Boston Water Quality: Yesterday
The history of municipal water in Boston dates to 1623, when Reverend William Blackstone is the first settler to drink water from “The Great Spring” on the Shawmut Peninsula, which ultimately developed into the city of Boston. The Great Spring served the people of Boston drinking water for 2 centuries! However, in the 1800s, the city population had ballooned and The Great Spring did not serve enough water to the rapidly growing metropolis. In the early 1800s, city planners began to pull water from the Jamaica Pond using wooden pipes. The wooden pipes offered minimal pressure and the wood eventually rotted, leaked, and split, leading to spotty drinking water availability. By the 1830s, the city’s population had grown even more and city planners needed to find more water. City planners began to look for an upland source with protected water that did not require filtration, which they would have to do repeatedly as the city’s population grew.
The 1840s found city planners impounding Long Pond to create the Lake Cochituate Reservoir. However, by the 1860s, Lake Cochituate had difficulties supplying enough water for the city during the summer months. By 1890, Boston’s water supply was deemed unsafe and inadequate. The Metropolitan Water Act of 1895, called for water from the Nashua River, which was dammed creating the Wachusett Dam. Together the Lake Cochituate Reservoir and Wachusett Dam provided enough water for Bostonians until the 1920s, when the Swift River was impounded to create the Quabbin Reservoir. At its completion in 1946, the 412 billion gallon reservoir was the largest man-made reservoir in the world that was devoted solely to water supply. Planners feel that the Quabbin Reservoir will be sufficient to the supply the Boston metropolitan area for the foreseeable future.