Reliable Water Service in Peoria for Over a Century

by Roger Goodson, Illinois American Water
Above: construction of main station #1, ca. 1890. The Romanesque-style building is still in use today.

Illinois American Water has a longstanding track record of providing water that exceeds EPA safety guidelines.

Throughout history, water has played a pivotal role. Early Peoria settlements used streams and the Illinois River as their water source. In the early to mid-1800s, mineral springs and wells provided many Peorians with drinking water. Later, untreated river water was sent through pipes to assist with plumbing and fire protection.

Over the years, several attempts were made in Peoria to establish a more robust water works. In 1869, a Holly Manufacturing system was constructed which used direct pressure and rotary water-powered pumps to deliver water from Peoria Lake through more than 25 miles of cast-iron water main. The cost totaled over $431,000.

Later, a steam pump was added to supply the bluffs region of the city, and eventually they replaced the Holly pumps. In 1880, two Worthington steam engines were installed, but by 1888, the city water system had fallen into bad shape. As The Transcript reported, “the feeble streams from the hydrants would scarcely quench a burning trash heap.” It was then that the City of Peoria solicited bids for the waterworks to be privately-owned, with the stipulation the new owner pay off the existing $400,000 in water bonds.

Moffett, Hodgkins & Clarke, Illinois American Water’s predecessor, was the successful bidder, taking over the system in October 1889. A franchise agreement between the private water service provider and City of Peoria was also created at that time, with provisions including free water for the City’s horses and the right for the City, at five-year intervals, to purchase the water system.

At the time, no regulatory oversight existed for water utilities. In 1913, the Illinois Commerce Commission, which regulates Illinois American Water and other investor-owned utilities, began operation. In 1974, Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act, requiring the Environmental Protection Agency to determine standards to ensure safe drinking water. Illinois American Water has a longstanding track record of providing water that not only meets those guidelines, but is better than required. 

Critical Investments
While some communities have kicked the investment can down the road, Illinois American Water invested approximately $174 million between 2005 and 2017 to ensure the Peoria-area water system is safe and reliable. Ultraviolet (UV) disinfection was installed in 2012 to enhance water quality, consistent with new, more stringent EPA standards.

Fire hydrants, meters, valves and more than 97 miles of water main were replaced and installed across the water system. Significant electrical upgrades were completed at the water treatment plant to ensure reliability. Solar panels were installed at the distribution center to decrease energy use—a savings that is passed on to customers. A new, 400,000-gallon water tank was constructed for increased capacity.

We thank our customers for their support and continued faith in our team. We enjoy serving you—our friends and neighbors. iBi

Roger Goodson is senior manager, operations and production, for Illinois American Water.

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