History

The City of Rīga has been supplied with water since its founding in 1201. Rīga, just like most cities in the middle ages, took water for the needs of its dwellers and artisans from the canals that for defensive purposes were located behind the ramparts surrounding the city. The canal water was dirty and unsuitable for drinking or household purposes – inevitably, city waste flowed into the canals. Therefore, the inhabitants of Old Rīga also utilized water from the Daugava River for their needs, either carrying it home by yoke or in horse drawn carriages. Archeological research has proven that wells were dug to provide drinking water for Rīga’s town dwellers – they were either circular in shape, consisting of barrels without bottoms or were rectangular, made of oak planks and lined with a layer of clay on all sides.

In 1560, Order Master Gothard Ketler gave Rīga the right to take water from the Jugla River. However, for various reasons the construction of the water main was postponed. In 1582, Rīga’s town council again addressed this matter and on 25 November 1582, the Polish King Stephan Batory renewed the right originally granted by Ketler, allowing the town to use the Jugla Riveras an intake source. The Jugla River flows into Lake Jugla.

The period between 1617 and 1629, when building master Hans Jacob Kristler was invited from Strasbourg to make the first “water contrivance” near Smilšu gravis (Sand ditch), marked a new stage in the history of Rīga’s water supply. Although this water system was not totally satisfactory to Rīga’s town council, the year 1620 is regarded as the birth of Rīga’s water supply system.

In 1662 Jacob Josten, a craftsman from Danzig, came to Rīga and within two years he had built a completely new water pumping station in a rampart tower at the end of Grecinieku Street by the Daugava River. Six horses were used to power the eight brass piston pumps that pumped the water from the Daugava River through a wooden pipe to a lead-lined, wooden storage tank at the top of the tower. The water flowed downwards from the 1080 cubic foot storage tank (about 30 m3) through wooden pipes that distributed the water to the various streets in the town. The water pressure in the supply network was 20 feet, i.e. six meters above street level. This pumping station operated without interruption for 200 years.

Notable changes to the city’s water supply took place in the 19th century when growing dissatisfaction with the quality of the supplied water forced the town masters to consider ways of improving the system. In 1858, English Engineer Brown’s water supply plan for the city was approved, which was similar to the one he had designed and which was implemented by Norway. The new pumping station on Maskavas Street, near today’s Kridener’s dam entered service in May 1863 and operated without any reconstruction until 1876.

The next water supply system expansion took place from 1874 to 1876 when two steam boilers were added along with two line pumps and a new pressurized supply pipe.

The Gas and Water pipe Board, founded in 1882, decided to launch a thorough search for groundwater in Rīga and its surrounding area. The investigation revealed the existence of wide streams of underground water northeast of Rīga beyond the Jugla River, on both sides of the St. Petersburg highway. Water samples obtained by drilling were sent to a laboratory in Munich to be tested by Professor Petenkopher, the founder of German Hygiene science. The samples were recognized as particularly high quality and accredited to the consistency of water in the Baltezers area.

After an 1892 ruling by the Sanitary Board, the pumping station at Kridener’s dam built a new covered and bricked-in supply canal to the Daugava’s free current. The City Council had already come to the conclusion that the existing water pipe did not conform to modern standards.

From 1903 to 1904, a pumping station complex was built near Little Baltezers, but in the following years, a water main was built from the pumping station to the city center that supplied Rīga’s inhabitants with water.    

In 1978, the “Daugava” Water Purification Station began operation. Today, it still provides Rīga’s inhabitants with drinking water originating from Daugava’s HES water reservoir.

Originally, Rīga’s sewer system was built to collect both rainwater and household waste. Only after WWII were the systems separated. The oldest, still operational, Rīga’s sewer collector was built in 1898. Originally, all wastewater was piped to reservoirs within Rīga’s city limits and surrounding area. Although a few water purification facilities were built after the war, in the mid 1980s only 7.1% of wastewater was treated biologically and 22.4% mechanically. After 1991, the“Daugavgrīva” Biological Purification Station (BAS) ensured the biological purification of household wastewater from the City of Rīga, its surrounding municipalities and a portionof Jūrmala.

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