History Statement

History of Development

As a community grows from a settlement to the city, the development and expansion of its water supply must keep apace of the growth will be curtailed. Early settlers obtained their water supplies individually from wells or other sources, but as the settlement increases in population and industries are developed, the need for a public water supply becomes an obvious necessity.

Paterson and the surrounding area developed rapidly after the establishment of the S. U. M. (The Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures) in 1791, and in 1849 the Passaic Consolidated Water was incorporated and secured franchises for the distribution of water to the Town of Paterson, and envious, then known as the Township of Manchester. The principal intake of the Company was completed in 1857 and was located on the Passaic River below the Great Falls in Paterson and the water supply was pumped directly from the River into the mains supplying the City. Subsequently the intake was moved to a point on the River immediately above the Falls and in 1899 was again moved and this time located at the present intake on the Passaic River at Little Falls, approximately five miles upstream from Paterson. Up to this date the water supply was taken directly from the River and distributed to consumers without treatment. As the communities grew and the demand for a better quality of water increased and in 1902 a Filtration Plant at Little Falls was completed and put into operation. This installation comprised the first large water filtration plant in the United States and is the same plant now being operated by the Passaic Valley Water Commission for the filtration and purification of its Passaic Supply.

In 1916 the need for additional water supply for the northern metropolitan area of New Jersey was foreseen and the North Jersey District Water Supply Commission was created by an Act of Legislature for the purpose of entering into contract with a municipality, or group of municipalities, desiring to construct additional water supplies. The City of Newark was the first to contract with the newly formed Commission and interested other municipalities, including Paterson, Passaic and Clifton, in the construction of a joint project. The funds were raised by the individual cities through bond issues, and the North Jersey District Water Supply Commission constructed the Wanaque Reservoir and appurtenances by the erection of the Raymond Dam across the Wanaque River at Wanaque, New Jersey. In proportion to their capital investments in the project, the cities were apportioned allotments of the safe yield totaling 100 million gallons per day. This project was completed in 1930 when the first water was turned into the aqueduct.

As aforementioned, the Cities of Paterson, Passaic and Clifton had voted by referendum to participate in the Wanaque water supply project and had raised the necessary funds for this purpose. The water utility then furnishing the cities’ supply from the Passaic River through the Little Falls Purification Plant was the Passaic Consolidated Water Company, a private company, the acquisition of which was undertaken by the cities.

To accomplish this purpose the Passaic Valley Water Commission was created by an Act of Legislature in 1927, its function being to acquire the privately owned water works system for the three cities and to continue in office to operate the water supply and distribution system for the cities. Condemnation proceedings were started and the purchase of the system was finally executed in 1930 at the purchase price of approximately $13,500,000.00. The Wanaque Supply was brought into the system by the construction of a pipe line from the Wanaque aqueduct into the Little Falls Plant. This construction and other major improvements to the system were completed in 1932.

Description of Water Works System

Source of Supply: As described above, the Passaic Valley Water Commission, representing the Cities of Paterson, Passaic and Clifton, owns and operates two separate sources of water supply, namely;

(1) The Wanaque Supply of 37-3/4 million gallons per day diverted from the aqueduct at the Little Falls Plant.

The Wanaque Supply and aqueduct are operated by the North Jersey District Water Supply Commission, agent for the eight municipalities owning the project. The annual operating budget is met by the cities in proportion to their allotments in the project.

(2) The Passaic Supply is taken from the Passaic River at Little Falls above the dam known as “Beattie’s Dam”, filtered, purified and pumped at the Little Falls Plant.

The water rights acquired on the Passaic River for potable water supply purposes amount to 75 million gallons a day. The present capacity of the Plant is limited to approximately 55 million gallons per day (filter capacity) and the minimum dry weather flow of the River is estimated at 50 million gallons per day. The drainage area of the un-appropriated watershed above Little Falls is 485 square miles.

