Public water service

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Public water service


The original installation at Vicart photographed by Albert Smith

The first meeting to discuss the establishment of a piped water supply for St Helier was held in 1847, attended by the Bailiff and Lieut-Governor, but it was to be another 22 years before anything happened


Newspaper records

Work under way on Grands Vaux reservoir
Millbrook Reservoir photographed by Albert Smith

Company formed

In 1863 the Jersey Waterworks Company was formed, with the blessing of the States and the Parish of St Helier. The company’s intention was to pump water from a large well to supply a small reservoir near Vicart Mill in what is now known as Waterworks Valley. On 29 September 1869 a grand inauguration ceremony was held at which the Lieut-Governor, Bailiff, Dean and Attorney-General all made speeches at a meal after the Lieut-Governor had turned the first sod.

But the supply from the well, even augmented by water from the valley stream, proved inadequate and the company went bankrupt in 1882, to be taken over by the Jersey New Waterworks Company.

The new company had a new policy. Wells were abandoned and a filtration plant was started at Millbrook in 1884, fed from the St Lawrence stream and then pumped to a service reservoir at Mont Felard.

First storage reservoir

Work started in 1895 on a 12 million gallon storage reservoir in the valley as demand for a piped supply began to grow steadily. Two years later three new sand filters were constructed for the purification plant.

A second storage reservoir – Dannemarche – was constructed in 1908-1909 further up the valley, adding another 28 million gallons to the storage capacity. The First World War slowed the growth in demand but a record year of low rainfall in 1921 prompted moves to seek more storage and in 1929 work began on the construction of Handois Reservoir further up the valley, more than doubling the total capacity to 90 million gallons.

This was followed by the creation of a second water treatment plant, at Handois, using the latest chemical treatment.

St Peter's Valley

Steadily growing demand led to a plant being constructed in St Peter’s Valley in 1934 so that the stream there could be used to increase supply. Water was pumped from a small reservoir at La Hague to Handois. A similar plant was constructed in Mourier Valley in 1939 to capture water from another stream. After the Second World War the island’s population, and its demand for water, began to grow rapidly, and not only did the mains network have to spread out to St Brelade, St Clement and other areas of new housing, but storage capacity and the actual supply of water extracted from streams by the existing plants would again prove inadequate.

Another storage reservoir was constructed in Grands Vaux; a new filtration plant was built at Handois; a new trunk main to St Helier was installed and other parts of the company’s network were upgraded. The total cost was in the region of £450,000, nearly 50 per cent more than the total spent on all the company’s facilities up to 1945.

But even this was not enough, and in May 1957 work started on the building of the largest reservoir yet, at Val de la Mare in St Ouen. In 1991 the latest reservoir was constructed at Queen’s Valley in the east of the island, despite enormous controversy over the flooding of another beautiful valley. A desalination plant at La Rosière began operation in 1970 and was converted from a sea water distillation plant to a reverse osmosis plant in 1999.

The water treatment plant
Millbrook Reservoir

Further reading


Jersey New Waterworks Company website

Millbrook reservoir

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