Water supply

Alex Kerr

The East Lothian Water Order Confirmation Act, a privately submitted Bill to parliament in 1936, constituted East Lothian Water Board (ELWB) in 1938. This amalgamated the undertakings of East Lothian County Council, the royal burghs (except North Berwick), and East Lothian (Western District) Water Board. It also permitted a new treatment works to be constructed at Whittingehame, and a service reservoir at Traprain Law.

The impounding reservoirs of Hopes, Stobshiel, Lammerloch, Thorters, Donolly, Crichton and Spott (total capacity 550 million gallons/ 2.5 million cubic metres) were in use, with treatment works at Hopes, Stobshiel, Tranent Mains, Prestonpans, East Linton, North Berwick, Tyninghame and Dunbar. Springs at Aberlady, Keithhill, Longyester, Gifford, Chesters, Pathhead, Innerwick, Oldhamstocks, Stenton and Crichtonwere used to supply various parts of the county. A total of 23 service reservoirs, mostly of brick construction, stored water to meet the fluctuations in the demand. Consumption was 1.98 million gallons per day.

The headquarters was based in the county council offices in Haddington, with 8 staff employed; a superintendent (Adam Robson), three reservoir/filter attendants, one reservoir attendant, one inspector, a temporary assistant and a clerical assistant, with the burgh surveyors acting as consultants. Two waste inspectors were added to the staff in 1947. It should be noted that no mechanical transport was available, bicycles being the mode of transport. Local contractors carried out minor mainlaying and repair work, with GH Hill & Sons employed as consultants on larger projects.

The Rural Water Supply and Sewerage Act 1944 provided the water undertakings with grant aid to improve and develop the public supply system. Full use was made of this Act by ELWB and their successor over the next 30 years to form the distribution system that we have to day. Thereafter, schemes to serve those communities not already on a public supply still attracted grant. The Act was repealed in 1996.

During world war two the network was on a care and maintenance basis, but immediately after a 12″ main was laid from Pencaitland to supply Tranent, and a 9″ main laid in 1948 from Garleton to augment the supply to North Berwick which doubled during the summer months due to the influx of holiday makers. The drought of 1947 was followed by the 1948 flood, which breached the reservoirs of Thorters, Stobshiel and Spott, which was abandoned. The drought of 1949 together with the continuing rise in daily consumption (now 2.53 million gallons per day) made ELWB aware that additional sources were required to meet the demand. The result was the Whiteadder Scheme.

This was a river intake on the Whiteadder Water near Hungry Snout, the water being pumped through an 18″ main to discharge into Thorters reservoir. A new outlet was installed during the flood damage repairs, and an 18″ main laid to the treatment works constructed at Whittingehame. A 15″ main conveyed the potable water to Garleton service reservoir for distribution to North Berwick and Haddington. Work commenced in 1951 with the scheme inaugurated in 1955. The late 1950s consolidated the availability of this source with mains laid to introduce Whiteadder water to Dunbar, Stenton, Gullane and Prestonpans.

By 1959, four miles of pipe were being laid each year to supply new housing developments. Due to another drought year, emergency measures to abstract water directly from rivers had to be introduced to meet the daily consumption of 3.04 million gallons. The South of Scotland Electricity Board’s proposal to build a coal-fired power station at Cockenzie using 0.65 million gallons per day for steam production, made ELWB aware that a further reliable source had to be found. It was decided to construct a reservoir on the Whiteadder Water adjacent to the existing river intake.

Work commenced in 1961 with various pipelaying contracts; a 10″ from Penston to a new service reservoir at Kingslaw, therefrom twin 10″ mains to Cockenzie Power Station; a 12″ from Garleton to Penston; a 15″ from Whittingehame to Penston, and a 10″ from Longniddry to Kingslaw. This network provided a reliable interconnection between the various assets to ensure that water would always be available should a failure occur in the system.

Resolving of the legal proceedings allowed work on the reservoir to commence in late 1964. The dam, 220 yards long and 90 feet high would store 1750 million gallons, sufficient to meet the County’s needs through expansion and drought for many years. Provision was made in the design for the dam to be raised by 40 feet should the need arise. A duplicate pumping main, 21″, was laid to Thorters reservoir. The scheme was completed in 1969.

With parliamentary changes enacted by the Water (Scotland) Act 1967, ELWB ceased to exist on 15th May 1968. A new body, the South East of Scotland Water Board was formed encompassing the networks of Edinburgh, East, Mid and West Lothian, Berwickshire, Peeblesshire, Selkirkshire and Roxburghshire. At this time, the impounding reservoirs of Hopes, Stobshiel, Lammerloch, Thorters and Donolly (capacity 515 million gallons) were in use, with treatment works at Hopes, Whittingehame, Stobshiel and Dunbar (capacity 5.4 million gallons per day). The springs at Keithhill, Longyester, Gifford, Pathhead, Innerwick and Oldhamstocks were still used. Eight new service reservoirs had been constructed, with three being abandoned. Consumption was 3.93 million gallons per day.

The headquarters had remained in the county council offices in Haddington with 13 staff employed; an area manager (Adam Robson), four reservoir/filter attendants, one reservoir attendant, two senior inspectors, four inspectors and a clerical assistant.

