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The Water Supply System in Boston


Water services may be regarded as one of the key components of contemporary civilization. On the one hand piping is the necessary element of comfort and hygiene, on the other hand it is the integral part of an effective fire fighting system. The aim of this paper is to analyze and describe the water supply system in Boston from the perspective of treatment towards water supply, as well as technical characteristics and capacities of fire hydrants.

History of Water Services

First, water services were associated with water supply only, while the piping systems were available to aristocracy only. However, the concept of water services have been improved essentially since the XIX century, as currently, it also presupposes sewerage, firefighting and storm drain systems. As for Boston, the history of water supply is counted from the 1930s, when the Quabbin Reservoir was built. It is the main water supply source for Boston, however, the official history of water supply in Boston may be counted from 1977 when the Boston Water Sewer Commission was created. In spite of the fact that the main task of this commission is monitoring the ecological situation associated with water sewerage, water supply is also monitored by this organization, while water supply services are provided by Massachusetts Water Resource Authority.

Water Sources and Usage

The key source of water supply in Boston is Quabbin Reservoir which is located 65 miles from Boston. Additionally, it is regarded as a back up supply for three other cities, and it has the aggregate capacity of 412 billion US gallons. This water resource is maintained by the mentioned Water Sewer Commission, as the waste waters and storm drains should not get into the source of fresh water unfiltered. As for the consumption level, it is stated that daily volumes of water supply reach 6 megaliters. Hence, the annual consumption level is close to 2.190 megalitres. These volumes are explained by the increased firefighting measures during the hot seasons, and the unique system of pressurizing. In fact, the actual values of daily consumption are defined by the everyday necessities of the city. These are hygiene, recreation, medicine, firefighting, food preparation, etc.


In fact, the culture of water consumption among the population defines the social and environmental situation in a region. On the one hand, if people take care of the environment, they aim to decrease the consumption levels in order to preserve as much water reserves as possible. On the other hand, they have an opportunity to decrease the water consumption expenses. The treatment of the community for the water resources and consumption level is also defined by the fact that the community maintains social programs aimed at Conservation and Prevention. These are the programs of environmental protection background mainly. (Chow and Chan, 31)

System Pressurizing

System pressurizing is mainly used for increasing the effectiveness of water supply. It presupposes that the citizens of Boston will receive the equal amount of water and with equal pressure. In fact, two main pressurizing systems exist: “pumping” and “gravity towers”. Massachusetts municipality uses the combined system mainly, as it is the best compromise between economy and efficiency.

The pressurizing standards are close to the globally accepted standards, and while the city piping system should be able to keep eight bar pressure, every household is equipped with the pressure lowering system, for the internal piping system was not damaged by the excess pressure. (Coleman, 423)


Standards of piping presuppose using the high quality materials in order to prevent soil and water contamination, as well as harm to human health. Hence, the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority maintains high standards of piping, and uses only high quality metals, plastic and concrete for creating the reliable piping, as well as effective pressurizing system. The required pressure is maintained only due to the effective and reliable piping system, hence, the authority aims to decrease the amount of damages, which may cause either the enormous increase of pressure, or cause the impossibility of providing the sufficient pressure to consumers.

Type of Hydrants

The classification of hydrants that are used in Boston is performed in accordance with the pressure and water capacity used in each. The maximal pressure stated for hydrants is 350 kPa. In accordance with the research provided by Michaels (565), hydrant classification is as follows:

Class AA hydrants (>1500gpm) should have their nozzle caps and bonnet colored light blue, Class A hydrants (1000-1499gpm), green, Class B hydrants (500-999gpm), orange, and Class C hydrants (0-499gpm), red. This aids arriving firefighters in determining how much water is available and whether to call for additional resources, or locate another hydrant.

In general, the actual importance of this typing and classification is defined by the location of hydrants. Hence, if a hydrant is located near a storage of flammable materials, its capacity will be maximum. The dwelling region is featured with the average capacity, as firefighting is essentially simplified by the high concentration of hydrants in Boston.

In general, the hydrant firefighting system is integrated into the city water supply system, though, some hydrants (especially of extra high capacity) are involved into a separate firefighting structure. It is explained by the fact that the urban system is unable to provide the required pressure for extra high capacity. Hence, these are featured with the separate tanks and pumping system. It should be emphasized that this system is confirmed by the fire department authority, and coordinated with Massachusetts Water Resource Authority, as well as Boston Water Sewer Commission.

Piping Layout

The layout principles are closely linked with the highest efficiency of water supply. In fact, these principles are the outline of the basic engineering practices as well as traditional representations of the human needs. The actual necessity of observing the piping layout principles is closely linked with the principles of equal water supply to the households and flats independently on their location and height. As for the actual layout of piping system in the USA, the information is unavailable, as every city or group of cities have their own piping systems.

The general piping system may be found in Appendix A.


Technical data of hydrant testing is not available on the web page of the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority, however, the equipment that is required for testing is as follows

  • Two 0-200 p.s.i. pressure gauges with garden hose connections
  • Two 2S” to garden hose reducing caps
  • One 4S” to 2S” reducing cap
  • Two pitot gauges;
    • 0-30 p.s.i.
    • 0-100 p.s.i.
  • Adjustable hydrant spanner

Other Equipment Includes:

  • Diffuser basket
  • Hydrant sock
  • Rope to tie off end of hydrant sock (Seng, 615)

Works Cited

Chow, W.K., M.Y. Ng, and M.K. Chan. “Fire Safety Aspects for Chinese Restaurants in Hong Kong.” Architectural Science Review 45.1 (2002): 31

Coleman, Ronny J. Opportunities, Fire Protection Services Careers. Revised ed. Chicago: VGM Career Books, 2003.

Michaels, Sarah. “Configuring Who Does What in Watershed Management: The Massachusetts Watershed Initiative.” Policy Studies Journal 27.3 (2005): 565.

Seng, James. “Boston, Fire, Nation: Towards a Social History of Massachusetts.” Journal of American Studies 40.3 (2009): 613

Appendix A

Piping system in Boston
Piping system in Boston
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StudyKraken. "The Water Supply System in Boston." January 4, 2022.


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