Westfield Water Systems
A water system starts with a source of water either reservoir or underground aquifer, and energy source to move the water (pumps or gravity) and a distributing network of pipes to get the water where you want it to go.
Municipal water systems were not designed solely for drinking water purposes. One of the main reasons for piping water into the City of Westfield was for fire protection. Prior to the creation of the Westfield Water Works, fires were extremely difficult to fight. Getting water to a fire was an enormous task and many buildings and lives were lost.
In 1873 the Massachusetts Legislature passed an act authorizing the City of Westfield to construct a reservoir system in the Town of Montgomery. Land was taken and two reservoirs were created. The larger reservoir was just south of the “Mountain House,” a small summer hotel. Water flowed from this reservoir to a smaller reservoir at the foot of Mt. Tekoa. Chauncey D. Allen of Westfield constructed both dams. Water mains were laid from the smaller reservoir to the city. Construction was completed in 1877 at a cost of $250,000.
The Tekoa Reservoir, located just outside the city limits in the Town of Montgomery, was built in 1874. It, along with the Montgomery Reservoir located upstream, were the first substantial water supplies constructed for the city. Its capacity is just over four million gallons and was designed as a final holding area for water from the Montgomery Reservoir. The dam is constructed of stone.
The Montgomery Reservoir was built in 1874. It has a capacity of 184,000,000 gallons. This reservoir was one of the main supplies of water for the City of Westfield until 1929 when the Granville Reservoir was built. The Montgomery Reservoir was used until 1974 when a filtration plant would have been required for further use. The reservoir is currently in an “Emergency Use Only” status but feasibility studies are underway to determine the cost vs. need of the supply.
Increased Water Demand
By 1897 the need for water increased to the point where two more reservoirs were required. The Winchell Reservoir in Granville and the Sackett Reservoir in Southwick were constructed and placed on line. A 14″ water main was laid through the Granville Gorge connecting these two reservoirs. These same pipes are still in use today bringing water into the City of Westfield.
The Winchell Reservoir is located in the Town of Granville and was built in 1899. Its capacity is more than three million gallons. This reservoir was designed to supply water to the Sackett Distribution Reservoir, located in Southwick at the site of the Water Filtration Plant. It no longer is used to supply water.
The Japhet Reservoir, constructed in 1897, is located in Granville and was built to supply water to the Sackett Distribution Reservoir. It is no longer in use.
The Sackett Distribution Reservoir
The Sackett Distribution Reservoir, located in Southwick at the site of the Water Filtration Plant, was built in 1899 and has a capacity of 1,700,000 gallons. It was originally used as a storage area for water to the city from the Winchell and Japhet reservoirs but is no longer used for that purpose. It now serves as a holding area for the Water Filtration Plant treatment process.
Demand for water continued to grow over the next 30 years. By 1929 the capacity of the Winchell Reservoir was inadequate for the city’s needs and was abandoned, and a much larger dam and reservoir was constructed. The size of this dam and reservoir made this construction an amazing engineering achievement of its time. Water now flowed from this reservoir to the Sackett Reservoir in Southwick and then into Westfield. This system ran solely on gravity.
Introduction of Wells
Westfield continued to grow and soon this reservoir could not satisfy the city’s water needs. Beginning in the late 1950s a series of groundwater wells were installed. These wells tapped the Barnes Aquifer, a large underground water source.
- 1957 - Well No. 1 was installed off Holyoke Road
- 1958 - Well No. 2 was installed off Union Street
- 1967 - Wells 3 and 4 were installed off of Shaker Road
- 1969 - Wells 5 and 6 were installed off Northwest Road
- 1977 - Wells 7 and 8 were installed off East Mountain Road
With the completion of Wells 7 and 8, Montgomery Reservoir was taken off line. The water from this reservoir has, in time, become brownish colored and at times cloudy. The sections of the city served by the Montgomery Reservoir could not be supplied with the crystal clear water of the Barnes Aquifer. Montgomery is now kept as an emergency back-up supply.
The Water Department ran smoothly for a while, but in 1989 a major crises occurred when EDB, a fungicide used on tobacco crops, was detected in Wells No. 3 and 4 off Shaker Road. The amount of EDB was under federal limits, but no one wanted to take any chances, so the wells were voluntarily taken off line. This left a large section of the city without adequate supply.
To replace water from these contaminated wells, the city received permission to complete an interconnection with the Springfield Water System. This allows the city to purchase up to 3.2 million gallons per day.
With the reauthorization of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) in 1986, Westfield and most other communities with reservoirs was required to construct a filtration plant to filter all water from the Granville Reservoir. This plant was completed in 1994 and replaced the old Sackett Reservoir. All water from Granville is now filtered before entering the city.
As Westfield grew in the late 1980s, water was in great demand, especially in summers. Supplies were not adequate to meet this demand and summer water bans were common. A water emergency was declared in 1988 when demand was so high that some city residents could not be supplied with water. To correct this problem, the State DEP mandated that the city install residential water meters. Businesses had been metered for some time. Meters were installed in all homes and metered billing began in 1994.
In 1995 the Water Department finally joined the computer age with the installation of a computerized monitoring system called SCADA. Computers at the Treatment Plant could not monitor tank levels, wells, water flow, and booster pump stations. This system greatly improved reliability and helped reduce overtime.
The goals of the Water Department have not changed in the last 130 years. They remain first and foremost public health and safety. That is providing high quality drinking water and delivering sufficient water to fight fires. In order to accomplish these goals it takes a combined effort of everyone who works for the Water Department.