Our existence has always depended on water. The first settlers in
Iceland relied on an easy access to potable water, when choosing their
settlements. Water could be found either in nearby wells or it was
ducted to the farmsteads. At the turn of the 19th century, about 34
wells or springs were located in Reykjavik. The water was often
unsanitary and in 1906 typhoid epidemic broke out in the capital. The
bacteria was found in the water in one of the wells. Campaign for a
new water system ensued and was led by the county physician, who later
became director general of health in Iceland.
This tragic event and the fact that there was never quite
enough water for domestic consumption, led to the construction of the
Reykjavik Water Works. In November 1906 an engineer, who later became
the prime minister, was asked to make plans for a water works company.
Two years later work began on this ambitious construction project,
which was in fact the largest ever undertaken in Iceland. On June the
16th, 1909, water started running through a pipeline from the
and the Water Works were
operational. Later the same year the pipeline was extended farther
east to the cold spring area Gvendarbrunnar in the municipal
conservation area Heidmork.
At last, the citizens of
Reykjavik had an easy access to plentiful clean and uncontaminated
water supplies. Consequently the water consumption rose abruptly from
18 l per person per day to more than 200 l. Five water tanks,
containing 20 million litres, have been constructed in the capital
area. A 2 million litres tank, 85 m above sea level, supplied by 10 -
15 wells, is situated in the conservation area
The distribution network is approximately 300 miles long. The first
pipeline had a diameter of 250 mm and carried 38,5 l/sec. The new
pipelines have a diameter of 1 meter and carry about 900 l/sec. It is
important to maintain a thorough evaluation and to monitor constantly
the conditions of the network and pipelines. Computerized listening
devices for leak detection were introduced in 1988. This has reduced
operation expenses greatly and eliminated time consuming searches for
leaks. Diesel powered generators are used in the pumping stations if
and when power failures occur. In 1994 the Water Works' companies were
categorized by law as food production companies. The water is tested
and analyzed on a regular basis by the Health Authorities.
In 1995 the Reykjavik Water Works decided to adopt and tailor a
quality control system to its processing needs according to the ISO
9000 standards. Air pollution is not a problem in Iceland compared to
other industrial nations because of its isolation and sparse
population. Therefore the conditions are quite favourable for the
production of clean potable water. The water is pumped from wells
reaching down 10 - 80 meters from the surface.
The estimated consumption per person per day is 535 litres.
A family of four persons uses 20 litres for cooking, 15 litres for
drinking, 15 litres for washing up, 150 litres for laundry, 220 litres
for bathing, 40 litres for the lavatory, 10 litres for watering the
garden and 10 litres for car wash.
Pictures: OR brochure 2009.
The Municipal Waret Works are
the remainder of a cluster of pseudo craters within the boundaries of
the capital. They date back approximately 4600 years and are
situated in the so-called Ellidaar lava field, northeast of Lake
Ellidavatn. They are prominent because of their reddish colour.