When you think about Throwback Thursday, electricity and water may not come to mind. But this year Bowling Green Municipal Utilities is celebrating 150 years of service. Let’s take a look at how far we’ve come.
Bowling Green’s water system dates back to 1868. Seven and a half acres of land on Chestnut Street were purchased by the Water Commission to be used for a pumping station. Then another seven acres were purchased on Reservoir Hill to distribute water to the town.
The system was built for $125 thousand and pumped almost 650 thousand gallons, all operated by a single employee. In 1870, the city’s first flat water rate was established. By 1871, a cast iron water system was laid downtown, pumping water directly from Barren River into an open reservoir.
For 50 years, the Water Commission operated this way. Then in 1921, steam pumps were converted to diesel motors and a new square basin was built at the open reservoir. By the mid-1920s, Bowling Green’s near 10 thousand-person population had over three thousand water services.
The first elevated water tank was built on WKU’s campus in the late 1920s. And the first water meters were installed in 1930. Giving more cohesion to the city’s utilities, the Water-Sewage Sanitation Commission was formed in 1955.
Holding one million gallons of water, the iconic red, white and blue water tank on Hospital Hill was completed in 1966.
The Water-Sewage Sanitation Commission merged with the Electric Plant Board in 1976 to form Bowling Green Municipal Utilities as we know it today. As the city grew, renovations to the treatment plant and more storage tanks were built.
Today, the plant pumps water to five tanks through over 300 miles of water mains. Serving a population of 120 thousand, the $300 million BGMU system employs more than 70 people.
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