Here's part of the debate about generating electricity for motive power. The arguments are correct but they ignore the fact that although water power was good for rotary motion in a few places (say two or three engines in one factory) the future for electricity included light, heat, multiple powered devices and including portable devices like vacuum cleaners - probaly and understandable not envisaged by the correspondent CRAWSHAW
North Otago Times , 27 June 1912, Page 4
THE ELECTRICITY SCHEME. To the Editor. Sir,-I was glad to read your' leader on the above subject, because it advises thorough investigation and caution.'You say: "But so much is being written in an irresponsible way upon the subject that we deem it wise to refer to the question, if only in order to warn the public against forming a judgment upon incomplete evidence." Your warning to the public is sound, if it is adopted and practised by both sides of tho question. For myself, I felt the duty and responsibility- of writing to the press what I know about the Oamaru waterworks and water power questions, with which I was closely, connected for 26 years out of the last 32 years. I gave the information for the benefit of the ratepayers and the members of the Borough Council, and the statements can be verified from your newspaper files and the Council's official records. It would be a great pleasure for me to know that during the last six years the carrying capacity of the water race had been increased so that the necessary quantity of water for increased power purposes can he utilised for generating electricity, or other purposes. There is one phase of the power question that has not been publicly, referred to, viz., the loss of efficiency of the water power in Oamaru if using it for generation of electricity., and the re-conversion of it again to motive power. The following quotation from Mr P. S. Hay's (C.B.j report on New Zealand water power is, etc. will throw some light on the subject. Page I'Throughout this report 80 per cent efficiency is taken for all water motors, and the power given is brake horse-power (B.H.P.'/ on the turbine shaft," Page 2 "The revenue has been computed on the assumption that power paid for is 60% of the b.h.p. on the turbine shaft, £l2 a year being charged for the continuous working."
Page 35,—"it is not necessary to assume that all the energy available from water power should be converted into electrical energy, then re-converted into kinetic energy of motion, with the resulting heavy losses involved in conversion, transmission" and re-conversion." Now, sir, in my opinion the above quotations should settle the question against electricity in regard to abandoning all water motors in use or abandoning any Water Motors or application of water power direct from the water mains, because of the great loss of efficiency. l am, etc., S. CRAWSHAW.
A little Like Phillidelphia, the drinking water there was used for energy too.
Following a series of yellow fever epidemics in the late 18th century (which was at the time thought to be caused by unclean water or by rotting matter in the streets) city leaders appointed a "Watering Committee". The initial water system was designed by Benjamin Latrobe and accepted by the committee in 1799. His system utilized two steam engines (in series) to pump water from the Schuylkill River, into the city, then into two wooden tanks that held a total of just 57,000 gallons. From the wooden tanks, the water was gravity fed into a series of wooden water mains. The system was plagued with problems. If either of the steam engines failed, the water supply to the city was cut off. HIstoric American Engineering Record 1978 The committee began searching for another solution and eventually picked John Davis and Frederick Graff (Latrobe's apprentice and successor as chief engineer) to design a new waterworks, in order to meet the demand of the increasing numbers of city residents  and to solve the problem of inadequate storage capacity. The Fairmount Water Works was initially constructed between 1812 and 1815 on the east bank of the Schuylkill River. The Water Works initially consisted of a 3 million gallon (11,350,000 L) earthen reservoir atop Faire Mount (now site of the Philadelphia Museum of Art), and a pump house with two steam engines to pump water. Between 1819 and 1821, a 1,600-foot-long (487 m) dam was built across the Schuylkill to direct water to a Mill House with three water wheels that replaced the steam engines in 1822. Later, Jonval turbines were used to lift the water in a New Mill House and in the renovated Old Mill House.