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Water Problems

The search for water:

Throughout the period 1920 to 1965 shortage of water was a constant problem for the Town Council as it tried to improve the housing stock and its amenities. In 1936 it employed water diviner Charles Greig, who found enough springs to be connected to the Castlebrae cistern the following year. This helped to provide a total supply, considered to be satisfactory, of about 50 gallons per head per day, from Castlebrae ‘Old’ and ‘New’ and North Cranna sources.
However as the Town Council embarked on its postwar housing programme, it was obvious that more water was required. In 1947 as the Cruden scheme began, it was suggested that “the small well adjoining [the Back Spoot] was capable of meeting needs, but probably pumping from Arkland Burn would be the only solution for South St houses”.

The following year a pump was installed at the North Cranna reservoir and it was estimated the supply from all sources was 25000 gallons a day, which should be enough for the burgh population of 900, at 27 gallons per household per day. (An average 21st Century household uses around 100 gallons!) However it was felt a lot of water must be leaking, including at a suspect section in North Street where, according to Hugh Youngson, the construction of the Memorial Hall had damaged the water main.
As a result, the water often had to be turned off overnight and at one stage “instruction was given that the bell be sent round the burgh and warn householders regarding waste of water and leaks.” (This use of a town crier was at that time the standard means of issuing Council notices.)

WCs increase demand:

A further consideration was that the Town Council was under pressure from the Department of Health and its own Sanitary Inspector to have all houses provided with WCs. This would allow people to end the traditional system whereby the contents of dry privies were periodically emptied out onto the ashpits in their gardens. These ashpits were then cleared by the town carter and deposited in Causewayend Quarry. In 1950 about half of houses still had ashpits, but by 1953 the proportion had dropped to just 13%. Thus demand for water continued to grow.
It was at this time that one property owner found himself in dispute with the Town Council. It had given him 28 days to install WCs and sinks at 13-15 North Street for his three tenants who, over a year later, complained again about their sanitary arrangements. The Council minutes record that the owner “pointed out that drains and tanks had been laid down but one tenant refused to allow installation of a lavatory in the shed occupied by her.” After further discussion he stated that he was not prepared to build a new shed for a WC, and the statement that there was no lavatory was not correct, there was a dry closet. “The actlon of the Council in rehousing one of the other tenants had relieved the number using this accommodation. Poultry, cattle, etc complained of had been removed.” This apparently was the end of the matter.

1959 – crisis year:

Further steps were taken in 1956 when an “augmentation scheme” at Castlebrae was undertaken, but three years later the water problem reached crisis proportions. The summer was a particularly dry one, and by September the supply was being turned off in the afternoon as well as overnight. Arrangements were made for a County Council tanker of 800 gallons capacity to transport water from the nearest available supply at Alehouseburn to the Castlebrae cistern. By November a lot of rain meant the supply was back to reasonable, although it dropped a little at weekends “owing to duplicate washing of school milk bottles”, and all restrictions were removed.

David Beckley owns a map he obtained while residing at Easter Corskie. It shows the lines taken by pipes from Foggie’s two water sources – the 19th Century one at Cranna and the 1956 one at Castlebrae – which fed into a cistern at the top of what is now Old Road. There is now no sign of the cistern above ground.
Two sections of the map have been adapted to show its north and south ends:

Cleanhill Reservoir:

As house-building continued, a major project was obviously required and in 1962 Mr Eaton, the Sanitary Inspector, produced a report proposing pumping water from a well near Kinnairdy Castle beside the River Deveron.
This was eventually adapted to provide a better quality of water by using a site at Braehead, west of the Bridge of Marnoch.
The scheme, designed by W A Fairhurst of Aberdeen, involved building a pumping station and laying four miles of pipes from the Deveron to a reservoir at the top of Cleanhill, with a chlorination station halfway at Auchintoul and a link to the old Corskie reservoir at the east end of the Burgh.

In June 1967 tenders from L A Anderson for new water mains and the chlorination house, and from Lewis Middleton Ltd for the pumping station and concrete storage reservoir, were accepted.
Cleanhill Reservoir (original appearance)
By May 1969 Aberchirder finally had enough water to supply not only existing housing but also the local authority and private housing about to mushroom at the north-east end of the old Burgh, as well as the industry which the Council hoped to attract.