Documentary History of American Water-works

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Technology Per Capita Water Consumption

Per Capita Water Consumption

| Meters | Water Rates | Units of Water Measurement |

One of the most critical factors in designing water works is to determine the daily consumption of water for each inhabitant in the served community.  This increased dramatically as more fixtures were added to each household, along with water used for manufacturing, railroads, water motors, etc.

1798 Memoir of Joseph Browne, M. D. on Supplying the city with Pure and Wholesome Water, July 2, 1798.
Page 27:  That every householder, in all the streets of the said city, through which the pipes of the conduit shall be laid, shall be entitled to receive daily from the same, a supply of at least thirty gallons of water.

1799 Report of the Manhattan Committee of the Manhattan Company, by John B. Coles, Samuel Osgood and John Stevens, April 19, 1799.
Page 34:  In my calculations of the probable expence, I have estimated that 5 gallons per day to each person, or 25 gallons to each family, will be sufficient for their purpose, and then say that there are 65,000 inhabitants, the quantity necessary to be daily raised, will be 325,000 gallons.

1799 Merchantile Advertiser, November 13, 1799, Page 3.
From actual experiment there is no doubt that one of the wells already opened will yield to five thousand families a daily supply of fifty gallons each, of a quality excellent for drinking and good for every culinary purpose.

1824 Canvass White's Report, January 28, 1824
Page 19:  It has been ascertained by experiments made at Philadelphia, that twenty-seven gallons per day for each person, is sufficient for the demands in summer, and this includes the amount used for all purposes of manufacturing by brewers, tanners, livery stables, and for washing the gutters, &c.

1825 Report made to the Mayor and Aldermen of the City of Boston on the subject of supplying the inhabitants of that city with water, November 4, 1825, by Daniel Treadwell.  | also here |
Page 4:  The supply ought not to be less than 1,600,000 gallons.  [His calculations allow 147.5 gallons per family for all uses, including trades, watering cattle and streets, waste and leaks, but not supply for fighting fires, for a total of 1,180,000 gallons per day at present.]

1826 Report to the directors of the New-York Water Works Company, Canvass White, engineer of the New-York Water Works Company, January 9, 1826 | also here |
Page 4:  If we allow twenty gallons for the consumption of each person daily, we shall have a supply for a population of 450,000 inhabitants; the allowance of twenty gallons will be ample to cover the quantity that may be required for factories and other purposes.

1826  A municipal history of the town and city of Boston during two centuries: from September 17, 1630, to September 17, 1830, by Mayor Josiah Quincy (1852)
Pages 394-396:  Inaugural Address of Mayor Josiah Quincy, January 2, 1826
Page 395: The calculation should be formed on one hundred and fifty gallons for each family.
Pages 197-198: City Government. 1826.  Measures for Introducing Water.

1833 Report Of the Commissioners, under an act of the Legislature of this State, passed February 26, 1833, relative to supplying the city of New-York with pure and wholesome water. December 31, 1833. | also here |
Page 12:  The Commissioners have adopted 22 gallons for each inhabitant of the city of New-York, as the quantity required for every purpose, which will make it necessary that 6,600,000 gallons should be delivered at the distributing reservoir every 24 hours.  The Commissioners have shown, however, that five or six times that quantity may be obtained, and brought to the city, if required.

1834 Communication to the City Council, on the subject of introducing water in the city, by Mayor Theodore Lyman, Jr., January 29, 1834.
Page 14:  I should not, therefore, put down the supply at less than 150 gallons daily to a family.
Page 15:  It would not, therefore, seem either safe or wise to build an aqueduct that would not ultimately deliver daily into Boston from 2,500,000 to 3,000,000 gallons.

1838 A Report of the Mayor, to the Common Council of the City of Rochester, on the Subject of Supplying the City with Water: Agreeable to a Resolution of the Board, of the 16th of January, 1838, by Elisha Johnson, Mayor.  March 5, 1838.
Page 13:  The works will furnish, daily, about 1,500,000 imperial gallons, or 450 gallons to each family of 6 persons, in a population of 20,000.  In other cities, the average quantity, used for all purposes, is about 150 gallons to each family of 6 persons, in the entire population.

