The New York Times: Engineer Suggests Distilled Water Be Produced in Mass Quantities and Piped in to all New Yorkers

Headline in The New York Times, August 23, 1891

The New York Times reports: Engineer Suggests Distilled Water Be Produced in Mass Quantities and Piped in to all New Yorkers

The following article was published in the August 23, 1891 edition of The New York Times…



Mr. H. H. D. Pierce, a mechanical engineer of much experience said yesterday that he thought that it was all nonsense to talk about securing a pure supply of watery for this city by “policing” the banks of the streams which furnish the water that is eventually used for drinking purposes by New-Yorkers. The other methods suggested, he thought, would be almost equally ineffectual. Aerating the water he had little faith in, for while it might get rid of some of the impurities, it was manifestly absurd to suppose that it would remove bacteria, and it had been shown by the investigation that had been made that from this source the greatest danger was to be feared.

With the condensed-milk factory emptying refuse contaminated with the germs of tuberculosis, it did not make so much difference whether the water was aerated or not. The germs would not be destroyed. The condensed-milk factory, too, was only one of the places that had been mentioned as adding to the contamination of the water.

The remedy for the difficulty is, Mr. Pierce thinks, very simple. He would have the water that is used for drinking purposes carefully distilled. This his experience has led him to believe could be satisfactorily done on as large a scale as it would be necessary to have it done to provide the city with pure water. He would have the distilling done after the water reached the city. There would be no difficulty about the distilling, as machinery is already perfected distilling on a large scale, in some of the artificial ice factories as many as 200 tons of ice begin made from distilled water in one day.

For the distribution of water after it was distilled Mr. Pierce would have a separate system of pipes put in throughout the city. The pure distilled water then could be taken into every house.

Although Mr. Pierce’s scheme sounds rather expensive, in its comparative cheapness, he says, lies the very cause that should bring about its introduction. Water, he says, could be furnished by it at 50 cents a thousand gallons. Almost any family could afford to pay as much as would be called for by that expense for the sake of having perfectly pure water. Then there would be saved to the city the large amount of money that otherwise will have to be expended on some expensive scheme of attempting to provide pure water. The cost of laying the pipes throughout the city, Mr. Pierce says, would not exceed $3,000 a mile.

— from The New York Times, August 23, 1891


  1. Wow, what an article. Enjoy reading the higher level English that is fading into illiteracy these days. And distilling that much water makes me wonder how they’re doing it. I use a table top 1 gallon distiller. At 3-4 hours a gallon, a whole house system seems impossible.

  2. SIN DUDAS el agua pura debiera ser un derecho universal hoy dia, con la ciencia y tecnologia q tenemos estemos viviendo como vivimos es imposible de entender!!!

Leave a Reply