Do you know where your water comes from?
By the 1920s, while a few Arlington communities were serviced by privately-owned water companies (including Aurora Hills and Cherrydale) most of the County’s 16,040 residents got their water from individual shallow wells, which were inconvenient and susceptible to pollution.
Arlington County Water Department Float for the Water Carnival, November 1927
In 1922, the State of Virginia passed legislation to permit the establishment of sanitary districts within the County for the purpose of constructing water and sewer systems.
The Arlington County Board of Supervisors contracted engineer Asa E. Phillips to investigate options for a County-wide water system in 1926. Phillips and the County Board proposed a number of solutions to County residents. Eventually residents decided that instead of building its own water filtration plant Arlington County would request water from Washington, D.C., which had recently finished construction on the Dalecarlia Water Plant.
After Congress passed two authorizing acts – the first to allow the sale of the federal water supply to Arlington County, and the second to connect the federal water system to the Arlington County water system – and the Virginia General Assembly authorized bonds for the construction and operation of the water supply, construction began on the water main that would connect Dalecarlia to Lyonhurst Station in North Arlington, one of the highest points in the County. Lyonhurst Station was equipped with a pump station, a 260,000-
gallon water tower, and a 1.5- million gallon reservoir.
On November 3, 1927, public water supply service began in Arlington. The County declared a special holiday and threw a Water Carnival in Lyon Village to celebrate. The Water Carnival consisted of a parade with floats decorated by various county groups, a fire hydrant demonstration, dancing, fireworks, a barbeque and even a jousting tournament! In the water spirit of the event, many of the afternoon activities were rained out, but that did not dampen the celebration too much, as the evening programs continued.
Dalecarlia Water Treatment Plant, 2011
The distribution system in Arlington has significantly expanded and updated from the original 1927 system, and improvements to the system, initiated in 1953, have since made Lyonhurst Station obsolete.
Arlington County's water source is the Potomac River. The water is then treated and comes to us from the Dalecarlia Water Treatment Plant, run by the Washington Aqueduct.
Read more about the Arlington County Water & Utilities Department and the water system:
- Arlington County Water Distribution System Master Plan, adopted September 2014
- Arlington County 26th Street North - Old Dominion Drive Site Master Planning Task Force DRAFT Report - Jan. 2, 2019
- Arlington County Water & Utilities
To learn more about Arlington's history, visit the Center for Local History on the first floor of the Central Library. The carnival float image is a part of CLH's Arlington Historical Society Photographs collection, part of which is available online.
Do you have a question about this story, or a personal experience to share?
Use this form to send a message to the Center for Local History.