THE ISLAND'S WATER SUPPLY
The Island's water supply was one of the first subjects to trouble the Local Board of Health after its institution in May, 1867 and it proved a costly and difficult problem. Wells and ponds were the main source of supply, and there were many complaints as to its adequacy and purity. Easton Pond, in particular, was a, fruitful source of dispute, and was charged with contaminating the parish pump. The local inquiry in 1871 into the condition of the Island, ordered by the Home Secretary, resulted in Easton Pond being condemned, and vanishing of sight.
Then the Local Board offered prizes for the best schemes of drainage and water supply The belief died hard that the Island itself could provide an adequate water supply for a large population. In 1890 a shaft was begun at Southwell; it was finished in May 1895, and cost £6,000. There were "glowing prospects of success" until the shaft went too deep into the Kimmeridge clay and the water turned brackish. Then the enterprise was abandoned, and the Urban District Council which had come into power, acting on the advice of their clerk (Mr J. Howard Bowen) sought a source of water supply outside the Island.
In view of the value of Portland as a great naval station the Island's water supply has more than a local interest, it has a national importance. In March, 1896 the search for a water source at Upwey proved successful on land belonging to Capt. Gould. The first well was sunk about 40 yards from the Wishing Well on the opposite side of the road, in a small valley. Water was found at a depth of 21 feet. The well yielded considerably over 400,000 gallons per day. In January, 1898, after a local enquiry, the Local Government Board sanctioned the Council's Upwey Scheme, the plans for which were drawn by Mr E. J. Elford the Council's Engineer and Surveyor, and the works were carried out under his supervision. A second shaft was sunk some distance further up the valley at Upwey, to meet the requirements of the local Government Board. Here the main pumping station was erected, the water being lifted to a large reservoir 600 yards away on the hill, 545 feet above sea level. From the reservoir the water is carried for no less than ten miles, in ten inch mains, to Portland, the distance to Ferry Bridge being 16,200 yards.
The supply is conveyed at high pressure to every part of the Island including the highest point, the Verne Citadel. The Government departments and the Prison, as well as the civilian population are supplied from the Councils works, and also the village of Upwey, just below the source of the Council's supply. The well at Upwey was sunk at the spot indicated by Mr Hawkins of the Government Geological Survey Department. The highest point at the Verne is 495 feet. Messrs Bostol, Sons and Peattie's tender of £28,570 was accepted for carrying out the work. Between the inception of the Upwey scheme and its sanction by the Local Government Board the Portland Urban Council spent, over £3,000 in successfully opposing the bill promoted by the Weymouth Water Co., with the object inter alia, of securing the right to supply water to Portland, including the Government departments. The total capital cost of the water works (including the Yeates Reservoir) has been £45,869. By the Urban Council's Act of 1900, £36,551 of the loans were consolidated and extended to a uniform period of 50 years, bearing an interest at 3¼ per cent. The charges for water for domestic consumption are included in the General District Rate; but the Council derives an increasingly large revenue from special water rentals for trade and business purposes.
Messrs Bostol Son and Peattie commenced their contract on April 7th 1898. The main contract was not completed without some trouble, but by 1899 the whole of the works were finished and Portland enjoying a supply of the purest water. The reservoir at Upwey is hewn out of solid chalk and is circular in shape. If has a capacity of 500,000 gallons equal to 2½ days' maximum supply. There is also a large stone reservoir at Portland finished in 1903 from designs by Mr Elford. Unfortunately a slight crack developed in the structure, which has since only been in partial use. In February, 1905, the Council was advised by Mr Hawkins to sink another well at Upwey in order to augment the water supply.
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