1839 "The Croton Aqueduct," Morning Herald (New York, New York), July 18, 1839, Page 2.  | also here |
When the aqueduct is full, the water will move through it at the rate of nearly two feet a second, the conduit having an uniform descent of thirteen inches to the mile, from the dam to the distributing reservoir: where it will be able to discharge forty-nine and a half millions of imperial gallons of water every twenty-four hours. And calculating that every man, woman, and child in this city will each consume five gallons of water every twenty-four hours, (a fair estimate) the aqueduct can supply a population of ten millions, or more than the island of Manhattan will contain at the day of judgment.

1844 Report of the commissioners appointed under the order of the City Council, August 26, 1844:  to report the best mode and expense of bringing the water of Long Pond into the city of Boston., November 9, 1844, Document No. 24.
Page 4:  They refer in their report, to the water works of the City of Philadelphia, as those which afforded as liberal a supply of water, as those of any city within their knowledge, and they state that the quantity, as appeared from the official report of the preceding year, amounted to an average of 28˝ wine gallons, to each inhabitant within the limits of distribution.
Page 5:  At this ratio, the supply of 250,000 inhabitants will require 7,125,000 gallons of water per day.

1849 First Annual Report of the Croton Aqueduct Department for the year 1849, January 7, 1850.
Page 34:  The necessity for a more rigid police, and more stringent rules regulating the use of water, will be apparent, when it is stated that very nearly the whole volume of the Croton river has been delivered in the city during many weeks of the past summer, amounting to at least sixty imperial gallons [72 wine gallons] each twenty-four hours, for every inhabitant; a supply three times greater than any legitimate use of it, would demand.

1850 Annual Report of the Watering Committee for the Year 1850, to the Select and Common Councils of the City of Philadelphia, January 2, 1851.
Page 32:  The average supply of water, given above, viz., 4,785,338 gallons per day, would therefore be equal to 25.56 [ale] gallons per day to each individual. [31.2 wine gallons per day to each individual.]

1852 Fourth Annual Report of the Croton Aqueduct Department for the year 1852, January 3, 1853.
Pages 15-16:  It was assumed by the Commissioners that twenty-two gallons per day for each inhabitant would be a liberal allowance, at which rate a city, containing a population of two and a half millions, might be supplied by an aqueduct of the proposed dimensions.
An experience of ten years enables us to contrast these preliminary calculations with actual results, and thus to see, with great certainty, the requirements of the future.
During the summer months, for two years past, the whole flow of the Croton river has been turned through the aqueduct, and in 1851, "for many consecutive weeks, not a drop of water passed over the dam, and the lake formed by it was gradually drawn down two feet seven and a half inches." The daily delivery in the city for a large portion of these two years, has been about thirty millions of gallons a day — often in the past year at least five millions more, drawn from the reservoirs on the island—giving to each inhabitant within the water district, (not more than four hundred and fifty thousand,) a daily supply of nearly ninety gallons.
To claim that such quantity of water is necessary for any useful purpose is simply preposterous; but assuming that no reduction in the rate is to happen, it may be well to see how long before that daily supply will begin to be diminished by want of capacity in the aqueduct itself.

1853 Engineers' Report for Supplying the City of Rochester with Water from Various Sources: Made to the Directors of the Rochester Water Works Co by Charles B. Stuart and Daniel Marsh, Firm of Stuart, Serrell & Co., Civil Engineers, New York.  October 1, 1853.
Page 15:  The experience of the principal cities of the United States furnishes considerable data for an approximate estimate of the quantity of supply required at present; and this has been assumed at 40 gallons per day to each water taker, the probable number at present being 25,000, increasing to 50,000 twelve years  hence. Under this assumption the estimates for the several plans have been based on a present supply of 1,000,000 gallons, providing for an extension to 2,000,000  gallons.

