Laying down the lines
In 1880, Phoenix’s demand for drinking water was satisfied by enterprising business owners who sold the contents of wells on their property. At that time, the city had a population of 1,708, but, as the population swelled, a larger water supply was needed. As a result, 100 years ago, Phoenix purchased a local private water company. In the 1920s, the city delivered water from the Verde River to customers through a 28-mile-long, 38-inch-diameter redwood pipeline that ran mostly above ground. By 1930, construction commenced on a 42-inch concrete underground waterline, and, in 1949, the Verde Water Treatment Plant — Phoenix’s first — began delivering water to customers.
Municipal wastewater operations began in 1911 when Phoenix purchased a private sewer system that disposed of raw wastewater at a sewage farm. In fact, an industrialized facility to treat wastewater did not exist until 1932.
Phoenix — the nation’s fifth largest city — is celebrating the water department’s centennial year. It now has 7,000 miles of waterlines under its streets, two wastewater treatment plants, a water reclamation plant and five water treatment plants, with a sixth set to open in spring 2007. The city’s water services department serves 1.5 million tap water customers and 2 million wastewater customers throughout the Valley of the Sun.