The first petition for a city water works was presented in 1888. Three years later, Ames Water Works was established when the city placed water mains and hydrants were authorized for installation on Main Street at the cost of the property owners. Also in 1891 the city council authorized not more than $8.00 a month paid to Charles Graves to look after the hoses and cart and a man to operate water works pump for 18 cents an hour and look after water hose trough. P.C. Compton received the job of tending the pump. To keep the wooden water tank in good repair, the in 1894 the council let a contract for $3.50 to cleaning it out and tightening the bolts.
Water main bonds were sold by the city in 1896. A wooden water tank was built in the alley on Kellogg between Main and Fifth. It stood beside both what was then the city jail, and the city hall building. There were two town pumps on Main Street. The first well, a shallow one, was located at the corner of Main and Douglas. This was a meeting place for the early residents of Ames. Another pump was placed at the Kellogg and Main corner, and is said to have been topped with a windmill. There were four cement steps to climb to reach the handle of the manual pump. No filter system for water had been included; the water came directly from the ground. Special charges were established for special water users. Dray men paid 5 cents a barrel and 25 cents a tank for their needs. The Ames & College Railway Dinkey which connected Ames to Iowa State College was assessed $6.00 per month to accommodate the needs of its steam engine. Frank Allen paid $8.00 a month for street sprinkling.
In 1900 the first sprinkling was done on the streets of the business district. The first steel water tank was constructed in 1906. The Ames water system continued to expand, and by 1952, Ames was using four wells. Three wells were located on the site occupied by the municipal water and power plants, and the fourth well was located at the northeast corner of Bandshell Park.
A booster pumping station located at the intersection of Squaw Creek and Lincoln Way served west Ames, and provided the pressure for the elevated tank near Sheldon and Hunt streets.
The clarifier tank, where the water is softened by treating with lime, is seen in the foreground. Directly behind the clarifier is the settling tank which is topped by the aerator. Because of security concerns during World War II, the decision was made to protect the most vulnerable areas of the water plant. A wire mesh screen was then fitted to prevent access to the aerator.