1859 Report on supplying the city of Charlestown with pure water: made for the City council by order of Hon. James Dana, mayor of Charlestown, by George Rumford Baldwin and Charles L. Stevenson
Page 9:  Water usage per person in Boston and other cities

1860 Report on the introduction of a supply of pure water into the city of Rochester : made to the Mayor and Common Council, September, 1860
Pages 18-19:  Table showing the Cost, the Annual Receipts and Expenses, the Capacity and other characteristics of the principal Water Works in the United States.
Page 22:  Quantity of Water Required.
In the early history of the efforts in this country to obtain water supplies for cities, 25 to 30 gallons per clay for each person of the district to be supplied, was considered an ample rate to meet all the demands whatever for water. But more recently the experience of some of our principal cities, indicates the wisdom and necessity of providing for a higher rate of consumption. During the last year, the distribution from the Water Works in Boston, was at the rate of 72 gallons per day; from the Croton Works stated to be 70 gallons, and at Philadelphia from all the works, it was at the rate of over 50 gallons per person, of the entire population of those places. In the foregoing Tabular Statement, the rate of consumption in other cities is given.
Although 40 gallons per day, for each person in a population of 50,000, would perhaps be considered a reasonable allowance for this city, at the present time, yet it would be unwise to construct a system of works at great expense, to be dependent upon a source which could not furnish, if it should hereafter be needed, at least as much as 60 gallons per day, each, for a population of 100,000. The rate first above named would give 2,000,000 gallons, and the last 6,000,000 per day, for the city.

1860 Report of the Cochituate water board, to the City council of Boston, for the year 1860.  January 10, 1861.
Page 7:  This shows a consumption of 97 gallons for each individual daily; an amount believed to be without parallel in the civilized world.

1868 "Our Water Supply," The New York Times, April 24, 1868, Page 8.
“If cleanliness be next to godliness, then judging from the quantity of water consumed in New York, our citizens must be very near to being a godly people. But it is to be feared that of the vast quantities of water consumed daily in this City, a very large proportion is wasted. In how many houses is the Croton constantly left running, because it is too much trouble, or too treat an effort of memory to turn it off? How much water is wasted in washing down engine houses, stables, &c., and how much in our hotels and bar rooms? The Commissioners of the Croton Department say that about one-fourth of all the water consumed in this City runs to waste, and perhaps the estimate is not an exaggerated one. The present consumption of water in New York averages sixty millions of gallons per day, or sixty gallons for each inhabitant. This supply, after deducting the quantity necessary for extinguishing fires, for washing and other purposes, would appear to be liberal, though not equal, if we may believe history, to that provided for the citizens of Imperial Rome, who were at liberty to use something like one hundred gallons per day each. Our supply, however, is larger, in proportion to the number of inhabitants, than that of the British Metropolis, and also of some of the principal cities of the Old World. At the same time our water surpasses theirs in purity, a gallon containing but a trifle over four grains of solid matter. It will scarcely perhaps be believed that New Yorkers, before the introduction of the croton were compelled to drink water containing from 20 to 125 grains of impurities per gallon. Yet such was the fact.”

1872 Report of the Board of Water Commissioners, of the city of Rochester, to the mayor of the city of Rochester made Nov. 15, 1872. Includes Report of the Chief Engineer, J. Nelson Tubbs, October 31, 1872. | another copy (pdf) |
Page 34:  Quantity Required.
It was formerly the practice to estimate a per diem allowance of 40 gallons per head of population as an abundant supply for any city, but later experience has shown that a safer estimate in providing a water supply is  60 gallons per clny for each inhabitant. At the date of their last reports, the following amounts per diem for each individual were used in the cities hereinafter named: Philadelphia, 56 gallons; Boston, 60; Brooklyn, 48; Albany, 36; Buffalo, 65; Detroit, 70; Chicago, 73; Cincinnati, 64; Baltimore, 52; Richmond, 47 - an average for all of 58 gallons per day.

1877 A Practical Treatise on Water-Supply Engineering by John Thomas Fanning
Page 38:  In the year 1870, the average daily supply to some of the American cities was as follows, in United States Gallons:
Page 39:  Water Supplied in Years 1870 and 1874.
Page 40:  Average Gallons Water Supplied to Each Inhabitant from 1856 to 1874.

1878 A practical treatise on water-supply engineering; relating to the hydrology, hydrodynamics, and practical construction of water-works, in North America. With numerous tables and illustrations, by John Thomas Fanning
Page 38:  Table No. 2. Water Supplied and Piping in Several Cities, in the year 1870.
Page 39:  Table No. 3. Water Supplied in the Years 1870 and 1874.

