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Journal of the Nelson and Marlborough Historical Societies, Volume 1, Issue 3, November 1983

Nelson City Water Works, Built 1868

Nelson City Water Works, Built 1868

With the present proposal to greatly extend the city water supply scheme it appears appropriate to record the humble beginnings of the municipal supply which was first in use well over a century ago. Alfred Saunders, who was elected as Superintendent of the Province in 1865, left the following short record.

"When the Provincial Council voted £20.000 for a water supply for the city of Nelson 1 sent Mr Blackett, Provincial Engineer, to Melbourne to see what he could learn from what had been done there. I then sent to Ransome and Simms for a complete supply of all that was necessary and we obtained a supply of excellent water for £300 less than the amount voted. The £20,000 was borrowed on debentures…"

The Reservoir. – Tyree Photo. Nelson Provincial Museum.

The Reservoir. – Tyree Photo. Nelson Provincial Museum.

page 15

John Blackett was the Provincial Engineer at the time while Henry Handiside was engaged at a salary of £250 per annum to assist with the work. In general the scheme was to build a concrete dam in the Brook stream, three miles from Nelson and at 300 feet above high water sea level, and run the water into a reservoir before being piped to the city. The reservoir was simply intended to ensure that dirty water, in time of floods, did not enter the town supply.

The Provincial Engineer reported on May 29, 1867 that two vessels had arrived bringing portions of the plant for the water works. Ransome and Simms (England) had been very prompt in executing the the order sent to them in May 1866. The first two shipments had arrived in March 1867 and he was awaiting the balance as it was not possible to lay the pipes until those shipments arrived. Work had been commenced on the dray road up Brook Street Valley to the site of the reservoir at the head of the valley. It was hoped to commence the dam shortly.

On April 13, 1868, Blackett reported that the whole of the cast iron piping had been laid from the dam to the town and that the dam had been filled with water several times. The full pressure had been laid on in the pipes. Bray and Lloyd had carried out the contract for the dam and retaining wall, the pipe bridges, and forming the road to the reservoir. John Scott was the contractor for the reservoir. The pipe laying contractor had failed to carry out the work and it was completed by day labour. The scheme was opened for use on April 16, 1867.

A. D. Dodson, in his reminscences, stated that the reservoir was shattered by earthquake soon after being built and that the water was piped direct from the dam.

The Provincial Engineer, Dodson' in his annual report, dated May 4, 1874, stated (quote) "As the mains are extended year by year the necessity for an increased supply becomes more apparent. A larger main should be laid from the dam to the reservoir as soon as possible. I propose laying a 10 inch main from the dam to the reservoir, which will cost about £1,500." (There are further comments about plans to complete the reticulation of the town, extending the mains, and similar work).

By then the first Nelson City Council had been formed and the water works became the responsibility of the new body which replaced the Board of Works under the Provincial Council.

The further developments do not come within the scope of this article as the Nelson City Council history has been well written.

View of the Water Dam. Brook Street Valley. Nelson.

View of the Water Dam. Brook Street Valley. Nelson.