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Methods Of Obtaining Pure Water

Categories: OUR DRINK
Sources: 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

tions 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.