On June 28, 1895, the University of Illinois Board of Trustees resolved to set aside funds from a special $5,000 appropriation for changes to the UI Chemical Laboratory $2,750 to “cover the expense of carrying on a systematic survey of the waters of the state.” (Report of the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois1894/96). This action established the State Water Survey of Illinois now known as the Illinois State Water Survey (ISWS). The focus of these early surveys was on public health and the safety of public water supplies of the state. Similar work is carried on today by the Illinois State Water Survey Public Service Laboratory.
In addition to the reports on statewide sampling of water supplies, the Bulletins included investigations of typhoid outbreaks, reports on water quality of rivers based on extensive sampling, reports on targeted investigation of pollution at specific sites, and investigations of sampling methodology and other matters related to the ongoing work of the Water Survey.
The reports on this work were published between 1897 and 1920. The first two reports were published as standalone documents. Beginning with the 3rd report, they were published in the University of Illinois Bulletins as the "Water Survey Series." In 1919 the Bulletin of the Illinois State Water Survey continued the Water Survey Series.