History of Ambridge Water Authority

In 1824, (Old) Economy built the first running water system west of the Allegheny Mountains, piped from a reservoir in the hills.  These reamed-out logs, made into crude pipes, are part of the exhibits at Old Economy.  There are also ancient water pumps.  By 1826 every barn and street corner had a hydrant.  The old fire wagon (still in existence) was a landmark of the community, founded by the Harmony Society, industrial pioneers of the area and the founders of modern Ambridge.

For many years, water service was provided to an ever-expanding area by the Harmony Water Company and the Ambridge Water Company.  In 1909 the Harmony Water Company acquired the Ambridge Water Company.  By 1913 the system was purchased by Ambridge Borough.  The new water entity was created as the Ambridge Water Commission.  In 1937 Ambridge Borough brought the water company under the control of Council, operating it under a Water Works Committee.

In 1950, the Ambridge Water Authority was incorporated as a PA municipal authority, an entity separate from municipal government.  Ambridge Borough turned all of the assets over to AWA for $1.00.  The major reason for creating the water authority was an ongoing problem with water quality and quantity.  Up to this point, water had been obtained from a series of wells along the banks of the Ohio River.  The water was heavily laden with iron and manganese, prompting complaints regarding the odor and staining properties of the water.   The first water purification plant was built in 1933 to treat the well water.  As industry increased, the well water supply also became inadequate.  The drilling of new wells proved useless, as large flows were not realized and the water quality was poor.  The solution was the creation of the Service Creek Reservoir.

As a municipal authority, AWA could issue revenue bonds to provide the funds necessary to create a reservoir, and $2.6 million in bonds to be repaid over the next 26 years made this possible.  The creation of the reservoir met with some public objection, but when the outcome was realized with plentiful high-quality water, the objections quickly faded and consumers generally expressed great pride in the resource.  The water plant had been expanded in 1941 and was reconfigured in 1952-1954 to adapt to the new source water.  Treatment remains fairly minimal and straight-forward to this day due to the high quality of the water from Service Creek Reservoir.

Today, the system serves Ambridge Borough, Harmony Township, Economy Borough, and about half of Bell Acres through direct sales.  In addition, bulk water is sold to Baden Borough, Edgeworth Municipal Authority (which serves Edgeworth, Leetsdale, Leet Township and the remainder of Bell Acres), and New Sewickley Municipal Authority in two areas.  Today’s service population is just short of 30,000 individuals.  AWA has an emergency interconnect with West View Water Authority in the northeast corner of Economy Boro.  AWA serves as an emergency source for Conway Borough.