The Royal Commission on the London Water Supply.

The Royal Commission on the London Water Supply.

The Royal Commission on the Metropolitan Water Supply having adjourned over the Whitsuntide recess, will resume their inquiry on Monday next. They have already held about half a dozen sittings for evidence, and have heard the cases— in self-defense it may be said—of the New River Water Company, the East London Company, the Lambeth Company, the Southwark and Vauxhall Company, the West Middlesex Company, the Grand Junction Company and the Chelsea Company. The main purpose of these interested parties has been, of course, to show that their resources are ample, and will be for years to come, without any fresh sources being sought for t,y the metropolis, and that their supply is pure and good. On those points their evidence has been emphatic and apparently conclusive, and with regard to the question of purity those companies utilizing the Lea have gained strong support from officers of the Lea Conservancy, who have testified very clearly as to the freedom of that river from pollution. Evidence has likewise been given to the effect that a large quantity of additional water pan be drawn from the Thames without injury either to the river or to any on6 concerned in it. Good progress has thus far been made with the inquiry, but anxious as the commissioners are to proceed rapidly, their task will probably prove a very long one. They are evidently bent on making their investigation thorough and exhaustive, and they have formulated something in the nature of a distinct programme. As the president. Lord Balfour of Burleigh, explained, they regard the inquiry as dividing itself into two main branches—one relating to the amount of water required and supplied per head of the population, the sources at the company’s command, and the grounds upon which their estimates for the future may be founded ; the other dealing with such questions as the geological nature of the basins of the Thames and the Lea. They propose, as far as possible, to exhaust one branch before taking up the other, and then, although they will aim at narrowing the field of illimitable discussion as far as they can by arriving at some basis of agreement, they propose to get information from any and every one who may be able to instruct and advise them. This course seems to open up instead of excluding a very wide field, but on the other hand the commissioners have very distinctly intimated that they will exclude anything in evidence which does not appear to be relevant to the inquiry. In connection with the commission ic is worth noting that the Birmingham water bill, notwithstanding a further attempt at resistance in the House of Commons, has been read a third time. Whether, however, it can get through the Upper House before the dissolution is quite an open question.

The Royal Commission on the London Water Supply.

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The Royal Commission on the London Water Supply.

After several preliminary sittings for the arrangement of procedure and other details, the Royal Commission appointed to inquire into the question of the metropolitan water supply met for evidence recently.

James Searlc, clerk to the New River Water Company, gave some statistics relating to the number of houses in that company’s supply district. In the twenty years from 1851 to 1871 the houses they supplied with water had increased by 31,000, and from 1871 to 1891 the increase was 35,000. There was thus a total increase in forty years of 66,000 houses, equal to an annual increase of 1665 houses. In 1891 the average daily supply was 32,028,000 gallons, and of that amount 22,500 000 gallons came from the River Lea, and the balance from Chadwell spring and wells. It might be expected that at the end of another forty years the demand would reach 47,250,000 gallons; but there would be means of meeting that demand, for he believed the tendency on the part of the people for more and more water for comfort and luxury had reached a point beyond which the company would not feel it much.

Joseph Francis, engineer to the New River Company, of whose wells he superintended the construction twenty years since, supported Mr. Searle’s views and figures, and stated that the average quantity of water taken daily last year from the Chad well spiing was 2,000,000 gallons, while 8 ⅛ million gallons were taken from the wells. They expected to get in future from that source 34,000.000 gallons daily, and that estimate was based upon what each well could do and had done over a number of weeks, pumping day and night. 1 he general policy of the company was to use the 22]million gillons regularly from the Lea and the Chadwell springs, and then to take water from the wells as required. All the wells were, with perhaps one exception, in constant use. He did not believe there was any ground for complaints from the north of their district as to their operations having reduced the water in wells in the district, for only a spring issuing in the immediate neighborhood of one of their wells would be affected.

The president observed that the Cheshunt local board had found it desirable to have their wells as far as possible from the pumping operations of both the New River Company and the East London Company. The wells were 150 feet deep, and three years ago they overflowed, but now the water did not rise even to within fifty feet of the surface unless the company’s pumping ceased for some time. It was also said that many of the rivers in Herts now rose considerably below the points at which they had their source twenty years ago, and were very much diminished in volume, as were also the water springs.

Mr. Francis replied that he could not understand these allegations, because none of the levels of their wells had sunk fifty feet or anything approaching that; and the surveyor to the Cheshunt local board had stated son e time ago that the yield of water and the standing level in their new well were entirely unaltered by the pumping operations of the company. From Turnford Well northward there had been no lowering of the water levels in the chalk during the last twenty years. There had, however, been a considerable lowering of the water under London, and the fall of level in the upper valley of the Lea probably was due to increased drainage of fields. If his company pumped all their wells continuously they could still depend on the quantity he had estimated for the future, and lie added that the water in the Lea was very carefully protected from pollution, and kept at a high standard of purity. The company were, in fact, constantly improving it. He estimated that the average quantity of water which might be stored would be about 10,000,000 gallons a day throughout the year. Taking the East London supply first and the quantity required for the navigation, which amounted together to about 28.000,000 gallons, there would be a daily surplus of 41,000,exx) gallons during the half year out of an average of nearly 69.000,000 gallons that went down the Lea in the winter. That gave 20,000.000 gallons a day for twelve months, or 10,000 000 gallons to each company, and an average throughout the year of io.ooo.ooo gallons. He believed there were sites up the Lea where the water might be stored, and the cost would perhaps be between ,£300,000 and ^400,000.

At the second sitting of the commission, V. B. Bryan, engineer to the East London Water Company, staled that the water they took finally left the Lea at Chingford Mill, and the average daily quantity taken was 35,000,000 gallons. He calculated that for the future 30,000,000 gallons a day would be a safe amount to take from the Lea, and the full amount from the I hamex. On one occasion, for about four weeks in 1885, they had taken 9,000,000 gallons a slay from the Thames, but never so much since that time. The water at the point where they took it was decidedly improving. During flood they did not take water from the Thames, but relied on their reservoir up the Left. They also closed their intake from the Lea when that river was in flood, and their standby supply was good and ample. Their storage capacity was nominally 9(0,000,(00 gallons, but in reality more. 11 is company anti the New River Company proposed to draw from wells in future 44,000.000 gallons a day more than they drew nt present, and he was satisfied that that was a safe estimate, because there was an immense volume of water running to waste in a southeasterly direction into the Thames towards I’m lice t and Grays.

Professor Boyd Dawkins, W. Topley, J. II. Barnes, Major Flower and W. C. Young were briefly examined and the com mission adjourned.