There has been much debate amongst the group as to the dates at which running water and mains supplies were linked to various properties in the village. Water supply was of huge importance to rural life – without it, crops would not prosper and animals would not thrive. To rural women, the lack of an adequate water supply made domestic chores take even longer and more arduous as the water had to be fetched, heated and disposed of in a sanitary fashion. Even with a well or pump in the back yard or garden, this added to the daily workload.
The WI was greatly concerned with promoting the installation of adequate water supplies and drainage in rural areas. Sheena has found the following information amongs the National Federation of WIs archives, now held in the The Women’s Library, London.
1943 NFWI passed this resolution: “This meeting is of the opinion that the 3 main services- water, sewerage & electricity – should be a national responsibility & that it should be possible to compel local authorities to take action to ensure adequate provision is is made in the country as well as in towns.”
1944 Questionnaire sent to every county in England & Wales by NFWI to find out the position on water & sewage in all villages. Extracts from the findings are shocking to today’s readers:
Of Cookhill’s population, 80% had earth closets or buckets. The School had no running water, it’s well was in the burial ground & had been condemned.
The longest distance one had to carry one’s water from the pump or well was supposed to be 200 feet – but returns show it was often contaminated.
Drought in some villages would occur after just 2 weeks of no rain. If access to water was from a standpipe the hours of availability were often rationed & could depend on pressure.
Farms: since 1943 NFWI had been urging for good & ample water supply, generally & to farms in particular, especially for improving milk supplies.
5th July 1949 General Secretary of NFWI wrote to Members of Parliament about 2 aspects of water supply. The letter asks for bore holes, wells & other small scale fresh water supplies whilst still waiting for mains water. It highlights appalling sanitary conditions in schools.
(Archive ref: Box 144, File, 5/WF1/D/1/2/66 – water supplies)
Rural water mandates passes at AGMs (National Federation of WIs Mandates: 1928, 1930, 1934, 1943, 1949).
Grant aid to farm water supply schemes installed by owners & occupiers of agricultural land had been reviewed and was by now available for all types of agricultural and horticultural food production instead of confined to cattle & milk production. The grants supported schemes making use of private water source – flat rate 40% of reasonable cost (15th March 1950)
Working parties were being set up to look at various materials for small diameter water pipes – galvanised steel created problems, therefore looking at plastics and other non metallic materials.
Water softening was highly recommended in areas of hard water & practical means to increase the efficiency in control of supplies & in waste prevention.
On 6 March 1950, the King’s Speech at the Opening of Parliament tackled the matter head on:
“The economic difficulties of this country have emphasised the need for renewed effort to expand the production of food from our own soil, and My Government will continue to take all practical steps to encourage our agricultural population to increase output by every efficient means and to make better use of marginal land. The improvement of water supplies, particularly in rural areas, will continue to occupy the attention of My Ministers and preparatory steps will be taken with a view to the introduction of legislation as soon as circumstances permit.