Oakland Daily Transcript

July 15, 1876


Contra Costa Water Company-All Clear on Lake Chabot-Health Officer Reports Favorably-Work Doing and in Contemplation-Cold Water Magnate, Just at this particular time unusual interest attaches to the quality and quantity of fresh water which is being supplied to the citizens of Oakland by the Contra Costa Water Company.


As regards quantity, those who fear a water famine are citizens who have not the remotest idea of either the daily consumption in the aggregate or the reservioir force in the background. During the late heated term there were drawn from the sources of supply within the command of the Compnay four millions of gallons per diem; and yet there remained in the San Leandro Lake alone one thousand millions of gallons. Thus so far as quantity is concerned the Company can even now meet all drains made upon them by a city of ten times the population of Oakland, without embarassing them or seriously diminishing the aqueous supply. But Mr. Chabot is not content to stop here. With Characteristic forethought he is going to vastly enhance the quantity of water for the use and benefit of the men, women and children who are to compose the population of the grand and majestic Oakland of the not far distant future. Nestled in the hills of the Contra Costa Range are innumerable springs and from these sparkling silvery streams wind their serpentine course to the Bay. The clear and undisputed title to and possession of three thousand acres of land and the right of way to the Bay afford the Company illimitable facilities for providing the people of Oakland for a century to come with a more than ample supply of water pure and healthful. An additional enterprise is also projected. This is no more or less than the building of a huge reservoir within the next twelve months in the hills east of Brooklyn. This will set as a filter bed to the main artery supply for the city, inasmuch as the San Leandro water will be run from the big lake into the East Oakland reservoir where it will thoroughly settle. And this leads us to dilate on the matter of the


A representative of the Transcript has just returned from making an extended trip around the lake two miles easterly from San Leandro. The approaches to this romantic sheet of water are exceedingly abrupt. Leaving the beautiful locust avenue running out of the quondam county seat the visitor turns abruptly into the foot hills; one slope of which is thickly studded with clumps of chapparal and dwarfish trees, and the other presenting naught save a rugged surface of bolders and reddish earth. Very little vegetation is seen up the ravine, or at the foot of the many eminences surrounding the basin in which the waters of the lake are confined. And right here we may state that for months past the Chinamen employed by the company have industriously cleared from the hill sides skirting the reservoir every vestige of vegetable matter, burning the same so completely that a rim like a black ribbon extends all around the lake. Furthermore there have been removed from the water all limbs and leaves of trees so that on the surface at least there is not a particle of either live or decaying vegetable substance to be perceived.

The inspection of the lake was made in a spacious and leakiess boat with a Mongolian gondolier acting a propeller. A critical inspection of the water was made from the point at the foot of the reservoir, whence the water issues into the main tunnel, up to the very head, a distance with the snake like windings of three miles. At each and every point the water was clear, tastless, odorless--pure oxygen and hydrogen. Even on the margin of the lake and in very shallow water there was no perceptible tast and the nasal organ failed to detect any smell whatever.


When operations were commenced here two years ago the three hundred acres now covered with water were a rich fertile valley, in which was a thrifty orchard gardens of vegetables and patches of grain. There were all cleared off and a firm and clean bed made before the water was let into the basin. The company furthermore have been exceedingly strict and careful in prohibiting any intruders from erecting buildings for business purposes or maintaining corrals, tanneries, slaughter houses, or in fact pertaing any building whatever adjacent to the reservoir either in the valley or on the hill slopes; so that it is impossible for any carcasses decaying animal matter or filth of any kind to find its way into the unpolluted water fed by the swift and limpid streamlets from the distant gulches.


