by separate ferrule from the main, for 1 bath, 5.00; For each additional bath, 3.00
Water closets, for one, 2.00; For each additional, 1.00; Wash basins in chambers, and urinals, same rates.
Wash pavements, of every description, each, 8.00; Used by more than one family, for each family, 1.50
Street and garden hose, $1.00 to 10.00
1862 Baltimore MD Water Rates
1862 Brooklyn NY Nassau Water Rates
1863 Washington DC A tax of seven-eights of one per cent, per square foot is assessed upon all property which binds or touches upon any street in which a main water-pipe has been laid, to defay the expense of laying the same.
The tax is payable in five annual installments.
1863 Cincinnati OH Families occupying a house, containing  Per annum
2 rooms, $4; 4 rooms, $5; 6 rooms; $6;  8 rooms, $8; 10 rooms, $9; 12 rooms, $10; 14 rooms, $11; 16 rooms, $12; 18 rooms $13; 20 rooms, $14.  Houses containing more than 20 rooms to be charged at the rate of 50 cents for each additional room.
Houses occupied by more than one family, to be charged at the above rates for one family, and two dollars and fifty cents for each additional family.
1866 Nashville TN For a family of three persons or less, $12.00
For a family of five persons or less, $16,00
For each person over five in a family, $2.00
For a private bath or bath house, $8.00
For a shower bath by those who do not each for private bathing tub, $4.00
For each water-closet in private buildings, $6.00
1867 Aaronsburg PA The water directors of the town of Aaronsburg shall have the power to assess a per capita tax upon the taxable male inhabitants of the same, not exceeding one dollar and fifty cents annually.

References
1861 "Water-Works of the United States and British-North-American Possessions," from The American Gas-Light Journal 2:202-203 (January 1, 1861) Includes rates for many systems.

1869 Annual Report of the Trustees of the City Water Works for the year ending December 31, 1869, includes water rates for principal cities

1872 Report of Water-Registrar, District of Columbia, November 1872.  Water rates from other cities

1883 Water Rates and Water Statistics of 250 Cities and Towns, Together with Facts about Water Meters, compiled by the National Meter Company

1890 "Family and Meter Water Rates in Various Cities of the United States and Canada, together with the Cost of Works per Family," from Manual of American Water-Works, Volume 2, by Moses Nelson Baker.  The tables include averages for public, private, and all works in each state. 

1899 "Water Rates," Engineering Record 40:459-460 (October 14, 1899)

1899 "Water Rates in the larger cities of the United States," Fire and Water 26:411,420 (December 9, 1899) | Part 2 |

1915 General Statistics of Cities. Bureau of the Census
Pages 159-185:  Water Rates for 155 Cities


© 2017 Morris A. Pierce