History of Dubuque's Drinking Water Early Water Sources
In 1838, the Dubuque Town Trustees authorized the construction of “three public wells in such situation as will most suit the public convenience.” These and additional wells, augmented by cisterns, served as the town’s primary source of water for the next 30 years.
Lead mining was Dubuque’s chief industry for many years, but large quantities of water above the ore beds made mining very difficult. In 1864, miners blasted a tunnel under a large hill south of Kaufmann Avenue hoping to drain the area. They ended up tapping into a spring which produced approximately 400,000 gallons per day. This spring continued to flow and in 1870, a group of businessmen organized a corporation to take advantage of the abundant supply of high-quality water from this source. Not only was this supply of water plentiful, it was also located at an elevation high enough to allow water to be gravity fed to most of the city.