Only last week visited Lake Chabot, and after [.... ......] thorough inspection, unanimously pronounced the waters free from and all impurities. Their verdict but confirms the statements given by all fair and unprejudiced persons who have had the curiosity or taken the pains to visit the lake and in aspect for themselves. It must be remembered that this reservoir is nearly two hundred feet above the city base of Oakland and in a quiet and secluded spot away from all contamination with the refuse matter thrown off from all settlements however small and sparsely inhabited. The cause or causes which have produced the present unpleasant taste to the water are easily accountable. This is the very first season the water of this lake has been used by the citizens to any great extent, and this too, after a winter of extraordinarily heavy and protracted rains. It is probable that some vegetable materials remaining on the bottom which is undergoing the decomposing process, imparts an unpleasant taste or odor to water. But these are not experienced until after the water has left the reservoir and entered the long lines of pipes. From this pipe the air is excluded and on issuing there from the taste and odor are first perceptible to the senses. But these disagreable features about the water are even now lessening and according to the opinion of chemists and scientific gentlemen with whom we have conversed in a few days will entirely disappear leaving the aqueous fluid as unobjectionalbe in every respect as it now is in the far distant fountain whence it springs.

When the Croton enterprise was inaugurated the same complaints were heard of the unpalatable character of the water, and the same objection is urged in the spring of the year about the water with which San Francisco is supplied. But these are of short duration and so soon as the vegetable substances which have been washed into the streams and reservoirs have been freed from all deleterious matter, which requires but a short time, the evil complaint of is effectually abated. Not a single breath of suspicion against the water being prejudicial to health have we heard, only that the recent is somewhat sulphurous and to the taste repugnant.

During the last forty-eight hours Mr. Chabot has the pipes leading all alon the line from San Leandro to the city have undergone a ventilation and the water thus thoroughly aericated has, as was remarked above, been cleared already to a great extent of scent and taste. By the way, some of nitro-glycerine whiskey inbibers who taste this water for the first time since 1849, are to be excused for swearing that the fluid doesn't set well on their liquor lined stomachs.

The most ridiculous and laughable objection we have heard against the use of the Chabot water is, that fish cannot live in the lake, and that thousands of all sorts of piscatorial specimens turn up their bellies and die looking heavenward. In traversing up and down the reservoir, for six miles and scanning closely over deep water and shallow, we didn't discover a fish dead or in the agonies of dissolution. Near the shore there are many of the size of minows. These are called "stick-backs" and they seldom venture from the edge of the shore. When the water is in the slightest degree agitated they are dashed against the rocks or washed onto the beach and so killed. And these infinitesimally small shiners have been magnified by malicious or gossiping persons into great fish, which not only can't live in the lake themselves, but render the water poisonous for the sons and daughters of Adam who dare to swallow the vile fluid. So much for the causes of the temporary inconvenience endured by the daily consumers if water [...] our city, and senseless rumors calculated, if not refuted, to injure the high reputation which the company enjoys, of furnishing Oakland with an abundance of the pure and wholesome beverage.


At one time during the construction of the mammoth works in the hills back of San Leandro, Mr. Chabot had as high as eight hundred hands actively employed. At present about one hundred are employed. On our arrival at the foot of the lake we found a lot of men throwing down stone which were being placed in position at the mouth of the waste tunnel, which rund 500 feet through the mountain to the head of the gorge. This is arched, and being built up with stone and cemented in the most substantial and workmen like manner.

The labor in cutting both this tunnel and in building the other one thousand feet in length, are models of ingenuity and skill. The latter is not only a subterranean but subaqueous aqueduct. Then an immense amount of work has been done on an open cut eight hundred feet in length alongside of the waste tunnel as this also is intended for the same purpose. The arrangements for letting on, checking, regulating and letting off the water are simple and yet complete the process being the invention of Mr. Chabot himself.


