Green River water reaches Tacoma on July 12, 1913.

  • By Dave Wilma
  • Posted 1/19/2003
  • Essay 5076

On July 12, 1913, water from the Green River reaches customers in Tacoma at the rate of 42 million gallons a day. The headworks, pipeline, and receiving reservoir cost $2.25 million and took two years to construct.

The early years of the Tacoma Water Department focused on getting the most out of the dilapidated system purchased from the Tacoma Light and Water Co. in 1893. Creeks and flumes that supplied the city were exposed to contamination from humans and livestock and Tacomans complained of dirty, bad smelling, bad tasting water. Wells provided a good solution, but engineers and Mayor George P. Wright wanted to tap rivers and supply the city’s water by gravity.

The controversy became so contentious that Wright ordered the police chief to raid the offices of engineer Harnett Fuller and seize his plans. The question was put to voters in 1907. Just before the election, Wright tried to dramatize the situation by cutting off water to South Tacoma. Voters defeated the proposal to use the Green River.

In 1910, the Green River proposal went back to voters and they approved. The City secured a right-of-way for Pipeline No. 1 along the Northern Pacific Railroad (former Mayor Wright got the contract). The project took two years and involved 43 miles of wood and steel pipe across two rivers. Landowners fought the project in court.

On May 29, 1913, Public Utilities Commissioner Nicholas Lawson opened the valve into the “J” Street standpipe, but the pressure knocked the standpipe out of commission. Service was finally established in July and the city had a reliable and permanent water supply.

Sources: Dick Malloy and John S. Ott, The Tacoma Public Utilities Story (Tacoma: Tacoma Public Utilities, 1993), 24-26, 46-49.

Related Topics:   Government & Politics | Infrastructure | Rivers

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
Major Support for Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You