History of Moberly Water Works
The population of Moberly in 1870 was 1,514, but by 1880 the population had increased to 6,070. It was about that time when they began to realize the need for a water system. The town needed a water works system, not only for domestic use, but also for fire protection for the rapidly growing town.
It took four to five years to bring this water works matter to a realization, and on February 26, 1885, the City Council enacted an ordinance to permit construction of a private water works system with the right to operate the water works and water lines for a franchise period of twenty years.
The franchise was granted to R. S. Minor of Louisville, Kentucky, and C. S. Masten of Moberly. The franchise provided that the company (later called the Moberly Water Works Co.) would construct a reservoir near Moberly with a storage capacity of no less than 100,000,000 gals. The company was to construct the necessary buildings and install the necessary machinery and pumps to provide no less than 75 lbs. pressure per square inch in the mains for domestic use, and not less than 120 lbs. per square inch for fire protection, and not less than 500,000 gals. per day. No less than 6 miles of water mains were required with a 14" main leading to the downtown business district.
The franchise agreement provided that the City rent 65 fire hydrants at various selected places at an annual rental of $5,500.
In case of any failure of the company to operate the water system, the City had the right to take possession temporarily and operate it.
The City retained the right to purchase the water works system after ten years of operation or each 5 years thereafter, with the price to be determined by a 3-man appraisal committee.
The Moberly Water Works Company completed construction of the original water works in October 1885. Sometime between 1885 and 1900, the name of the company was changed to Randolph Water Co.
Sometime between 1886 and 1895, two deep wells were constructed east of the old reservoir to augment the reservoir supply. No information could be found regarding the depth and capacity of those wells. It is assumed that these wells were never used, probably because of the high mineral content of the water, as indicated by other deep wells that were constructed in the same area at a later date.
The population of Moberly continued to increase and by 1905 had increased to over 9,300. The following year the City Council decided the City should own the water works system. On September 17, 1906, the City Council passed an ordinance for the issuing of $100,000 in bonds of the City of Moberly for the purpose of purchasing or construction a plant and system of water works, to be used exclusively by the City o Moberly and its inhabitants.
On August 3, 1909, the City Council retained L. G. Knapp & Co., consulting engineers, to draw plans for a water works system. On October 16, 1909, the voting for $150,000 in bonds for the water works construction carried 622-Yes to 79-No.
In March 1910, a Board of Public Works was organized to be composed of four members to be appointed by the mayor with consent of the Council.
In 1911, the present old water works building was constructed. This is the building now being used by the Street Department.
The Missouri Geological Survey in Rolla has records of depths and pumping on two wells owned by the City of Moberly – No. 3 and No. 4 – drilled east of the Old Reservoir in 1913 and 1918 respectively. No. 3 well is reported to be 800 ft. deep and initially had a capacity of 60 gals. per minute. It is indicated that this well was cased with 10" casing to a depth of 90 feet. This well’s pumping capacity was reevaluated at some later date and their records are not specific but 115 gpm or a possible 165,000 gpd was pumped at one time. This was during the middle 1930’s when water from this well was pumped into the Old Reservoir during a severe drought. Well No. 4 was drilled to a depth of 1,305 ft. and apparently was of insufficient quality at that depth. It was plugged at a depth of 1,007 ft. in an apparent attempt to block off water of a high mineral content. This attempt was apparently not adequate as no further mention of this well is listed in the records. This well was initially rated at 80 gpm. Hardness is indicated to be 399 ppm. The alkaline content is listed at 775 ppm. A total mineral hardness of 150 ppm is considered to be hard water.
In 1921, the water needs of the City had increased to such an extent that a new plant and elevated tank were constructed at the location now used, and the main source of water supply was constructed at Sugar Creek Lake using the old reservoir as an emergency supply. Sugar Creek Lake had a surface area of about 280 acres and a drainage area of 11.4 square miles.
As Moberly’s water use increased, the lake level at Sugar Creek Reservoir was raised by building up the dam and the spillway. About 1928, the spillway was raised 3 feet; in 1932, another 18 inches was added. In 1940, a 5 foot increase was constructed.
In 1929, the old wood pipeline from Sugar Creek pump station to filter plant was replaced with 14" and 16" cast iron pipe – about 1,000 feet being 14" and the rest 16".
In 1940, the Board of Public Works was abolished and the water system returned to the control of the Council. In 1947, a 300,000 gal. capacity elevated tank was constructed on property east of the 100 block of North Morley. A new 10" distribution line was constructed from the tank north on Porter Street to Patton, a distance of 3,900 feet. This project was financed from water revenue.
On September 18, 1956, the citizens of Moberly voted in favor of a General Obligation Bond issue in the amount of $1,499,000 for improvement of water system, storm and sanitary sewers.
The following improvements were made to the water system: At Sugar Creek Lake; constructed new spillway 10 ft. higher than old spillway, increasing water supply 100%, or 2,100,000,000 gal. or approximately 3 yr. 10 mo. water supply; raised earth fill part of dam 13 ft.; constructed new pump house, new intake well and piping; new power line, electrical control panels, 1 new 1,800 gal. per min. dual driven diesel electric pump, purchased real estate below dam and high water elevation above dam and constructed new power line from filter plant to pump house at Sugar Creek Lake – cost $549,000.
Improvements to filter plant: New header constructed so many pumps may be used in series, new structures filtering equipment, chemical building and chemical detention chamber, mixing chambers, piping, 1 new Hi Service 1,800 gpm electric pump, modification aerators, modification of high line service and motor wiring panels, construction of a 250,000 gal. clear well, and purchase of real estate for plant expansion – cost $352,634.
Improvement to water distribution system: new equipment for construction, 500,000 gal. elevated water tank erected at northwest corner of Sturgeon and Wicker St., constructed new 12" water line from Fisk and Park Ave. south on Park Ave.; thence east on Bueth Rd., and continuing east on McKinsey to Morley St. and extending north at Sturgeon to new elevated water tank at Sturgeon and Wicker; constructed 8" line on McKinsey from Morley St. to Gratz Brown, constructed 12" line from filter plant north to Huntsville Ave., cast on Huntsville Ave. to Highway 24, east on Sparks Ave. to Morley, thence south to Austin St.; thence east to Porter; thence south 1 block to existing 10" main on Porter Street – cost $324,000.
The City of Moberly water usage now averages about 95 gallons per capita per day. The City of Moberly furnishes treated water to Huntsville, Missouri, and the State Medium Security Prison, both of which use about one tenth the amount used in Moberly proper.
Prepared February 20, 1968
by W.D. Meriwether