The Dedham Water Company was founded by an act of incorporation through the Legislature in 1876, recognizing a need for a public water supply for the townspeople of Dedham. However, according to the First Annual Report, no significant action was taken until 1881, when funds were appropriated to hire an engineer after “the recurrence of successive dry seasons and the increasing foulness of the wells in Dedham.” The report continues, “That those who have carried forward this undertaking, midst doubts, and discouragement, have conferred an enormous benefit upon the town of Dedham will, it is believed, be more and more realized as the comfort and saving attendant upon an inexhaustible supply of water, and the increased value of property here, are more fully brought to the attention of our citizens.”
Constructed that first year included pipelines, the Bridge Street Pumping Station, 76 fire hydrants, and the Walnut Street standpipe. (This same standpipe was recently determined to be the oldest stainless steel standpipe in continuous use in America.) The Treasurer’s Report in 1881 noted a total expenditure of just under $95,000.
The original legislation in 1876 included the right of the town of Dedham to purchase the company’s property, rights, and privileges. In 1886, a committee advised against it. Ten years later, a subcommittee recommended the purchase of the company, concluding that the existing legislation did not provide a method for managing the works, and proposed new legislation. However, the town did not follow through with the purchase.
As far back as 1880, Buckmaster Pond was under discussion as a water supply for the residents of Dedham. A study completed at that time stated:
Buckmaster Pond is distant by way of Pond and High Streets from the Common in the village, 21,000 feet, or 3.92 miles. Between these two points, there are ten distinct summits with corresponding depressions, a greater part of which are above the level of the pond…it would be necessary to raise the water at the pond by means of pumping to a height of at least sixty feet…The least possible cost of utilizing this source, exclusive of the cost of the distribution, piping in the village, and land damages at and around the pond, would be $50,000…The cost of raising 200,000 gallons per day sixty feet high by steam-pumping would be very nearly $1,500 per year for fuel and attendance. The inadequateness of this source, and the cost of utilizing it, are sufficient reasons for rejecting it without further consideration.
It has been suggested that one of the primary reasons West Dedham wanted to separate from Dedham in the late 1800s was because Dedham, in 1885, gave the rights to the water in Buckmaster Pond to the Town of Norwood. Also, the residents of West Dedham did not feel they were benefiting from the tax dollars spent on infrastructure in central Dedham.
In 1930, the Dedham Water Company began supplying some residents in Westwood with water. A separate water company, the Westwood Water Company, was also providing water to many Islington residents. In 1936, the American Water Works & Electric Company acquired the Dedham Water Company. Takeovers by the towns were discussed and proposed in 1939 and again in 1949. In the first case, Dedham defeated the idea in a town referendum and Westwood in a Town Meeting vote. In 1949, Westwood Town Meeting approved the acquisition, but Dedham voted it down.
Finally, in 1986 both Dedham’s and Westwood’s town meetings voted unanimously to take over the assets of the Dedham Water Company. Before the acquisition, two major production wells were shut down due to chemical contamination in 1979. The Water Company began to plan the construction of a seven million dollar treatment plant and requested an 88% rate hike. Meanwhile, severe water restrictions were placed on residents, and Dedham proposed taking over only the portion of the system within Dedham’s boundaries. The Supreme Judicial Court disallowed this move. Because the private company was ineligible for state grants, the two towns began to work together, resulting in the formation (through legislation) of the Dedham-Westwood Water District in 1985. Subsequently, the White Lodge Treatment Plant treatment plant was completed, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts granted half of the construction cost to the newly formed District, and water restrictions were removed. The sale, financed by a $19.5 million 30-year bond issue, took place on December 17, 1986, and rates went up 20% to finance the purchase and the new treatment plant.
In December 2005, the District was granted membership in the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA). Membership allows DWWD to purchase supplemental water to ensure public health and safety during peak water demand in the summer. The District can buy up to 73 million gallons per year from MWRA or 200,000 gallons per day.
In 2017, the District started constructing an $8 million major upgrade of the Bridge StreetTreatment Plant, using a 2% loan from the MassDEP/Clean Water Trust. Annually, capital improvements are made by replacing water mains, services, meters, fire hydrants, pumps, motors, filtration, and chemical equipment. These improvements allow us to continue providing high-quality drinking water service and fire protection to Dedham and Westwood residents and businesses.
Today, the Dedham-Westwood Water District supplies over 13,000 service connections to approximately 40,000 people through 212 miles of water mains. On an average day, the District pumps about 4.25 million gallons of water from seventeen groundwater wells, six in Westwood and eleven in Dedham. Our newest well at Fowl Meadow came online in 1997 as the first new source in several decades. Water is treated at our two filtration plants to remove iron and manganese.