Till about the middle of 19th century Chennai received water from local shallow wells and tanks.Mr.Fraser, a civil engineer forwarded a proposal to the government to tap the Kortalayar river which is situated about 160 km north west of chennai and it was accepted.
The project comprised of a masonry weir across Kortalayar at Tamarapakkam and diverting the water into Cholavaram lake and hence into the Red Hills lake through a channel.
The works were completed in 1870 at a cost of about Rs. 18.50 lakhs.In 1872 a Valve House at Red Hills and an earthen Supply channel to supply water to chennai by gravitation was constructed. At Chennai end, the channel delivered water by gravity into a masonry shaft at Kilpauk from which the cast iron mains of the City branched off and a scientifically designed water supply Distribution System was established.
- Constuction of covered underground masonry conduit from intake tower called Jones Tower to Kilpauk.
- Constuction of 14 slow sand filters at Kilpauk Water Works.
- Constuction of 3 pure water masonry tanks at Kilpauk Water Works.
- Installation of three high duty steam engine.
- Laying of 48" steel pumping main from Kilpauk to the shaft where the trunk mains start.
- Remodelling, altering and extending the distribution system to ensure adequate supply under sufficient pressure.
According to Mr.J.W.MADELEY these were considered sufficient for an anticipated population of 6.6 lakhs in 1961 at 25 gallons per head per day. But the need for further improvement was felt in 1936 itself.