The first city owned well designated for public use was drilled in 1875 in the center of Market Square, near Old City Hall. The water was too salty for drinking, but the artesian well became famous for its curative powers and people traveled from miles around to fill buckets and jars.
A $10,000 bond issue was passed in 1881 to finance a municipal water system. In 1883, the first well was sunk near 6th and 'F' Streets and the Lincoln Water System had its first customers. The system's pumping capacity was soon inadequate, so a pumping station was constructed at 24th and 'N' Streets. The station was later blamed for typhoid fever outbreak and was closed in 1912.
Between 1883 and 1930, wells were dug in many parts of the city. Many of these wells were abandoned when the water turned salty. There was an exception. Although not used, wells in the Antelope Creek Valley, near the present 'A' Street pumping station, are still capable of producing quality drinking water.
In the late 1920's, water use was severely curtailed through water conservation practices when the city faced a major water crisis. The persistent problem of salt water wells combined with Lincoln's growing need for more water meant the city had to find another water source.
Voters approved a $2 million bond issue to finance the construction of five wells, a pump station, and a 36-inch transmission main to Lincoln.
Muddy-looking drinking water upset customers in 1933. Chemists determined the water contained a high amount of manganese and iron which caused the muddy appearance. A Water Treatment Plant was constructed in 1935 to solve the problem. The plant treated 12 million gallons of water a day.
All went well until June of 1952 when customers were again encouraged to ration water. To solve the water shortage, engineers recommended developing a 60-million gallon a day system, or a system large enough to meet anticipated demands up to 1980. These projections were low. Lincoln used 85 to 90 million gallons of water on peak days in the summer of 1983.
A 1953 rate increase was required to pay for additional wells, a treatment plant expansion, and the construction of a new 48-inch water transmission main to Lincoln. Several pump stations in Lincoln were also constructed.
When water customers used a one-day record of 97 million gallons of water in July of 1974, Lincolnites were once again asked to ration water. Since then, improvements to the system, combined with the voluntary conservation of water, kept summer peak demands within the short-term capacity of the water system. As in past years, customers are encouraged to use water wisely in the summer.
In 1984, Lincoln used over 12 billion gallons of water. When the water reaches Lincoln, two major pump stations distribute water to reservoirs and pumping stations.
In 1983, Lincoln increased its reservoir capacity. Reservoirs play an important role in hot, dry spells when water usage exceeds the system's production capabilities. During peak water use periods, the reservoir supplies are drawn down, then replenished when usage is lower during the early morning hours.
In the past, during the summer months, wells in Lincoln supplemented the water supply. Most of these wells are located in Lincoln. Water from the wells in Lincoln is available for supplementing the primary supply.
Water is distributed to Lincoln homes and businesses through 1000+ miles of water mains. There are approximately 70,000 water services in the Lincoln Water System. Approximately 10 percent of these are commercial and industrial, with the remaining 90 percent residential. In addition, the water system maintains a fire protection system involving over nine thousand fire hydrants, as well as providing water for the local parks, swimming pools, and other recreational facilities.
While nature's capacity to manufacture seems limitless, the Lincoln Water System's ability to pump, treat, and deliver water to your home is not. Lincoln maintains a system that delivers water to meet peak summer demands.
To meet demands, major improvements to the production facilities began in the early 1990's. The city had already purchased additional land for a new wellfield. Test wells were drilled and Lincoln now has added new wells to meet water demands.
A new water treatment plant was constructed in 1994. The plant supplemented the current treatment plant. Plans also called for the construction of a new transmission main pump station that was built at the same time. In order to get the water to Lincoln, a new transmission main was built. The construction of this main required the acquisition of right-of-ways.
The cost of this project, upon completion, was around $90 million. The water system is not supported by general fund tax dollars. Water rates paid for the expansion and will pay for any planned future expansion. Water rates also pay for the operation and maintenance costs incurred in running the system.
As a result, the wise use of water this summer, as well as summers to come, is extremely important, not only for water conservation, but also to help maintain your current billing costs. With your help, daily water use peaks in the summer months will stay within the systems current capacity.