This article from the Deseret News gives an account of the many changes being made to Providence’s water system. At the time irrigation was a topic of high interest in the western United States. (Article continues below)
By 1900 there were approximately 190 dwellings in Providence. That number would grow to over 250 over the next ten years. A 1902 news article boasted that almost every family in Providence “has or is about to get...spring water in its home.”
Piping water was not a new idea by any means, but it could be costly. That is why many towns and cities delayed making the change from canals, wells and ditches to pipes. There were three common materials in use at the time to build pipes: steel, iron (cast or galvanized), and wood. In the 1870s, Salt Lake City had elected to use cast iron. When Ogden piped their water, they chose steel. Lead was frequently used for jointing or for the smaller service lines that delivered water directly to a household. Cement reservoirs were built to hold the water and “convey [it] into pipe.”
Some benefits of piping instead of open ditches included water conservation and safer roadways. Water flow in canals could be minimized or stopped during the winter season, removing the danger of ice which had so concerned the citizens. There was also less chance of contamination, but not to the extent the people hoped. There was a common assumption “that if the water entering the [piping] system was of adequate quality, then the water emerging from the tap would also be of acceptable quality.” Experience proved this was not true. Piping did not solve the old trouble of waterborne disease. Such issues could only be resolved with more thorough disinfection (not just clarification) and a more advanced waste and sewer system.
Besides not solving the old problem of water contamination the new methods of carrying water to homes in Providence caused new difficulties. There was always the potential of pipes freezing, and, under certain conditions, they would burst. The methods for unfreezing pipes—applying an electric current or fire to the pipes—only created more danger. Furthermore, there was the possibility of lead poisoning whenever lead piping was used. Before the 1920s, it was understood that lead pipes could cause lead poisoning, but the use of lead in pipes was not legally banned until 1986. Even now, it is possible for some older plumbing systems contain lead.