1881 “How Croton Water is Wasted.” Engineering News 8:450-451 (November 5, 1881)
How Croton Water is Wasted. “The inspectors of the Department of Public Works are busy searching for houses where water is wasted. Their method is to have a man enter a sewer in the night-time through a man-hole and apply a gauge to the water flowing into the sewers from houses. In cases where the flow is great an inspector is sent to the house the next day to examine the plumbing. When a serious leak is found the water is cut off summarily. In this way a number of houses have been deprived of water within the last few days. The police have been notified to be especially vigilant to prevent the waste or water, and the result of the order has been that several houses have been reported. In one case yesterday the water was cut off from a row of three houses on a police report. The water will not be let on again until the owners or occupants take measures to prevent waste. The officials of the Department of Public Works find the most fault with apartment houses. One of them visited by inspectors had a tank on the top floor containing 3,300 gallons of water. This was filled and emptied twice a day, making the water supply 6,600 gallons a day. Ten families live in the house, so that 660 gallons are used by each family, which is considered an excessive amount. This does not include hot water, which is supplied from boilers in the basement. The officials have no power to limit the supply unless a waste of water can be shown. Some trouble is experienced by the inspectors in gaining admittance to houses in the daytime, as servants object to letting them in while their employers are out.”

1881 Report on a Water Supply for New York and Other Cities of the Hudson Valley, December, 1881, by John Thomas Fanning
Statistics of Various Water Works in 1880

1882 "Experiments Made with the Deacon Waste-Water Meter System," by Dexter Brackett, Journal of the Association of Engineering Societies 1(7):253-266 (May, 1882)
Page 261:  Gallons per head per day for American and European cities.

1883 Water Rates and Water Statistics of 250 Cities and Towns, Together with Facts about Water Meters, compiled by the National Meter Company
Pages 74-75:  Tables 1, 2 & 3 showing actual daily consumption of water per capita

1883 Water Supply Considered Mainly from a Chemical and Sanitary Standpoint, by Prof. William Ripley Nichols of MIT
Page 195:  Consumption of water in American Cities

1888 Report of Proceedings of the Eighth Annual Meeting of the American Water Works Association (April, 1888)
Page 46-49:  The Consumption of Water in Cities and Towns, by H. W. Ayres
Table showing gallons per day per capita 1873 to 1887 | pdf |

1891 Manual of American Water Works, Volume 3
Page xix-xxviii:  Consumption of Water and Use of Meters in the Fifty Largest Cities of the United States | pdf |

1895 Report on the Social Statistics of Cities in the United States at the Eleventh Census: 1890, by John S. Billings, M.D., Surgeon United States Army, Expert Special Agent.
Pages 22-29: Waterworks— Sources of supply of water for 288 cities; Distribution of population in relation to source of supply and average daily consumption of water, by geographical divisions; Average daily consumption and cost of works, by population groups and by geographical divisions; Character of distributing works; Population to each mile of main, cost of works, average annual cost of maintenance, and average annual receipts from water; rents, by population groups and by geographical divisions; Population to each mile of main and to each tap, number of meters to each 100 taps, cost of works, average annual cost of
maintenance, average annual receipts from water rents, and annual charge for water per dwelling, by cities.
Water supply of German cities
Diagram 15.—Amount of water used in the larger cities in accordance with the population
Diagram 16.—Consumption of water in German cities
Diagram 17.—Distribution of population according to character of waterworks
Pages 68-77:  Table 66. Waterworks.  Ownership, capacity, consumption, distribution, average annual cost and receipts, and number of miles of mains to each mile of sewers. [Includes data on 45 cities]

1898 "A few considerations of municipal water supply, with special reference to that of Rochester, N.Y.," by Emil Kuichling, C. E., from The Cornell Civil Engineer 6:1-10 (1897-1898)
Table B - Showing Average Daily Water Consumption Per Head of Population in 276 American and Foreign Cities | pdf |

1899 Elements of Water Supply Engineering by E. Sherman Gould
Page 76:  In general it may be said that a hundred gallons per twenty-four hours per capita, to be consumed in ten hours, with a liberal allowance for future growth of population, is a safe but not extravagant estimate.

1900 Inquiry Into the Conditions Relating to the Water-supply of the City of New York, by Commerce and Industry Association of New York, August, 1900
Page 57:  General Statistics for Present Supply.  Average daily supply per capita for each borough.  Manhattan & Bronx 117; Brooklyn 82; Queens 97; Richmond 75. Average 103.

