The History of the City of Covington Water Department
Our water system is comprised of some of the most state of the art equipment and facilities that provide services for approximately 7,600 City of Covington customers, 11,000, Newton County residents, the Cities of Oxford, Mansfield, and the town of Newborn. This, however, has not always been the case. Several incidents involving the lack of water for fire protection at the turn of the 20th Century prompted the citizens of Covington to establish a water system in 1907.
For example, in 1904, there was a great fire that consumed one block of the Town Square including the Newton County Court House. At that time there was scarcely more than a bucket brigade to battle the flames. This being one of the last and most devastating fires prompted the citizens to form a water system that could protect against such catastrophes.
On October 9, 1907, the City of Covington passed a $60,000.00 bond issued with a vote of 181 to 7. By 1910, the city had a working water system that consisted of a 1, 350,000 gallon reservoir, two single stage pumps with a pumping capacity of 5,000 gallons per minute (GPM), six miles of 6,8, and 10 inch mains, and 50 fire hydrants with an operating capacity pressure of 50 pounds.
The first water source for the City of Covington was Dried Indian Creek. The creek was chosen for its convenient location. Dried Indian Creek was located 1/2 mile from the center of town. Water was pumped from the creek directly to the reservoir without filtration and remained the City's only source of water until 1945.
The growing domain for water in the early 1940's prompted the citizens to once again pass a bond to build a water treatment plant and look for other sources of water. The Alcovy River was chosen and a new pumping station was built. This pumping station consisted of one, five stage pump with a 75 horse power motor and a 50 horsepower secondary pump. These two had a combined capacity of 4 million gallons per day. Six mile, 16 inch raw water main was installed to transport water from the Alcovy Trestle Rd. river pump station to the Williams Street Water Treatment Facility. Both of these facilities have gone through some upgrades and are still in use today.
Until the mid-1980's, few changes were made with regards to pumping capacity. It was not until then that a severe drought forced the governing bodies of Covington and Newton County to look for a greater source of water. Ultimately, the Cornish Creek Water Treatment Facility and the Lake Varner Reservoir were built to accommodate this need. The reservoir spans and impressive nine hundred acres and can deliver 28 million gallons per day. The Cornish Creek Water Treatment Facility is one of the most modern treatment plants in the state. The entire treatment process can be monitored by computer. Valves, pumps, and chemicals can be turned on or added with the click of a mouse. This facility combined with the Williams Street plant can currently produce 17 million gallons of water per day, but, is expandable up to 29 million gallons per day.
Today, the combined water system has 356 miles of water main with sizes ranging from 2 to 36 inches. Throughout its 98 years of existence, the City's water system has respectfully provided for its customers and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. With treated water storage capacity of over 12 million gallons and approximately 1500 fire hydrants on the system, the water system has come a long way from the bucket brigade of 1904.
By Tim Thompson, 2009