District Headquarters

50 Elm St, Dedham, MA 02026

During Office Hours:

781-329-7090

After Hours Emergency:

781-326-1250

History

A History of the Dedham-Westwood Water District

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”.

Facilities 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 the method for managing the works, and proposed new legislation. However, the town did not follow through with a purchase.

As far back as 1880, Buckmaster Pond was under discussion as a water supply for the residents of Dedham. A study done 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 $1500 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.

Finally, in 1986 both Dedham’s and Westwood’s town meetings voted unanimously to take over the assets of the Dedham Water Company. Because two major production wells were shut down due to chemical contamination in 1979, the Water Company began to plan construction of a seven million dollar treatment plant and requested an 88% rate hike. In the 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 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.

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 two filtration plants to remove iron and manganese (MENTION ANYTHING ELSE THAT WE REMOVE). In December of 2005, the District was granted membership in the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, allowing it to purchase supplemental water to ensure public health and safety during peak water use periods. We can purchase 73 million gallons per year from MWRA or 200,000 gallons per day. In 2017 we began constructing an $8 million dollar major upgrade of the Bridge St Treatment Plant, using a 2% loan from the MADEP/Clean Water Trust. In addition, we make capital improvements annually by replacing water mains, services, meters, and fire hydrants as well as 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.

There will be a Board of Water Commissioners Special Business Meeting on Thursday June 30, 2022 at 6:30 PM.  This meeting will be virtual only. Please see the agenda page, which is posted when available, for more information including exemptions for executive session and joining instructions.
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