1902 "State Forest Preserve," The New York Times, March 11, 1902, Page 7.
Protest by Merchants Against Proposed Amendments.  The Question of Water Supply.
Next comes the consideration of the important Question of water supply as it is affected by the proposed changes. On this subject the committee speaks as follows:
This question of a water supply is one whose importance is borne in upon our attention with an irresistible and impressive force by a passing study of the increase in population of New York City proper in the last century. Starting in 1800 with 60,000 inhabitants, the increase has been equal to an average gain every decade of about 11 per cent.; while in the last five decades Brooklyn has surpassed this in her average growth.
But assuming that the average increase each decade of this metropolitan district will be but 3O per cent., an annual increase of only about 3 per cent., her population in 1920 would reach 6,000,000; and there are thousands now living who will in 1950 see this metropolis, containing 13,000,000 people, or about twice the size of the present population of the whole State.
Again the Greater New York is, and must continue to be, the greatest manufacturing centre of the country, and her consumption of water, therefore, will be much greater per head than it would be otherwise. Placing this at the low figure of 150 gallons a day per capita in 1920, and 180 gallons in 1950, the city would require at the former period 900,000,000 gallons, and a half century hence 2,340,000,000 gallons a day.
The daily use of such enormous volumes of water in the approximate future raises at once the question as to their sources and the means by which they are to be furnished.
To these everlasting hills of the Catskills and Adirondacks which seem to have been upreared by an omnipotent and creative hand for this beneficent purpose, and to the forests clothing their uplands and heights, and which alone can draw from the inexhaustible reservoirs of the clouds the full bounty of their life-giving springs we must turn for ths solution of this problem and its kindred ones.

1905 Report of the National Board of Fire Underwriters by its Committee of Twenty on the City of New York, N.Y. Manhattan and the Bronx
Page 14:  Consumption for Manhattan and Bronx 1900 to 1904, including gallons per capita

1913 "Water Consumption Per Capita and Per Consumer," Journal of the New England Water Works Association 27:33-53 (March 1913)
Pages 34-45: Tables showing water consumption in several cities | pdf |

1913 A practical treatise on hydraulic and water-supply engineering: relating to the hydrology, hydrodynamics, and practical construction of water-works in North America, by John Thomas Fanning
Page 40:  Table No. 4.  Average Gallons Water Supplied to Each Inhabitant Daily from 1856 to 1890.

1914 Annual Report of the Bureau of Water Department of Public Works of the City of Philadelphia
Per Capita Water Consumption
1912 - 198 gallons
1913 - 178 gallons
1914 - 173 gallons

1915 "Report of Committee on Water Consumption," Journal of the American Water Works Association 2(1):181-199 (March 1915)
Graphical Representation of Total, Non-Domestic and Domestic Per Capita Consumption of Certain Cities.

1925 Water works practice:  a manual issued by the American Water Works Association.
Pages 428-429:  Table 23. Water consumption in large American cities | pdf |

1926 "Effect of Water Rates and Growth in Population upon Per Capita Consumption," by Leonard Metcalf, Journal of the American Water Works Association 15(1):1-21 (January, 1926)
Pages 4-5:  Data on consumption, per cent of services metered, and water rates for various cities (1920-1924).

1932 "Per Capita Water Consumption," by Ezra B. Whitman, Journal of the American Water Works Association 24(4):515-528 (April 1932)
Pages 516-521:  Tables Showing Water consumption in Chicago; Boston; New York City; Baltimore; Lynchburg; Fall River

1949 "Regulation of Water Use in Air Conditioning," Committee Report, Journal of the American Water Works Association 41(8):715-728 (August, 1949)

1968 The Private City: Philadelphia in Three Periods of Its Growth, by Sam Bass Warner
Pages 102-111: Development of Waterworks.
Page 108:  By 1850 only Southwark remained connected to the Philadelphia system. In the summer 160,000 people drew forty-four gallons per person per day. Fifteen thousand houses had water closets, and 3,500 had baths.  [Moyamensing was also still supplied with water, raising the population served to 187,154.  A total of 4,468 baths and 556 water closets were supplied as of December 31, 1849.  The average daily supply per person was 31.2 wine gallons, and the peak day supply on June 21, 1849 would have been about 47.2 wine gallons.]

© 2020 Morris A. Pierce