About 30 years ago, L. A. Jackson wrote a 109 page document on the history of a major Central Arkansas water utility, The Little Rock Municipal Water Works Story. Jackson detailed not only the history of the company but also the development of the Little Rock water supply system which started way back in 1837.
In the frontier days, Little Rock was just a settlement on the river bank. Several well-known springs furnished the greater portion of the water for the few inhabitants. Two of the better known springs were then located behind what is now the Old State House Museum and the other at the foot of Spring Street, near the location of the old County Jail.
Public cisterns, or wells, were built in 1837 (one year after Arkansas achieved statehood) and were filled primarily with rain water. This system wasn’t ideal as the water wasn’t particularly clean and putting out fires from the wells was inefficient. Thirty years later, the state legislature passed an Act authorizing Arkansas cities to construct water supply systems. Some infrastructure was put in place, but the majority of citizens still had to use the public wells. By 1877, after three disastrous fires and an epidemic of fever and sickness, the city finally took steps to build a comprehensive water system. There is a lot more to this story! Stay tuned to our Facebook page and this blog for the second installment.