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Where does Baltimore’s Water Come From?

Where does Baltimore’s Water Come From?

Baltimore City’s Department of Public Works provides drinking water to 1.8 million people daily throughout Baltimore City and parts of Baltimore County and portions of Anne Arundel, Carroll, Harford and Howard Counties.  They manage three reservoirs and three treatment centers.

Baltimore is an old city and so are its water distribution pipes -- many over 100 years old.  Some water mains in Baltimore were even made of wood.

 This is a hollowed out Giant Sequoia.  It has nothing to do with your plumbing.

This is a hollowed out Giant Sequoia.  It has nothing to do with your plumbing.

The distribution system delivers water through a network of water mains ranging in size from three inches to twelve feet in diameter. Most of these mains are constructed of cast iron, but some of the larger mains are steel or reinforced concrete. Currently, more than 4,500 miles of mains are in service in the distribution system. These mains connect a series of pumping stations, reservoirs, and elevated storage tanks, which supply water to Baltimore City and parts of Baltimore County, Howard, and Anne Arundel Counties. Within the network of mains, five major pressure zones are maintained to provide adequate water pressure and supply to the consumers.

 Cast iron water main

Cast iron water main

That’s Great, But Where Does Baltimore’s Water Come From?

Baltimore uses surface water from rainfall and snowmelt as the source of its water. Reservoirs outside the city limits collect and store water. Three impoundments comprising two water sources and one river provide raw water to the City' water filtration plants.

Liberty Reservoir is located on the North Branch of the Patapsco River on the boundary between Baltimore and Carroll Counties. It collects water from a 163.4 square mile drainage area that includes eastern Carroll County and southwestern Baltimore County.

 Liberty Dam

Liberty Dam

Liberty Dam was completed in 1954, has a spillway crest elevation of 420 feet above mean sea level (MSL), and impounds approximately 43 billion gallons of raw water with a surface area of approximately 3,900 acres. The Liberty watershed is divided into seven subwatersheds: Beaver Run (14.11 sq. mi.), Bonds Run (5.83 sq. mi.), Liberty Reservoir (46.57 sq. mi.), Little Morgan Run (7.14 sq. mi.), Middle Run (6.14 sq. mi.), Morgan Run (28.06 sq. mi.), and North Branch (55.51 sq. mi.).

Water from the reservoir flows by gravity through a 12.7-mile long, 10-foot diameter tunnel to the Ashburton Water Filtration Plant for treatment.

 Catching a stripebass.

Catching a stripebass.

Loch Raven Reservoir is north of Baltimore City and its watershed occupies Northern Baltimore County and small parts of Western Harford County and Southern York County, Pennsylvania. The source of reservoir water is Gunpowder Falls.

 Loch Raven Dam

Loch Raven Dam

Loch Raven Dam was initially constructed in 1915 with a spillway elevation of 192 feet above MSL and raised to its current spillway crest elevation of 240 feet above MSL in 1923.

The reservoir capacity is approximately 23 billion gallons and the impounded area is roughly 2,400 acres. The Loch Raven Reservoir watershed is divided into eight subwatersheds: Beaver Dam Run (20.73 sq. mi.), Dulaney Valley Branch (3.24 sq. mi.), Gunpowder Falls I (24.56 sq. mi.), Gunpowder Falls II (1.77 sq. mi.), Little Falls (53.63 sq. mi.), Loch Raven Reservoir (59.31 sq. mi.), Piney Run (12.39 sq. mi.), and Western Run (47.67 sq. mi.).

Raw water from Loch Raven Reservoir travels through a 7.3-mile long, 12-foot diameter tunnel for treatment at the Montebello Filtration Plants in Baltimore.

Prettyboy Reservoir is in the northwest corner of Baltimore County and its 80 square mile watershed lies in northern Baltimore County and small portions of northeastern Carroll County and southern York County, Pennsylvania. Prettyboy Dam was completed in 1932, has a spillway crest elevation of 520 feet of MSL, impounds about 19 billion gallons of water, and covers about 1,500 acres.

