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Sudbury Aqueduct History
Massachusetts Water Resources Authority

MWRA - Sudbury Aqueduct Under Construction
Construction of the Sudbury Aqueduct


The Sudbury Aqueduct was constructed between 1875 and 1878 by the Boston Water Works and was in use for almost 100 years. It was designed to carry water from the watershed of the Sudbury River to Boston and its surrounding communities.

MWRA - Bricklayers work inside the Sudbury Aqueduct Terminal Chamber c. 1876
Bricklayers working inside the Sudbury Aqueduct, 1876


Reservoirs in Framingham and Southborough were constructed to impound this water at the time of the aqueduct's development, and additional reservoirs in Ashland and Hopkinton were constructed in the 1880s in an attempt to meet increasing demand. Finally in the 1890s, the Sudbury Reservoir was created in 1898, significantly increasing the amount of water available for distribution.

  MWRA - Map of Sudbury System

The aqueduct consists primarily of a horseshoe-shaped brick lining that is 8.5 feet in diameter and 7.6 feet high. A number of construction methods were utilized along the route, including two arched bridges – Echo Bridge in Newton and the Waban Arches in Wellesley, cast iron pipes to cross a low-lying section in Wellesley, and a tunnel section in Newton and Natick.

The Sudbury Aqueduct carried 90 million gallons of drinking water per day 17.4 miles by gravity to feed the Chestnut Hill Reservoir, and from there to large pipelines and distribution reservoirs for use by Boston and the surrounding communities.

The aqueduct was taken out of regular service in 1978 and now forms part of the MWRA's emergency backup system. The open space along this historic aqueduct is now available for public access.

In January 1990, the route, buildings and structures associated with the aqueduct were added to the National Register of Historic Places.

It is interesting to note that, during the water main break of May 2010, the Sudbury Aqueduct was put into service to maintain the area’s water supply.


Further Reading

Sudbury Aqueduct Trail, Natick Massachusetts

MWRA Aqueduct Trails Program

MWRA Water System

History of the MWRA Water System


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Posted April 23, 2014

Historic Withdrawls Reservoir Levels