Rock Island Waterworks System

August 14, 1871, the city council passed an ordinance authorizing the location of a pumping station near the Rock Island Plow factory, at the west end of the city and the installing of water mains along the business streets, bonds to the amount of $75,000 being issued to meet the cost. In a few years there began to be complaints that the water was bad, especially after a system of sewers had been built in 1878. The city was divided into two sewer districts, with Seventeenth Street as the dividing line, and the waste of the lower district in particular appears to have affected the water supply. In 1881 the present pumping station at the foot of Twenty-fourth Street was built, P. L. Cable contributing $25,000 toward its, construction. A twenty-inch inlet pipe, 2,200 feet in length was laid to the channel at the north end of the Government bridge, and two Holly pumps were installed, having a capacity of 3,000,000 gallons a day. At the end of ten years the consumption of water in the city became so great that these facilities were inadequate. A Gaskell pump with a capacity of 5,000,000 gallons daily was installed and a thirty-inch inlet pipe was laid beside the old twenty-inch one to the channel of the river. At this time there was no way in which the water supply could be filtered and at times it was rendered unfit for most uses by the sediment caused by floods. A mechanical filter was donated by Honorable Ben T. Cable as a memorial to that gentleman’s father, P. L. Cable, and considerable improvement in the water supply was noted. The bluffs above the city affording such exceptional advantages for the location of gravity filters and reservoirs, a strong sentiment in favor of such an improvement developed and in 1897 the tract cif land now known as Reservoir Park was purchased from a syndicate of Rock Island capitalists for the sum of $27,600, and the following year the excavation for six basins was begun. The system was adopted in response to the pains-taking efforts of the then mayor, T. J. Medill. In 1899 the work was done, but imperfections in the workmanship brought about through blunders on the part of the engineer in charge, developed, and it became necessary to do a great part of the lining of the basins over again. The system is now in perfect working order. Its operating capacity is 3,000,000 gallons daily, which is barely sufficient to supply the city’s needs in ordinary times. There are two settling basins, three sand filters and a large clear water basin, the latter having a capacity of 5,500,000 gallons. The water is pumped direct from the river to the settling basins and after filtration it returns to the mains through the action of gravity which gives sufficient pressure for ordinary purposes. For fire protection and to furnish the bluff district with water, a stand pipe has been erected on Thirtieth Street and last year an electric pumping station with a capacity of 1,500,000 gallons daily was placed near the reservoir. The total cost of the system to date (August, 1908) has been $260,000. There are now 4,400 private consumers, and two hundred and fifty fire hydrants, against one hundred and sixty fire hydrants six years ago. The average daily water consumption is 3,000,000 gallons, and daily operating capacity 16,000,000 gallons. There are about forty-five miles of water mains. A new pump was installed at the pumping house in February, 1907, at a cost of $25,000, which with the addition to the building made a total expenditure of $40,000.


City of Rock Island 


Source: Historic Rock Island County, pub. Kramer & Company, Rock Island, Illinois, 1908