Last winter a sensational article appeared in a city paper warning the inhabitants all around Lake Chabot and in the village of San Leandro that the dam at the head of the ravine was in immediate danger of giving way. The doom of the people was sealed. The top of Mount Chabot which rears its bold head nearly one thousand feet above was to be submerged, and no Noah's ark on top. [........] for croaking then as there is now. Just about one-half of it is the natural cliff of rock above the tunnels. The other half is way down forty-three feet and through the gravel to the solid bed rock below in the creek. From the surface to extreme lowest point is not less than eighty feet. Some of the fine cement work to be found on any structure in this state is at this dam. But to render this barrier more formidable, and in fact impervious, it will be widened to the other bank of the creek by ground sluicing from the precipiteous slopes of the opposite bluff. The the embankment will be a thousand feet wide and directly against the side of Mount Chabot--a pretty strong vertrebra. If the big mountain falls, then the dam goes but not before, even should the dam be swept away now the long tortuous San Leandro Creek would destroy all rapidity of current, and if the water should reach the plain it would be scattered over so immense a territory that a lady's slipper would be hardly moistened on Locust avenue. This work of filling in the chasm will be commenced this season, and probably continued two years before completed.


Besides the waste tunnel and deep cut channel to which reference has already been made to the great tunnel, one thousand feet long, exhibits to a remarkable extent what skill and persevering labor can accomplish if properly directed. It extends through the solid rock from the lower part of the dam to a point in deep water thirty-six feet down off the left shore of the lake. The walls are very substantially and durably cemented and the entire trunk channel shows the hugeness of the plan so successfully carried out.


We can assure our readers that a very interesting and in truth profitable day can be spent inspecting this gigantic enterprise, varied by a row on the picturesque lake which lies so tranquilly nestled in the shadow of frowning mountains.

Of the three thousand acres of land owned by the Company much of it is stable and susceptible of produding cereals, vegetables and fruits. Last year there were raised five hundred acres of grain, reaped in capital condition. Although San Leandro creek is the great artery which feeds the reservoir, numerous of the streams can and will be corraled, when needed, and pressed into service.

When finished according to surveys already made, Lake Chabot will consist of at least fourteen hundred acres. The rotune of water then secured would quench the thirst of all the citizens on this coast for a hundred years, to say nothing about the illimitable supply for fire department, irrigation, culinary and other domestic purposes.

At present forty-six feet depth of water can be drawn from the lake, leaving as a "reserve" not now needed, of not less than twenty-five feet of the life giving element below.

The Contra Costa Company supply to each inhabitant of Oakland three hundred gallons of water per diem, while in New York and other cities on the Atlantic slope about forty gallons is the average. And were we have no rain for eight months in the year.

The Superintendent will shortly supply a number of the beautiful homesteads this side of San Leandro with water, including Archibald Peachy, Tabor and Farrelly. The pipes of the main tunnel at the greatest submerged depth is thirty-six feet.

From the head of the lake to Haywards is but three miles.

When future arrangements are perfected [... ... ...] the curves will be nine miles extent.

A road some forty feet above the bank of the lake, and four miles in extent has been built off the benefit of the county as well as their own, in place of the old road which ran through the lake basin.

Along the lake banks it is the intention of the Superintendent to plant the eucalyptus and other ornamental shade trees.

For the especial convenience of way side pedestrians and highway travelers, the company has erected hydrants at frequent intervals along the turnpike from San Leandro to Oakland.

The distance from Broadway to Lake Chabot as the pipes run, is about eight miles, but by the publicly traveled road two miles further.

The two foot pipe which taps the big pipe at the mouth of the tunnel is laid in nearly an air line to the City of Oakland.

The open cut tunnel is 800 feet long through the solid rock, 30 feet deep, 40 feet wide on the top, and ten feet wide on the bottom.

The dam of the Company is easily secessible of vehicles, and at the overseer's (Mr. Jackson) home the visitors will be hospitably entertained.

As an evidence of the vast quantities of pipe needed by water consumers of Oakland, it may be stated that thirty miles of pipe are now en route from New York. Over one hundred miles of pipe have been laid down in these streets from 3 to 24 inch pipe being used.

During the next two weeks the Superintendent will have laid one mile of pipe to connect the main trunk with Mills Seminary. This will be immeasurable convenience to that institution the managers of which are now at no little expense and trouble is conducting water through their immense establishment. The lake is now about seventy feet deep, but as Mr. Chabot rather facetiously remarked to us once, "I want to water, if not feed, the mouths of the posterity of Oakland."

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