Documentary History of American Water-Works

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Middle Atlantic States New York New York City Christopher Colles

Christopher Colles 1774 Water Supply Proposal for the City of New York

As the several Inhabitants of this City are particularly interested in the following Affair, it is therefore judged proper to lay the same before them.

Copy of a
Of Christopher Colles,
For furnishing the City of New-York with a constant Supply of Fresh Water.

To the Worshipful
Of the City of New-York, in Common Council convened.

THE numerous and important Advantages which great and populous Cities derive from a plentiful Supply of Fresh Water, requires a general Attention; and as this City is very deficient in this Article,
HUMBLY offers his Services to erect a Reservoir on the open Ground near the New Gaol, of One Hundred and Twenty-six Feet Square, and capable of holding One Million Two Hundred Thousand Gallons of Water; which will be of exceeding Utility in Case of Fire, which are Cities are liable to.  To erect a Fire-Engine in a good Brick or Stone House cover'd with Tiles, capable of raising into the said Reservoir Two hundred Thousand Gallons of Water in Twenty-four Hours.  To lay Four Feet deep through the Broad-way, Broad-Street, Nassau-Street, William-Street, Smith-Street, Queen-Street, and Hanover-Square, a main Pipe of good Pitch Pine of six Inches Bore, well hooped at one End with Iron; and through every other Street, Lane and Alley in the City South West of Murray's-Street, King George's-Street, Banker's-Street, and Rutger's-Street, the like Kind of Pipe of Three Inches Bore, with a perpendicular Pipe and a Cock at every Hundred Yards of Said Pipes, a proper Contrivance to prevent the same from Damage by Frost; and also on every Wharf a convenient Pipe and Cock to supply the Shipping.  The Whole to be completely finished in a workmanlike Manner within two Years from the Time of making the Agreement, for the Sum of Eighteen Thousand Pounds New-York Currency, by

The following Calculation shewing the Utility of the above Design, will, it is imagined, be found upon Inspection as fair and accurate as the Nature of such Things will admit.
It is supposed there are 3000 Houses that receive Water from the Tea Water Men; that at the least, upon an Average, each House pays one Penny Half-Penny per Day for this Water; this makes the Sum of 6750 per Annum, which is 45s. for each House per Ann.  According to the Design proposed, there will be paid 6000 per Ann. for four Years, which is 40s. each House: By which it appears, that even whilst the Works are paying for, there will be a saving made to the City of 750 per Ann. and after the said 4 Years, as the Tax will not be more than 10s. per Annum to be paid by each House, it is evident that there will be saved to the City the yearly Sum of 5250, for ever.

In this Calculation it is supposed that 40s. per Ann. is to be paid for 4 Years, but this is done only to provide against any unforeseen difficulties that may occur.  It is imagined that the Sum paid 3 Years will effect the Business.  The great Plenty of the Water, and its superior Quality, are Advantages which have not been before specified, but must appear of considerable Moment to every judicious Person.


Source:  Proposal of Christopher Colleges for furnishing the city of New York with a constant supply of fresh water. (1774)

2018 Morris A. Pierce