Scituate Reservoir

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Scituate Reservoir


Various images of the Scituate Reservoir located in Scituate, Rhode Island.

The original water works, although owned and controlled by the City of Providence, operated in the capacity of a metropolitan system. In addition to Providence, it served Cranston, Warwick, Johnston and North Providence.

As early as 1910, only 39 years after the completion of this supply, it was apparent that with the growth of Providence and the extension of the distribution system in nearby communities, it would not be many years before the flow from Pettaconsett would be inadequate to meet the increased demands. In fact, for a number of years the consumption during extremely dry weather exceeded the natural flow of the river, and the shortage was made up from water stored in small reservoirs owned by companies operating mills further upstream.

The constant menace of a possible shortage of water resulted in the appointment by the City Council in January, 1913, of a committee to investigate the possibility of developing an increased water supply. Legislation was enacted under which the present supply was built.

The Pawtuxet River served the City of Providence from the time water first reached residents' home in 1871 to 1926 when the deteriorating quality of water, affected by disposal of residential and industrial pollutants into the area's ground water system, became a serious problem.

By 1926, health issues and increasing demand on the Pawtuxet River prompted a milestone Providence City Council decision to develop a new modern water supply system. This consisted of the construction of a large reservoir and treatment plant on the north branch of the Pawtuxet River in the town of Scituate. This system, which today still provides water to most of the State of Rhode Island, consists of the main Scituate Reservoir supply and its five tributary reservoirs.

The main Scituate reservoir was formed by the construction of a dam across the Pawtuxet River at the former village of Kent. The dam, principally of earth, is about 3,200 feet long and 100 feet high. Water storage in the reservoir began on November 10, 1925. An aqueduct from the dam feeds the nearby treatment plant which was placed in operation on September 30, 1926.

The original treatment plant was state-of-the-art at the time of its construction. The plant was considered to be among the most technologically advanced of its day, and for many years the filtration system was the only plant of its type in New England. As demand continued to grow, the treatment plant underwent major expansions and renovations in the 1940's and again in the '60s. Today, the plant has a maximum treatment capacity of 144 million gallons of water per day and still remains the largest treatment facility in New England.
Source: Providence Water-History Of Providence Water And The Scituate Reservoir

See also:
Rhode Island Historical Preservation Commission: Historical and Architectural Resources Preliminary Reports, 1978-1991


Rhode Island State Archives


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"Scituate Reservoir," in Virtual Exhibits, Item #218, (accessed September 20, 2019).