Clean Water Shreveport Blog

Drinking Water before Treatment Plants

In the 19th century, most middle and upper-class households in the Shreveport area had cisterns. These large wooden barrels or tubs, located above ground and adjacent to the buildings whose runoff rainwater they collected provided water for bathing and laundry. This was not a reliable source of drinking water and it provided a breeding ground for mosquitoes that could spread malaria and yellow fever. Before modern sewage and water treatment plants were in place, humans largely determined the quality of water based on taste. Fortunately, we now know this is not an accurate test to determine the suitability of drinking water. Some harmful agents are tasteless, odorless, and colorless. Needless to say, humans soon realized the need for a more accurate way to test their drinking water.

For the Shreveport wealthy, drinking water often came from springs and was delivered at a cost of five cents per bucket or 50 cents per barrel. At these prices, the poor could not afford clean water to drink or to even bathe often, and the additional lack of a public sewer system created unsanitary conditions ripe for disease. However, the main issue that forced the creation of a waterworks system was the fires that sometimes swept the city. Without a readily available and consistent source of water, fires were nearly impossible to control.

Continue to follow @cleanwatershreveport on all social media platforms to learn the history of Shreveport’s Water Treatment Plants.

Educational Blog