THE QUABBIN RESERVOIR PAGE
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A Brief History
 
1895 - The Massachusetts Board of Health issued a report analyzing population and water-use trends, and recommended the creation of a Metropolitan Water District, serving several suburban communities in addition to Boston, and the construction of two new reservoirs: one on the Nashua River northeast of Worcester, and one in the Swift River Valley.  The General Court acted to establish the Metropolitan Water District, including 26 communities within ten miles of the Massachusetts State House, later in 1895.

1908 - The Wachusett Reservoir was completed.

1915 - The Board of Health study had anticipated that Swift River water would be required.  The introduction of mandatory water metering in Water District communities, and other efforts to reduce waste and inefficient uses, made it possible to delay construction of new water sources until the 1930s.

1922 - A study officially endorsed the Swift River Valley as the next extension of the water system and created the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC), now the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority (MWRA), to oversee the construction and maintain the system after its completion.

1926 - Construction began on the first stage of the project, a tunnel connecting Wachusett Reservoir with the Ware River. This is called the Ware River Diversion. During the 1930s, this tunnel was extended to the Swift River. The complete tunnel is now known as the Quabbin Aqueduct.

Quabbin Aqueduct
     Water from Quabbin Reservoir flows through the Quabbin Aqueduct from the northeast side of the Quabbin, up a slope to the Ware River Diversion in South Barre, Massachusetts, down again to the Wachusett Reservoir, and then through a power station near the Oakdale section of West Boylston, Massachusetts. This upward and downward flow occurs by natural siphon action, with the high point in the siphon being at the Ware River Diversion. A natural siphon can only lift water about 30 feet, with the aqueduct located several hundred feet underground in places, the water head is only about 25 feet on the suction side of the aqueduct. 
The Aqueduct flows both ways
      The siphon starts at the Ware River Diversion by feeding the river water into the aqueduct. If the aqueduct branch which travels to the Wachusett Reservoir (the Wachusett-Coldbrook branch) is closed, then Ware River water feeds into the Quabbin Reservoir for storage; however, if the Wachusett branch is open, then water flows into both the Quabbin and Wachusett Reservoirs. When the Wachusett branch begins to create sufficient suction as it fills, then the Ware River Diversion inlet is closed and water flows from the Quabbin to the Wachusett Reservoir as a natural siphon.

1927 - The Swift River Act legalized -   After its passage in 1927, residents of the valley faced a hard deadline. They had until April 27, 1938 to pick up and move their entire livelihoods elsewhere, aided by a governmental allowance of $108 per acre lost.

Residents affected
         Construction of the Quabbin required impoundment of the Swift River and the taking of the towns of Dana, Enfield, Greenwich, and Prescott.  The foundations remain, but their former residents have long since settled elsewhere.
     Early on, the residents thought they would be safe. The size of the project seemed impossible. Although the project was enthusiastically supported by lawmakers in the Boston area, it was opposed by residents of the affected towns.  But it finally came down and people, homes, schools, churches, and shops became a huge undertaking.  Let's not forget that graves had to exhume and relocated. The number was 7,613 bodies from local cemeteries.

1936 ORIGINS OF THE PRESSURE AQUEDUCT SYSTEM 
          In 1936, the Legislature also approved the construction of the high service Pressure Aqueduct System to deliver water to the Metropolitan area. Two aqueducts would carry water from the Wachusett Reservoir to the new Norumbega Reservoir in the Town of Weston. Downstream from Norumbega, the aqueduct would split forming a loop around the metropolitan area which would terminate at a greatly expanded Fells Reservoir in Stoneham. A branch would be constructed off this loop to Quincy, terminating at a new Blue Hills Reservoir. The Pressure Aqueduct could be operated at a uniform rate of flow as the distribuation reservoir storage would be sufficient to dampen out fluctuations in demand during the day. Work began on schedule in 1939 and by the outbreak of World War II in 1941, the Fells, Blue Hills and Norumbega Reservoirs had been completed, and the Pressure Aqueduct had been built from the terminus of the Wachusett Aqueduct to the terminus of the Weston Aqueduct. This portion of the Pressure Aqueduct is the Hultman Aqueduct.  To pay for the new program, water rates were doubled from $50 to $100 per million gallons. 

1936 - Construction on the Quabbin Reservoir began in 1936.  The Swift River is redirected from its riverbed through a diversion tunnel.

1938 - On the final night, a ball was held in the town of Enfield to give the residents one last night together as a community. Those who were unable to get tickets danced to the music on the Town Hall’s lawn no one was going to miss this event. When the clock struck midnight on April 28, the towns were legally no more. The flooding began several months later.  Those who had lived out their entire lives in the area felt the loss most deeply.  The flooding process took several years, meaning that some would never get a chance to go back.

1938 -   Filling commenced on August 14, 1939 and was completed in 1946 when water first flowed over the spillway. The Quabbin Reservoir was filled with water from the Swift River and flood skimming from the Ware River during eight months of the year. At the time, the 412 billion gallon reservoir was the largest man-made reservoir in the world which was devoted solely to water supply.

1939 - Work completed  on Winsor Dam, an earth-filled structure 2,640 feet long, rising 170 feet above the riverbed, and the slightly smaller Goodnough Dike. Filling commenced on August 14, 1939.  The water gradually submerged the roads that had linked the towns. It swallowed all but the peaks of about 60 hills and mountains, transforming Prescott Ridge into Prescott Peninsula. A

1946 -  The Quabbin Reservoir was full, for the first time, in June 1946.

Where did the name come from?
           Before the reservoir’s construction, there was a hill in Enfield called Quabbin Hill and a lake in Greenwich called Quabbin Lake. Named for a Native American chief called Nani-Quaben, meaning "place of many waters", these became the basis for naming the new reservoir.


Planners feel that the Quabbin will be sufficient to supply the metropolitan area at least until the foreseeable future.    


NOTE: Information gathered from Wikipedia, Lost Towns of Quabbin, mass.gov - History of Quabbin Reservoir and Ware River