Tuesday, 15 September 2015
Journey of Water Distribution Systems – From Water Source to Faucets
Overview of Water Distribution System
Water is a very important component of the human society. Since the beginning of civilization – cities, towns and communities have been built around reliable water sources. With each passing decade the technologies for bringing water from source to the faucets and eventually to the end user has been improving.
Infrastructure of a Water Distribution System
For a good water distribution system to be effective to provide a reliable and safe water to the end users must have the following:
Within this system the water travels from the source to the distribution point for consumption. But it also undergoes some contamination as it travels through the various underground and above ground channels. So therefore, water must be treated before being distributed for any of the following purposes:
1. For residents
2. For commercial purpose
3. For industrial needs
5. Public needs such as Firefighting
6. Potable water for public use
History of Water Distribution System
Shallow Wells: The earliest form of water distribution system was created near the rivers, lakes or springs by digging up Shallow Wells. Later, as the requirement for the water increased these wells became deeper. Shallow wells were mainly found in 2500 BC alongside the growing civilization.
Qanats: A new form of water distribution systems were the Qanats. This system was created by using slightly sloping tunnels driven into hillsides that had groundwater. The origin of this system dates back to ancient Persia about 700 BC. These were very much a live system in Tehran, Iran up until 1933.
Aqueducts: The Romans had been building this water system between 312 BC and 455 AD. They discovered an ingenious way of porting water from lakes or rivers to the central Rome. Some of these aqueducts are still in use. The longest aqueduct constructed is the Aqua Marcia in 144 BC.
Wooden Log Made into Supply Pipes: The first Water Distribution System in America was the bored-out logs made out of hemlock or elm trees. These logs were sometimes joined using bituminous-like pitch or tar to caulk the joist. Boston was the first city to have a waterworks system for their domestic and fire-fighting needs.
Cast-Iron Pipes: During the early 19th century the use of cast-iron pipes was introduced to withstand high pressure. With this new innovative system, it was possible to distribute water to individual homes of the communities.
20th Century Pipelines: In the construction of underground pipelines and tunnels, materials such as cast-iron, reinforced concrete, and steel were used to improve the safe drinking water distribution system thus improving the water quality.
Treatment of Water
As the water travels through the various transmission channels it becomes contaminated. The process of boiling and filtering water to make it disease free was available as a recorded edict in the Sanskrit text in 2000 BC. Later, a German Bacteriologist Robert Koch in Mid-19th Century discovered the cause for diseases to be the infected drinking water. The Germ theory of disease was established at that time. Based on this theory, it became vital to treat drinking water. By the end of 19th Century and very early 20th Century the water was treated to eliminate deadly waterborne diseases and make it a safe drinking water for the communities.
Sustainable Supply of Safe Drinking Water
Water distribution system plays a major role to avoid water scarcity and sometime to create water supply possible even in desert regions. It is not enough to set up the system; but it is equally important that these system needs to be monitored on a regular basis to provide safe drinking water. Singapore – Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) Centre is coming up with better water supply monitoring systems. Various ways of automated monitoring would ensure that the quality of the water is maintained and enhanced at the distribution point. An undergraduate taking the NCEES Civil Fundamentals of Engineering Exam (FE Exam) can brush up their knowledge of the Water Distribution System and water treatment with the aid of a Review course.