Water, water everywhere?

City’s H20 supply once came piped through wooden mains

Frederick News-Post
Dec 27, 2005

Frederick’s drinking water has come a long way.

Water treatment in the 1800s and early 1900s consisted of removing twigs and animals by using screens. Water supplied by wells and springs was distributed through wooden pipes in the 1820s.

Frederick’s wooden water mains proved unreliable, and by 1845 the city spent $90,000 for a new system, according to Fred Eisenhart, the city’s public works director.

Just last year the city’s public works employees dug up a piece of the wooden water main that at one time serviced a lot on West Patrick Street, Mr. Eisenhart said.

Today, the city’s 14-employee water department maintains more than 215 miles of water main and 2,500 fire hydrants, and services 17,424 meters.

A history of water

Frederick residents and businesses used 4.2 million gallons of water per day 25 years ago, Mr. Eisenhart said.

“I am told that the big users were canning factories and manufacturing facilities,” Mr. Eisenhart said.

According to a city water master plan, 55 percent of the water was used by residences and 45 percent by commercial and industrial businesses in 1984.

The city’s earlier water systems used Max Kehne Park on West Seventh Street as a reservoir and water was provided by two artesian springs somewhere around Old Receiver Road. This water was pushed through a pipe that is still in use today and services a few customers off Rocky Springs Road.

The city then began to look for water in the mountain lands to the west, where three sources were developed between the 1850s and early 1900s: Tuscarora Creek, Ox Creek and Fishing Creek.

In 1924, a reservoir was constructed at Fishing Creek, at which time Ox Creek was abandoned as a source. The city expanded its sources in the 1930s by constructing the Linganore Creek Treatment Plant. In 1960, the Monocacy River Treatment Plant was built. Both of these plants have gone through several upgrades and expansions.

In the 1960s, the 880-million-gallon Lake Linganore was built and its owner agreed to provide 6 million gallons of water for the city. The Linganore plant was expanded in 1990 to treat 6 million gallons a day.

Two new sources of water, including the Potomac River, are now being developed.

Frederick has three wells and other potential wells are being investigated. The city also has an agreement with the county to provide treated water at the city’s expense from the Potomac River.

Current water use

Now, the city uses 6.3 million gallons per day — 68 percent for residential use, and 32 percent for commercial, industrial and other uses.

The city’s largest users are manufacturing companies, large apartment and condominium complexes and large institutional facilities.

Frederick native Keith Brown, water superintendent and 27-year public works employee, has seen a lot of change.

Mr. Brown said he recalls when it took six months to manually read water meters and bills were sent to customers twice a year. The same chore today takes a mere two weeks with a much larger city.

Mr. Brown said the water department’s 14 employees have a combined 190 years of experience working for public works.

25 years from now

Frederick will need 13.3 million gallons of water per day in 2030, according to the city’s 2004 Comprehensive Plan. The usage is projected to be 56 percent residential and 36 percent commercial and industrial, and eight percent for other uses.

Where Frederick’s water will come from 25 years in the future is a good question, Mr. Eisenhart said.

Water for the next 15 to 30 years will likely be supplied by the Potomac River, the public works director said.

Water conservation measures of all types should allow the city to reduce consumption in the future, and the use of gray and rain water are sources that could be used for special applications, Mr. Eisenhart said.

“Beyond this, I envision using the Monocacy and Potomac rivers more effectively by joining with other governments in our area to construct one or more large reservoirs that would be designed to collect river water during the times when the flows are heavy and then using this stored water along with our existing sources,” Mr. Eisenhart said.

With the right-sized reservoirs, Mr. Eisenhart said this system could take care of the city’s needs through the end of the century. He said these and other solutions are being evaluated by city staff and a consultant as part of an update to Frederick’s Water Master Plan.

This plan lays out how the city should expand its system to meet projected growth, Mr. Eisenhart said.

Mr. Eisenhart said it should be noted that the city lost about 24 percent of the water it produced through leaks during the 1980s and 1990s. He said the loss has been reduced to 9 percent over the last three years, which is below national averages for systems as old as Frederick’s.

The reduction has allowed the city to recapture about 900,000 gallons a day, Mr. Eisenhart said.