The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003 Page: 372
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
the nineteenth century.8 Gradually, however, urban development and
the need for housing, industry, and the construction of roads, as well as
a domestic water supply, storm, and sewer systems, began to collide with
the network of ditches meandering through town streets and byways. As
the city grew, housing, commercial buildings, hotels, and other struc-
tures were built along the banks of the San Antonio River, San Pedro
Creek, and the irrigation canals.
The system of streets in many parts of the growing urban area did not
follow a traditional grid pattern and paralleled the watercourses instead.
Many property lines in downtown San Antonio are therefore now
bounded by the river or old acequia paths, resulting in odd-shaped lots
that take off in diagonal lines rather than following the more conven-
tional grid pattern of square or rectangular shapes in the Anglo-
American manner. The contours of the acequias and the sizes of the irri-
gated fields necessarily were dictated by the contours of the land. The
wandering paths of the acequias later caused development to occur on
irregular lots on winding streets running through the heart of the
municipality.9 By 900 San Antonio had outgrown the river and had
actually worn it out: "The flow [of the river] was no longer swift enough
or deep enough for drinking, bathing, boating or carrying off garbage.
Its springs drained by artesian wells, cluttered with refuse and shunned
as an eyesore and cause of disease, the river faced an uncertain fate."10
As to the ditches located within the city limits, support for their con-
tinuation had begun to wane since at least the last quarter of the nine-
teenth century. The impact of municipal growth began to diminish
water quality in the ditches. Trash and garbage thrown into backyards
often fell into the acequias. Combined with the conditions of stagnant
water, the debris and pollution in the ditch water forced city officials to
become concerned with the risks to public health. Prior to the establish-
ment of the first municipal water supply system, drinking water had
been obtained from shallow wells and from the irrigation ditches. As this
water became contaminated from outhouses, incidents of typhoid fever,
malaria, and cholera raised the level of public awareness to the dangers
inherent in the water supply."
8Lewis F. Fisher, Crown Jewel of Texas: The Story of San Antonzo's Rzver (San Antonio: Maverick
Pubhshing Company, 1997), 3-4.
"Waynne Cox, "The Early Spanish Colonial Acequias of San Antonio," in Grace Keyes (ed.),
Transformation of the Misszon Frontzer. Texas and Northern Mexico, Selected Papers from a Symposium
Sponsored by Our Lady of the Lake and the Smithsonzan Institution (San Antonio. Our Lady of the
Lake University, 1997), 79-81; also see Fisher, Crown Jewel of Texas, 4.
l"Fisher, Crown Jewel of Texas, 7.
" Augustine J. Frkuska Jr., "Archaeological Investigations of the San Pedro Acequia, San
Antonio, Texas," Center for Archaeological Research, University of Texas at San Antonio, Survey
Report no. 103 (1981), 5-7.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003, periodical, 2003; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/m1/440/: accessed July 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.