Little Falls Plant: This plant is operated and maintained under the sole jurisdiction of the Passaic Valley Water Commission and consists of the main Pumping Station and the Filtration Plant described under “Treatment of Water”.

This Pumping Station has an installed pumping capacity of 145 million gallons per day and was completely electrified and modernized in 1932. Also installed in the Station are four hydro-electric generating units totalizing 2400 kilowatt capacity which generate approximately 75% of the power required to operate the Plant.

Transmission and Distribution Systems: The transmission systems consists of water main ranging in size from 30 inches to 51 inches in diameter and transmits water from the Little Falls Plant to Paterson, Passaic and Clifton, extending as far south as Harrison.

The distribution system contains approximately 350 miles of mains ranging in size from 4 inches to 48 inches in diameter, 3,000 fire hydrants, 38,000 consumer’ services and meters, 3 distribution reservoirs, totaling 230 million gallons capacity, one booster pump and elevated tank of 100,000 gallons capacity, complete meter repair and testing department, two maintenance yards and warehouses, one main commercial office and two district offices, and all appurtenances complete.

In addition to supplying water retail in the Cities of Paterson, Passaic, and Clifton and the Borough of Prospect Park, the Commission furnishes water at wholesale rates to ten other municipalities and water companies. The total population served is approximately 350,000 persons. The present water consumption averages 55 million gallons per day from an available supply of approximately 90 million gallons per day.

The whole system constitutes one of the major water systems in the United States.

The Wanaque Water:  This supply is impounded in the Wanaque Reservoir with the capacity, when full, of approximately 29,000,000,000 gallons. The treatment of this water at the head-works is under the control of North Jersey District Water Supply Commission. At this location the water is treated with chlorine, lime, and during certain periods of the year, with ammonia. The delivered water then flows by gravity through twin 74-inch diameter conduits to Little Falls and continues as far south as Joralemon Street, Belleville.

At Little Falls the Passaic Valley Water Commission diverts its allotment into the Little Falls Plant.   The water pressure is increased by pumping and s passed through thirty-two pressure filters units described briefly as follows:

Each unit consists of a clylindrical steel tank 8 feet in diameter, 28 feet long, containing a filter bed, consisting of graded gravel and anthrafilt as filter medium. Anthrafilt is a carefully washed and graded anthracite coal of approximately the same size grains as filter sand and provides a very satisfactory substitute for sand.

water chart

The Passaic Water: This supply is taken from the Passaic River through intake gates above the dam at Little Falls known as “Beattie’s Dam” and is diverted into the Little Falls Plant through an open intake canal. The treatment is briefly outlined as follows:

The water is first screened to remove leaves and floating material, is then piped to an open coagulation basin at the entrance to which a solution of sulphate of alumina (alum) is applied which causes the formation of floc or small particles in the water depositing the greater part of suspended material in the basin. Also at its entrance to the basin pre-chlorination is employed, the water being treated with chlorine at this point according to the demand, killing any bacteria which may be present. Activated carbon is also applied to the water in the basin during certain periods of the year for the reduction of taste and odors.

After slowly passing through the basin, the clarified water is piped to the Gravity Filter Plant, is treated with ammonia and is filtered through gravity type rapid sand filters and collected in a large clear water basin constructed beneath the filters.

Before flowing to the Pumping Station, the water is treated with a solution of lime in order to correct its acidity, of pH and receives a final application of chlorine (known as post-chlorination) to destroy any bacteria which may be present.

From the clear water basin the water flows by gravity to the Pumping Station were the pressure is increased and is delivered without further treatment to the transmission and distribution system. The following is a partial analysis of the Passaic water based on a yearly average (results in parts per million):

water chart
Contact Us

Office Hours:
7:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Main Office:
Passaic Valley Water Commission
1525 Main Avenue
Clifton, NJ 07011

Telephone: 973-340-4300
Fax: 973-340-5598

By calling Customer Service 973-340-4300 at any time, day or night, Passaic Valley Water Commission will respond to water emergency situations for you.

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