 Prettyboy Reservoir

Prettyboy Reservoir

The Prettyboy Watershed has been divided into four subwatersheds: Georges Run (15.85 sq. mi.), Graves Run (7.66 sq. mi.), Gunpowder Falls III (27.27 sq. mi.), and Prettyboy Reservoir (28.97 sq. mi.). Prettyboy Reservoir water is transferred to Loch Raven Reservoir via Gunpowder Falls rather than directly to Baltimore. The dam releases water as needed into the river channel, which flows into Loch Raven Reservoir.

Water from the Susquehanna River, approximately 11 miles north of Aberdeen near the Pennsylvania State line, is pumped via the Dear Creek Pumping Station to the Montebello Filtration Plants through the 38-mile long Susquehanna Conduit. This source is normally used during times of extreme drought when storage becomes depleted in the reservoirs. Earlier this year (2002) the persisting rainfall deficit gave sufficient cause to tap this water source. At this time, the City anticipates that with the exception of the first year of operation in 1966, this will be the most extensive use of the Suszuehanna supply experienced with in excess of 15 billion gallons expected to be withdrawn.

The Susquehanna Supply has a present capacity of about 150 million gallons per day with a planned future capacity of 200 million gallons per day.

Baltimore operates three treatment plants that safely produce up to 405 million gallons per day of drinking water. All three treatment plants treat the raw water using the same basic steps: pre-chlorination, coagulation, flocculation, sedimentation, filtration, fluoridation, post-chlorination, and corrosion control treatment. These steps are needed in order to produce water that will meet federal and state drinking water standards, that is free of pathogens, and will be suitable for public consumption.

Montebello Filtration Plant No. 1 is located at 3900 Hillen Road, was placed in service in service in 1915 and can treat up to 128 million gallons per day of water from Loch Raven Reservoir or the Susquehanna River. The plant has two rapid mix chambers, four flocculators, four sedimentation basins, and 32 rapid sand filters. Treated water from the plant supplies the First Zone by gravity and other zones via pumping.

Montebello Filtration Plant No. 2 is located on the West Side of Hillen Road opposite of Plant No. 1. This facility began operation in 1928 and can treat up to 112 million gallons per day of water from either Loch Raven Reservoir or the Susquehanna River. Plant 2 has two rapid mix chambers, three flocculators, three sedimentation basins, and 28 rapid sand filters. This plant serves the First Zone by gravity and provides potable water to other zones using pumping stations.

Ashburton Filtration Plant is located at 3001 Druid Park Drive. This plant was placed into service in 1956 and has a capacity of 165 MGD. The plant includes four flocculators, four sedimentation basins, and 20 rapid sand filters. Raw water supply for this plant is obtained from Liberty Reservoir. Drinking water flows by gravity from the Ashburton Plant to the Second Zone and is pumped to other zones in the Central System.

The average American uses 100 gallons of water per day.  70% of that  is indoor usage and 27% is from toilets alone!  A normal toilet uses six gallons of water per flush.  Other major culprits are leaky pipes, watering lawns, and filling swimming pools.

The EPA estimates that the 95% of the water used in an average household is wasted.

 The Italians say, No bono!"

The Italians say, No bono!"

In cubic meters (one cubic meter is 264 gallons of water) the Average American’s footprint is 2,842 per year.  The average world citizen’s footprint is 1,385.  In further comparison, the average person in China and India uses 1,071 and 1,089 cubic meters per year, respectively.

And that’s where Baltimore’s Water Comes From.

Recommended reading (click the links below):

Decaying water system needs makeover

http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2012-07-21/features/bs-gr-water-system-aging-20120720_1_water-system-underground-pipes-water-rates

Baltimore sewers: time bombs buried under the streets

http://www.marketplace.org/topics/sustainability/water-high-price-cheap/baltimore-sewers-time-bombs-buried-under-streets

City of Baltimore Wooden Water Pipe - 18th Century

https://youtu.be/1r_9M3d-RlI