History of the Wichita Water Company
From: History of Wichita and Sedgwick County, Kansas
Past and Present
O. H. Bentley, Editor-in-Chief
C. F. Cooper & Co. Publisher.
Chicago 1910


The people of Wichita may be assured that when the present improvements are completed that they will have one of the most up to date water systems in the country, and not only will they be guaranteed the purest water for drinking and domestic purposes, but an ample supply for fire protection. During the past year the American Water Works and Guarantee Company, owners of the Wichita plant, have expended an enormous sum of money, the greatest in the history of the company, on extensions, reinforcing lines and other improvements. An entire new station has been built. A new 100 foot brick stack has been added, in addition to two 250 horsepower boilers. Two new 5,000,000 gallon pumping engines have been installed, bringing the present pumping capacity of the plant up to 20,000,000 gallons per day. The present well system is also being thoroughly overhauled and many new wells are being added.

In addition to the foregoing, more than twenty five miles of cast iron mains, the greater part of which will be reinforcing lines of large diameter, have been authorized and are being laid. A new twelve inch reinforcing line is being laid north of the pumping station into the Riverside district. Pipe is on the ground for reinforcing line up Waco avenue to the stock yards and packing houses. Probably the most important reinforcing line that is to be put in will be an additional sixteen inch main from the station direct to the heart of the business district; this in addition to many miles of smaller lines which will be put in to reach the residences in outlying districts, all of which will be properly reinforced. As a result of the foregoing mentioned improvements the city of Wichita may boast of having one of the most complete water works systems in the western country, and this opinion is supported by the statement of several expert water works engineers, who recently visited the plant and who have no interests in it whatever. They pronounced it one of the most up to date systems in the world, and one that is now being adopted by different water companies who are desirous of supplying their patrons with a pure supply of water. The water itself comes from a series of large cylinders which are sunk beneath the bed of the Big Arkansas river to a depth of from forty to forty five feet. By means of steam pressure all the sand is forced out of these cylinders and the water is permitted to flow through the deep body of gravel which remains, thus affording one of the purest water supplies to be found anywhere.

The water from these cylinders is syphoned by vacuum pumps into a large cement receiving reservoir, where the water is thoroughly aerated before passing into the mains of the city. This is in addition to the company taking every known precaution to guard against contamination of the city water supply, as it is a well known fact that many of the most malignant germs cannot exist in water thoroughly aerated. The cement receiving reservoir, constructed for this purpose, is one of the most important of the company's recent improvements. It is thirty three feet deep and twenty five feet in diameter and is built of brick, laid in cement. The walls of this reservoir are three feet thick at the base and about two feet thick at the top and are cemented thoroughly to prevent any surface water getting into it. By means of vacuum pumps the water from the cylinders or wells is emptied into this reservoir, where it is kept at just the water level in the ground. From this receiving reservoir the large pumps force the water through the mains to all parts of the city. So carefully adjusted is this system that not a ripple disturbs the surface of the water in the reservoir, though thousands of gallons of water are discharged into and pumped out of it every minute. Some idea may be had of the purity of this water when one is given a chance to look down into it. Although it stands twenty feet deep in the reservoir, it does not look to be more than three feet deep, and one could easily see a nickel on the cement bottom, so clear is the water. No sediment or filth of any kind can find its way into this reservoir. This differs from the reservoirs in some cities where the water is retained in great receptacles to settle before it is pumped into the mains and where masses of green scum and moss cover the top of the water, thus forming a breeding place for all kinds of disease germs As the source from which the water is drawn, namely, the underflow of the Arkansas valley, is six or eight miles wide and hundreds of miles in length, it is plain to see that it is inexhaustible, and in case more water is needed at any time all the company would need to do would be to sink more cylinders by which to draw from the under flow. Another evidence of the great care exercised by the water company to guard against any possible filth or contamination to the water used is that it owns the entire island on which the pumping station is situated. Originally there were two channels of the river, but now there is only one in which the water runs, but the water company's holding is commonly spoken of as the island. The strip of ground is forty rods or more in width and about a mile long and no stock or offal of any kind is allowed upon it. Thus every possible safeguard has been provided against any impurities in the water which is offered to the people of Wichita for their use. This water is frequently analyzed and has always been found to be of excellent quality.

The last analysis made by W. E. Bunker, an expert bacteriologist, assisted by Dr. F. H. Slayton, city physician, shows the water absolutely pure and safe for drinking purposes. It certainly ought to be a source of satisfaction to the people of Wichita, as it is to the water works company, that they have a system so well equipped and a supply of water so pure. There are two requisites for an ideal water supply that are always to be sought. The first is absolutely pure water as a reasonable guarantee of health and an abundant supply to insure protection against fires. No city can boast of anything more desirable for the upbuilding and advertisement of its advantages than an adequate and pure water supply and no citizen can afford to disparage such an advantage for political or other purposes. A town may have mills and other great industries, but if they are at the mercy of the flames and the workmen who are employed in them are compelled to use impure water it is a dangerous place to live. Give the people plenty of pure water, such as they are assured here in Wichita, and the saving in doctor's bills and undertaker's charges alone would be an argument in its favor. The Wichita Water Company has nothing to cover up. It invites the most rigid and critical examination of its system and water supply, and the public is especially invited to visit the station, where the engineer in charge will take pleasure in showing visitors over the plant and explaining everything in detail. Every detail of the water system is now and has been for twenty years under the personal supervision of Mr. Fred D. Aley, the superintendent. Having lived in Wichita from his boyhood, Mr. Aley knows what his city needs, and as a resident and a large taxpayer he feels that he has a personal interest in the matter aside from any pecuniary interest as superintendent. This has given him a sense of pride in trying to make the Wichita water system the best in the West, and the company reposing the utmost confidence in his judgment and having faith in the future of the city has anticipated the city's needs by the present extensive improvements.

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