The Story Of St. Louis’ Tap Water

ST. LOUIS, MO — When we turn on the tap and cool clean water comes out. Not much news there. But a little more than a century ago St. Louis water was the color of the river it came from. Until something came to town that changed everything.

"The water that came out of that system was turgid. People complained that there were little eels and things in it. Someone else said it doesn't matter because the water is so brown you can`t see them anyway. They are probably good for you so just drink it." said Dr. Robert Archibald.

But it wasn't good for you and the city knew it. In the late 1800's it began updating its system. Including construction of the Chain Of Rocks Water plant. It was built like a palace with little castles in the river used as intakes.

"The city wanted it to look beautiful and healthy and natural. The problem was in 1894 when the plant was completed the water that came out of the faucets was still brown and muddy." said Dr. Robert Archibald.

Its quality might have stayed poor. If it wasn't for the fair.

"That went on until 1901 when it became fairly obvious that St. Louis was going to be the site for the worlds fair. And that in Forest Park there were going to be a lot of what we would call in the 21st century water features. Those water features would have miniature boats and gondolas and fountains over white alabaster creations of rocks and cascades. It wasn't going to look good brown and muddy." said Dr. Robert Archibald

THE city hired three of the country's top experts to devise a new way to treat the city's water. Using iron and lime they managed to make it clear just two weeks before the opening of the fair.

Today St. Louis' water is still considered some of the best in the country. Amazing after all, since it comes from one of the muddiest rivers in the world.