Among the first constructions of the founders of Holyoke, was a system of water-works, for the supply of the new city, but the constant and marvelously rapid growth of the place made it evident that the supply from these would surely prove inadequate. Accordingly surveys were made in the autumn of 1871, which showed that a pure and ample water supply could be readily obtained by gravitation from two contiguous mountain lakes, called Ashley's and Wright's Ponds, located within the city limits, and only about three and one-half miles from the city hall. The necessary legislation was obtained in the following winter, and the construction of the new works commenced immediately and completed in August, 1873.

The flowage area of the two lakes, at the natural level is 186.8 acres, and the stone dam, gate-house and embankments were constructed so as to admit of raising the water level five feet, increasing the flowage area to 2118 acres, and nearly doubling the storage capacity. Thus raised, the engineers estimate that the reservoirs will supply two million gallons per day for 143 days, without any inflow whatever, except to make up for evaporation. The available water-shed comprises 1,726 acres, yielding theoretically, an average delivery to the reservoirs of 2,568,121 gallons per day. The observation of the past three years has shown that in addition to the delivery from the water-shed, there is a constant subterranean supply of great volume and purity, the distant source of which is yet unknown. It is believed, therefore, that the water supply is ample for many years to come, however rapid may be the growth of the city. The whole distance from the reservoir to the city hall is only 3.59 miles. The carrying capacity of the main is 2,266,000 gallons in 24 hours, if the head is maintained in the high grounds, and more if the high service is otherwise provided for.

It was determined at the outset to construct every portion of the works of the best material, and in the most thorough manner, and this purpose was fully carried out. The supply main is generally a very large portion of the cost of water works, but the close proximity of Ashley Pond to the city, lessened this item of cost so materially, that is was found possible to construct the entire system of works within the limit of expenditure permitted by the Water Act -- $25,000 -- All permanent street mains like the supple main, are of cast iron, of standard weights. The total length of mains now laid is 19 miles, and 940 feet, supplying 2,624 families, 118 stores, 170 private stables, 8 livery stables, 46 mills and shops, 124 public fire hydrants, etc., etc., The manufactories have generally connected their fire apparatus with the works by private mains, and the number of their private hydrants and stand-pipe nozzles, equivalent to hydrants, is now 274, in addition to the city hydrants The head of water at Hampden park, near the city hall is 151.8 feet, and at Main street is 210 feet, affording hydrant streams of great power in all the principal portions of the city. The whole department is under the charge of a Water Board of three members, who serve without compensation.

With a tariff of water rates as low as the average of rates in New England towns and cities, the income from water rents during the first year after the introduction of water was about ten per cent. of the total cost of the works, which percentage of income has been since slightly increased, thus enabling the Water Board, out of the .annual income to pay the semi-annual interest on the water bonds, and the cost of repairs and maintenance, and to lay the extensions which are constantly called for in a growing city, without calling upon the city treasury for a dollar, and leaving no doubt that the sinking fund provided by law for the redemption of the water bonds at maturity, can be commenced during the current year, and the required one per cent. of the cost of the works set apart out of the water rents. The works have been self-supporting from the outset, and promise not only to continue thus, but also to repay the entire cost of construction out of the current income, a result which is believed to have few parallels in the history of water works in the United States.

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