The History of the Bristol County Water Authority (BCWA)
The BCWA traces its origins to two private 19th century water companies. The Bristol and Warren Water Works (BWWW) was formed in 1882. The system served a population of about 6000 with water from the Kickemuit River delivered through 14 miles of cast iron mains. The Barrington Water Company (BWC), formed in 1887, served a population of about 1400 through a system comprising 3 miles of wrought iron and concrete pipe.
The Warren Water Treatment Plant was constructed in 1908 to treat water from the Kickemuit River. In the late 1800’s bacteria was discovered to be the cause of waterborne diseases such as cholera, which led to the construction of water treatment plants to filter out the bacteria. Then the use of chlorine in the early 1900’s essentially eliminated waterborne disease in the areas served by the treated water.
In 1933 the BWWW acquired its neighboring system, and in 1934 changed its name to Bristol County Water Company (BCWC).
The Authority was formed in 1984 by the Rhode Island legislature to address water supply problems that had persisted in Bristol County for many years. In 1986 the Authority acquired the BCWC and assumed responsibility for managing the region’s water supply system.
In 1993, the BCWA received state approval and partial funding for the construction of the East Bay Pipeline, which would connect to the Providence water supply, and the start of a comprehensive system improvement program. The program included replacement of the Shad Factory transmission main and rehabilitation of the BCWA water treatment plant in Warren.
The East Bay Pipeline was put into operation in 1998, providing Bristol County with a secure source of high quality Providence (Scituate Reservoir) water. Although the Warren Water Treatment Plant was shut down in 2011, BCWA maintains it as an emergency supply source until alternate sources of water are developed.