Irrigation in Cemeteries

Date Published: 
September, 1895
Original Author: 
F. Von Holdt
Original Publication: 
AACS Proceedings of the 9th Annual Convention

Not only in the western part of the United States; where the application of water in parks and cemeteries becomes an absolute necessity, but also throughout the Middle and Atlantic States, artificial irrigation should be provided for, at least in the best parts of the cemeteries at the entrance, etc. Any of these states at any time suffer from the droughts which will dry up the lawns, sometimes beyond recovery. At such times cemeteries which might be ever so well kept under ordinary circumstances, present perfect eyesores. It can be avoided and it should be.

Above all the supply of water is the main requisite and where it can not be had, a cemetery should not be located. This must be looked after before starting the enterprise, not afterwards, as it is sometimes done, especially if a real estate scheme is connected with the selection of a place for a cemetery. But whatever the supply of water, the preferable method is to run or pump it into a reservoir, which will fill the distributing pipes by gravity pressure. The water can, in this case, be settled, cleared and warmed in the reservoir and the distribution and pressure through all the small pipes is alike and even. Wherever the water is pumped into the pipes directly from the source of supply, the pressure is apt to be uneven, while at the same time the force at the mouth of the pipe or hose is not above the one obtained by gravity pressure. And again in the fall of the year the water supplied by rivers especially if cemeteries are below large cities, gets so putrid as to make it unfit for artificial irrigation in a cemetery. On the other hand, the system of pumping the water into the pipes is both costly and unreliable it requires very powerful pumps, which easily get out of order perhaps just when you have to depend on them. For all these reasons I favor the supply from a good well or a clear stream from which water can be pumped or run into a reservoir situated at a point above the cemetery, which insures sufficient pressure.

Experience shows, that no small pipes should be used, two-inch pipes being the smallest size to be recommended. The common small pipe, which is used in private gardens, where short pieces are laid only, will fill up in course of time with sediments and become useless, wherever they are used in such long stretches, as they become necessary in a cemetery. For laying the pipes the superintendent must have the knowledge of the general principles of hydraulics and hydrostatics, and above all he must lay all his pipes in a manner which will allow flushing and draining empty in the fall of the year.

Cast iron pipes are the best under all circumstances and should be used exclusively. Open ditches should not be allowed in cemeteries, unless absolutely unavoidable. They are unsightly and might cause damage at any time by overflowing.

In laying the main pipes, we in the West do not take so much trouble as our Eastern friends, we do not have to lay them out of the reach of frost, a trench of eighteen inches depth is all the labor we do. Having our pipes out of the reach of the plow is all we care for, our climate allows us this commodity. The ground does not get moist enough to raise stones or pipes at the opening of spring. The depth of trenches for pipes should be varied with the climate.

Whether lawns should be sprinkled or flooded, is another question, which comes up in artificially irrigated cemeteries. While flooding answers the purpose often very well in parks. I do not like this mode in cemeteries. Sprinkle, and give every man as many sprinklers and as much hose as the supply and pressure will permit. People do not like to see water soak down into the graves and that settles the question in my mind.

I think I have touched all the vital points now, which come into consideration on this question and will make room for the discussion of the subject.

From the publication:
AACS - Proceedings of the 9th Annual Convention
Richmond, VA
September 18, 19 and 20, 1895