THE WATER PROBLEM OF A LARGE CITY
193. It is by no means unusual for the residents of a large city or town to receive through the newspapers a notification that the city water supply is running low and that economy should be exercised in its use. The problem of supplying a large city with an abundance of pure water is among the most difficult tasks which city officials have to perform, and is one little understood and appreciated by the average citizen.
Intense interest in personal and domestic affairs is natural, but every citizen, rich or poor, should have an interest in civic affairs as well, and there is no better or more important place to begin than with the water supply. One of the most stirring questions in New York to-day has to do with the construction of huge aqueducts designed to convey to the residents of the city, water from the distant Catskill Mountains. The growth of the population has been so phenomenally rapid that the combined output of all available near-by sources does not suffice to meet the increasing consumption.
Where does your city obtain its water? Does it bring it to its reservoirs in the most economic way possible, and is there any legitimate excuse for the scarcity of water which many communities face in dry seasons?
194. Two Possibilities. Sometimes a city is fortunate enough to be situated near hills and mountains through which streams flow, and in that case the water problem is simple. In such a case all that is necessary is to run pipes, usually underground, from the elevated lakes or streams to the individual houses, or to common reservoirs from which it is distributed to the various buildings.
[Illustration: FIG. 148.—The elevated mountain lake serves as a source of water.]
Figure 148 illustrates in a simple way the manner in which a mountain lake may serve to supply the inhabitants of a valley. The city of Denver, for example, is surrounded by mountains abounding in streams of pure, clear water; pipes convey the water from these heights to the city, and thus a cheap and adequate flow is obtained. Such a system is known as the gravity system. The nearer and steeper the elevation, the greater the force with which the water flows through the valley pipes, and hence the stronger the discharge from the faucets.
Relatively few cities and towns are so favorably situated as regards water; more often the mountains are too distant, or the elevation is too slight, to be of practical value. Cities situated in plains and remote from mountains are obliged to utilize the water of such streams as flow through the land, forcing it to the necessary height by means of pumps. Streams which flow through populated regions are apt to be contaminated, and hence water from them requires public filtration. Cities using such a water supply thus have the double expense of pumping and filtration.