Arlington, VA

Did you know that Arlington’s drinking water actually comes from the District of Columbia? And that when the county’s first drinking water system was completed residents held a big parade with elaborate floats in Clarendon?

Those are two of the interesting historical facts recently brought to light in an article on drinking water in the county’s Ballston Pond Blog. That article, written by county employee Jen McDonnell, is reprinted here with permission.

Arlington has three, separate pipe systems running underground that handle our three types of water – drinking (potable), wastewater, and stormwater. But there was a time in Arlington (not that long ago) when these pipe systems were not in place. In 1900, wells were the drinking water source for Arlingtonians, and outhouses and septic tanks “managed” the wastewater.

In 1926, the Arlington Board of Supervisors funded a study to devise a plan to bring a drinking water system to Arlington. The study findings recommended that Arlington connect to the Army Corp of Engineers-operated drinking water filtration plant that pulled water from the Potomac River for the District of Columbia’s residents. In 1926, Congress passed two acts that made this proposed plan possible. The first act authorized the sale of water from the federal supply to Arlington and the second act approved the connection of Arlington County to the federal supply. Virginia’s General Assembly then approved bonds to fund this major project. A water main was constructed from the Dalecarlia Plant in Washington D.C., across Chain Bridge, and then along Glebe Road. Infrastructure including pumps and pumping stations were installed and initially 340 homes were connected. Construction cost $636,110.

When the new drinking water system became operational, a big parade with elaborate floats was held in Clarendon. Arlingtonians wore buttons saying, “YES We Have Water.” The new, easy access to water encouraged change and growth in Arlington. In the post-WWI era, housing became denser around the available water connections. Easy water access encouraged the use of larger quantities of water, and increased the quantities of wastewater produced. While the drinking water system has been significantly expanded since then, Arlington still gets its drinking water from the Potomac River and the Dalecarlia Plant today.

An equally interesting history of the county’s wastewater system has also been posted on the Ballston Pond Blog.

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