History of Auburn Water District


Did you know that the formation of a public water system in Auburn dates as far back as 1869? Did you know that the first water pipes were hollowed out cedar logs?

To learn some more interesting facts, check out some of the key historical dates that track the development of the public water system:

1869 – The Auburn Aqueduct Company was formed. Three local men (Frank Jordan, Edward Little, and Joel Vickery) personally installed some log piping to supply water to their homes from springs located near High Street. Additional demand by neighbors led to the formal creation of the Auburn Aqueduct Company to meet growing demands.

1870 – A water storage reservoir was installed on High Street for the cost of $700.

1871 – Under authorization from the State legislature, the company began withdrawing water from springs located on Goff Hill. The first distribution system pipes were 10-inch diameter cedar logs hollowed out in the middle. These were linked together to convey water to the downtown area.

1874 – Increasing demands led the Company to pursue water from springs located on the City Farm, which is currently the site of Central Maine Community College.

1875 – Additional supply capacity was required, so the Company got legislative approval from the State to begin withdrawing water from Wilson Pond, which is now called Lake Auburn. A 10-inch cast iron main was installed down what is now Center Street to Court Street in the heart of Auburn.

1879 – Another water transmission line was installed from Lake Auburn to the downtown area. This time it was a 12-inch cast iron pipe. Due to a lack of engineering services, the pipe was installed with both up and down grades, and as a result it took three weeks for the water from the lake to reach downtown. Trapped air pockets had to be removed so the water could finally flow.

1880 – Due to growing water quality concerns, bathing was banned in Lake Auburn.

Late 1880’s – The water main on Main Street froze and the affected customers were told that they must take their water from the Androscoggin River. It began a period of customer dissatisfaction with service.

1890 – The “Soap House Fire” brought about the breaking point of customer dissatisfaction. The Soap House, located at the present intersection of Center and Turner Streets, burned as firefighters helplessly tried to pump water out of a pressureless nozzle.

1893 – The State legislature allowed the City of Auburn to create a Water Commission to take over and manage the water system.

1899 – The Water Commission continued improving the infrastructure of the water system. An 8-inch main was installed across the Little Androscoggin River to provide water to customers in New Auburn.

1907 – A 6.5 million gallon open reservoir was installed on Goff Hill. The reservoir provided water storage for fire protection and to meet customer demand in more densely populated areas. Due to the elevation of the reservoir, pumps had to be installed at 268 Court Street (the current location of the Water District Offices) to pump water up to the reservoir. This created a second, higher pressure service zone.

1921 – Plans were prepared to improve the high service pressure zone which included a new pump station at Lake Auburn and a 16-inch main from the pump station to the Goff Hill Reservoir. Also included were expansions of the water service area to parts of East Auburn. To fund these improvements, $100,000 in bonds were sold.

1923 – To relieve the City of its indebtedness related to the water system, local Judge Harry Manser proposed a Charter for what became the Auburn Water District. The Charter was approved by the State legislature in the autumn of 1923.

1923 – In response to evidence of bacterial pollution in Lake Auburn, the Water District installed a chlorinator to disinfect the water.

1925 – A second reservoir of only 500,000 gallons was constructed on Goff Hill to allow the larger one to be cleaned and serviced.

1927 – The Water District acquired the land and flowage rights which the Union Water Power Company held adjoining Lake Auburn, the Basin, and Bobbin Mill Brook.

1945 – The first segment of cement-lined cast iron pipe was installed on Center Street. This internal pipe material has been used ever since.

1960 – A 12-inch main was laid under the Little Androscoggin to increase supply to New Auburn.

1964 – Amid a flurry of construction activity, 23 separate projects added 9.5 miles of mains to the system.

1965 – A 1.0 million-gallon reservoir was built on Hardscrabble Road to help provide service to the southern half of the city.

1967 – To help serve the growing development around the Lewiston/Auburn Airport, the District sought an aquifer source in the southwestern part of the city. Test wells did not yield a usable source of water.

1969 – To help meet demands out by the airport, a 20-inch main was started from the Goff Hill Reservoir along Minot Avenue towards the airport. Also, after a somewhat controversial debate, the public voted 3 to 1 to fluoridate the water which would benefit the dental health of customers.

1975 – A new pump station and offices were built, in conjunction with the Auburn Sewerage District, at 268 Court Street. This is the present day Water District Office.

1980 – The Goff Hill Reservoirs were covered after a recommendation by the Department of Health; the entire system is now completely enclosed.

1986 – Amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act require all surface water supplies to be filtered unless the water is of such high quality that it can be exempted from the requirements. Lake Auburn eventually becomes one of just 11 surface water supplies in the State that had water of the necessary quality to be exempt from filtration.

Although the water does not need to be filtered, the Auburn Water District treats the water before it reaches the faucet. Chlorine gas is added to kill bacteria naturally present in the lake water. Sodium Hydroxide (caustic soda) is added to raise the pH of the water to a level where it will not corrode pipes, thus reducing the amount of lead in drinking water. Fluoride is also added to help promote the dental health of the citizens. The levels of these chemicals, as well as the pH and turbidity of the water in the system, are now electronically monitored using a SCADA system to help insure drinking water quality.

1993 – The cities of Lewiston and Auburn jointly formed the Lake Auburn Watershed Protection Commission (LAWPC) to help monitor and control contamination of the water source.

Through direct purchase, conservation easements, or as life estates, the Commission has acquired over 1,000 acres of land in the watershed since its creation. The land managed by the LAWPC increased from roughly 720 acres in 1993 to 1,780 acres at the end of 2001. Nearly 20% of the entire watershed is now controlled by the LAWPC, including 80% of the shoreline.