Huntsville Utilities, based in Huntsville, Alabama, celebrated the 200th anniversary of its water system earlier this year.
The Big Spring in Huntsville, Alabama, has long been a central point of the city. Believed to be the first municipal water works in Alabama and the oldest west of the Appalachian Mountains, Huntsville Utilities’ Water Operations owes its inception to the Big Spring and the Huntsville founders.
In 1809, Leroy Pope purchased most of the land surrounding the Big Spring, but it was not until 1823 that water was drawn from the spring to supply residents and businesses with water. The water in the Big Spring was naturally filtered as it flowed through limestone, making it safe to drink.
Also in 1823, Leroy Pope granted the rights to Hunter Peel to erect a dam across the spring, which enabled Peel and his partner, James Barclay, to construct the first water works. The first water plant was a wood turbine, turned by the spring to pump water into the cedar logs up to the town square.
Between 1823 and 1828, ownership of the Big Spring water works changed hands three times: from Peel and Barclay; to Joshua Cox; and, finally, to Thomas A. Ronalds.
Upon taking ownership, Ronalds hired Sam D. Morgan to make significant improvements to the water works, such as a new dam, engine house, new cedar logs, and a more powerful pump. In 1828, Ronalds built a new water reservoir by the Court House in the town square, which held 24,000 gallons. Ronalds and Morgan ran the water works until 1836.
Now 200 years later, the water works system of Huntsville, Alabama, has undergone considerable change and seen massive growth. From cedar logs supplying water up to the town square to now over 105,000 water customers across the City of Huntsville, Huntsville Utilities’ Water Operations remains a vital and central part of day-to-day life for the Rocket City. With more growth anticipated for the city, Huntsville Utilities looks forward to providing the foundational service of drinking water for the next 200-plus years.