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Methods Of Obtaining Pure Water

Category: OUR DRINK
Source: A Handbook Of Health

Wise Planning and Spending of Money is Necessary. If our city wells
are defiled by manure heaps and vault-privies, and our streams by
sewage, where are we to turn for pure water? All that is required is
foresight and a little intelligent planning and wise spending of money.
Of course the community must take hold of the problem, through a Board
of Health, or Health Officer, appointed for the purpose; and this is why
questions of health are coming to play such an important part in
legislation, and even in politics. No matter how fast a city is growing
or how much money its inhabitants are making, if it has an impure water
supply or a bad sewage system, there will be disease and death,
suffering and unhappiness among its people, which no amount of money can
make up for. Cleanliness is not only next to godliness, but one of the
most useful forms of it; and a city can afford to spend money liberally
to secure it--in fact, it is the best investment a city can make.

Artesian and Deep Wells. The earliest, and still the most eagerly
sought-for, source of pure water supply is springs or deep wells, such
as we have referred to. Both of these are fed by rain water which has
fallen somewhere upon the surface of the earth. As the layers of earth
or rock, of which the crust of the earth is made up, do not run level,
or horizontal, but are tilted and tipped in all directions, this rain
water soaks down until it reaches one of these sloping layers that is so
hard, or tough, as to be waterproof, and then runs along over its
surface in a sort of underground stream. If anywhere in the course of
this stream a very deep well shaft is driven right down through the soil
until it strikes the surface of this sloping layer of rock, then the
water will rise in this shaft to the level of the highest point from
which it is running.

If this highest point of the waterproof layer be many miles away, up in
the hills above the surface of the ground where the well is dug, then
the water will rise to the surface and sometimes even spout twenty,
thirty, or fifty feet above it. This forms what is known as a gushing,
or artesian, well (from Artois, a province in France, in which such
wells were first commonly used) and furnishes a very pure and valuable
source of water supply. If it rises only twenty, thirty, or fifty feet
in the well-shaft, but keeps flowing in at a sufficient rate, then we
get what is known as a living, or permanent well, and this also is a
very valuable and pure source of water supply.

Springs. Springs are formed on the same plan as the deep well, but
with the difference that the waterproof layer on top of which the water
is running either crops out on the surface again, lower down the
mountain, or folds upon itself and comes up again to the surface some
distance away from the mountain chain, out on the level. This is why
springs are usually found in or near mountainous or hilly regions. If
the water of a spring has gone deep enough into, or far enough through,
the layers of the earth, it may, like water of some of the artesian
wells, contain certain salts and minerals, particularly soda, sulphur,
and iron. Such springs are often highly valued as mineral water, healing
springs, or baths, partly because of these salts, partly on account of
their peculiar taste. Most of the virtues ascribed to mineral waters or
springs are due, however, to their pure water, and its cleansing
effects internally and externally when freely used.

Springs are among the most highly prized sources of water supply,
because they have gone underground sufficiently deep to become well
filtered and cooled to a low temperature, and usually not far enough to
become too heavily loaded with salts or minerals like the waters of the
deep wells. It must, however, be remembered that they also come from
rain-water, and that in hilly or broken regions the source of that rain
water may be the surface of the ground only a few hundred yards up the
hill or mountain, and impurities there may affect it. Much of the
delightful sparkle of spring water is due, as in the case of the popular
soda water, to the presence of carbon dioxid, only in spring water it is
produced by the decomposition of vegetable matter in it. As springs
usually break out in a hollow or at the foot of a hill, unless
carefully closed in they are quite liable to contamination from rain
water from the surrounding surface of the ground. Where springs of a
sufficient size can be reached, or a sufficiently live series of deep
wells can be bored, these furnish a safe source of water supply for
cities. But of course not more than one city in five or ten is so

Mountain Reservoirs. Two other methods of securing a water supply are
now generally adopted. One is to pick out some stream up in the hills or
mountains, within fifteen miles or so of the city, and put in a dam,
thus making a reservoir, or to enlarge some lake which already exists
there. At the same time, the entire valley, or slope of the mountain,
which this stream or lake drains of its surface water, is bought up by
the Government, or turned into a forest reserve, so that no houses can
be built or settlement of any kind permitted upon it. It can still be
used for lumber supply, for pastures, and, within reasonable limits, for
a great public hunting and fishing reserve and camping resort.

Almost every intelligent and farsighted town, which has not springs or
deep wells, is looking toward the acquirement of some such area as this
for its source of pure water. Many great cities go from thirty to fifty
miles, and some even a hundred and fifty miles, in order to reach such a
source, carrying the water into the city in a huge water-pipe, or
aqueduct. These cities find that the millions of dollars saved by the
prevention of death and disease amount to many times the cost of such a
system, while the water rents gladly paid by both private houses and
manufacturing establishments give good interest on the investment. Any
town can afford to go a mile for every thousand of its population for
such a source of water supply as this; and secure, gratis, a valuable
forest preserve, public park, and beauty spot.[15]

Filtration. The other method, which has to be adopted by cities
situated on level plains, or at the mouths of great rivers, is to take
the water of some lake, or river, as far out in the former, or as high
up the latter, as possible, and purify it by filtration. This can be
done at a moderate expense by preparing great settling-basins and
filter-beds. The first are great pools or small lakes, into which the
water is run and held until most of the mud and coarser dirt has settled
or sunk. Then this clear water above the sediment is run on to great
beds, first of gravel, then of coarse sand, then of fine sand; and if
these beds are large enough, and frequently changed and cleaned, so that
they do not become clogged, and the process is carried out slowly, the
water, when it comes through the last bed, is pure enough to drink

One of these sources of a safe and wholesome water-supply--the deep
flowing well, or spring; the water shut up in the mountains in its lake
or reservoir; or the slow filter-bed--should be used by every
intelligent and progressive town of more than a thousand inhabitants.

Sewage and its Disposal. At the same time, while seeking a source of
water-supply far removed from any possibility of contagion, we must not
neglect the other end of the problem, the protecting of our rivers and
lakes from pollution so far as possible; for the water from these must
necessarily be used by thousands of people along their banks, either
directly, or in the form of shallow wells, sunk not far from the water's
edge. Moreover, so foul are many of our rivers and streams becoming in
thickly settled regions that fish can no longer live in them, and it is
hardly safe to bathe in them.[17] Fortunately, however, a great deal of
the worst contamination can be prevented by using modern methods of
disposing of sewage, such as filter-beds and sewage farms. All of these
methods use the bacteria of the soil, or crops growing in it, to eat up
the waste and thus purify the sewage.

Next: Home Methods Of Purifying Water

Previous: Causes And Dangers Of Polluted Water

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