A steady rise in consumption in the early 1970s led to restrictions being put in place to curb the demand. Whilst there was a sufficiency of water, there was an inadequacy in treatment capacity. A break pressure reservoir was constructed at Castle Nick (south of Garvald) to receive the pumped flow from Whiteadder reservoir. A new 21″ main was laid to Castle Moffat where a treatment works and a four million gallon service reservoir was being constructed. A 24″ main was laid from there to Whittingehame and connected into the existing network system. This additional capacity proved to be of immediate benefit, as a 12″ main was laid from New Winton to Chalkieside, as an emergency, to provide Musselburgh with Whiteadder water, and alleviate the restrictions imposed on Midlothian due to a shortage of water from Gladhouse. From Whittingehame, an 18″ main was laid to a new three million gallon service reservoir at Traprain Law (first proposed under the 1938 Act). This supplied North Berwick and Dunbar through 12″ mains laid in 1974, with provision made for a main to be laid to the proposed power station that was to be built at Torness by the South of Scotland Electricity Board (laid 1983).

Official opening of the Whiteadder Reservoir scheme 31 October 1955
Official opening of the Whiteadder Reservoir scheme, 31 October 1955

This was the completion of the Whiteadder Scheme, a momentous achievement for East Lothian, providing a network of mains, which remains relatively untouched to 2000. GH Hill & Sons ceased to be employed as consultants as all major works were undertaken from the in house design team based at Fairmilehead, Edinburgh. Minor mainlaying, for housing and renewals, and repairs was still controlled from the sub regional office at Haddington, and was carried out by local contractors.

With the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1974, the water industry was reviewed again, and the South East of Scotland Water Board was split between three Regional Councils, East Lothian being transferred to Lothian Regional Council Water Supply Services on 15th May 1975. The headquarters was now based at Fairmilehead; the sub regional office at Court Street in Haddington employed 23 staff; a sub-regional engineer (Ian Smith), an assistant sub regional engineer, a technician, a reservoir/pumphouse attendant, four reservoir/filter attendants, two filter attendants, two senior inspectors, four inspectors, a waste inspector, two clerical assistants; a storeman and three labourers were based at a depot at Macmerry.

At the time of the changeover, the impounding reservoirs of Whiteadder, Hopes, Thorters, Donolly, Stobshiel and Lammerloch (capacity 2,245 million gallons) were in use, with treatment works at Castle Moffat, Whittingehame, Hopes, Stobshiel and Dunbar (capacity 12.4 million gallons per day). The springs of Dunbar and Gifford were still used. Consumption was 5.81 million gallons per day.

A period of upgrading and renewal followed to maintain the integrity of the infrastructure, with the bulk of the work being to divert the mains to accommodate railway bridge and roadwork schemes. The mains serving Cockenzie power station were diverted in 1978 to allow opencast mining to start at Blindwells, and the diversions for the Tranent by pass were completed in 1984.

Minor extensions utilising the grants available under the Rural Water Supply and Sewerage Act were carried out at Oldhamstocks in 1974, Humbie and Newbyth in 1977, Windymains in 1978, Fleets in 1979, Saltoun Hall in 1983, and at Stevenson estate and Eaglescairnie estate in 1983.

A further, internal, reorganisation took place in 1984 when the offices of Water Supply Services and Drainage were amalgamated to form Lothian Regional Council Water and Drainage Department. By this time the sub regional office had moved to Alderston House, Haddington. No further staffing or network changes had taken place with the exception of the spring supplies, which by now had all been abandoned. Consumption was now 7.25 million gallons per day. Diversionary work continued, with the Musselburgh by pass in 1985, Meadowmill roundabout in 1986, phase 2 at Blindwells in 1988, Bangley quarry extension in 1988 and the Tranent to Haddington dual carriageway in 1995. A 15″ main from Pathhead to Penston service reservoir introduced water from the Meggat Scheme into East Lothian in 1988. The programme of maintenance continued, with lead service replacement and main renewal and rationalisation taking priority. However, with the spending restrictions enforced on the department by Lothian Region, it became increasingly difficult to maintain the network, and in some cases renewal work was abandoned.

The Water Supply (Water Quality) (Scotland) Regulations 1990 empowered the council to provide the water to minimum set standards in quality both bacteriologically and chemically. The covers of all service reservoirs were replaced and defects repaired to minimize the possibility of contamination, with sampling points installed on the inlet and outlet mains and at the extremities of the distribution network to monitor the quality throughout the system from treatment works to customers’ taps.

The treatment works were also improved during the early 1990s, Castle Moffat having the addition of pre-treatment to remove the bulk of the organic matter prior to filtering, and Whittingehame totally refurbished to improve the finished water quality. A new service reservoir and sludge settlement tank was constructed at Hopes in 1991.

The Local Government Etc (Scotland) Act 1994 again reformed the controlling bodies, and East Lothian (together with Mid and West Lothian, Edinburgh, Forth Valley, Fife and Borders) came under the umbrella of a new public body, the East of Scotland Water Authority on the 1st April 1996. The local office was still based at Alderston House, Haddington employing 30 staff directly dealing with the water function; an area manager (Mike Thomson), an assistant area manager, a reservoir/pumphouse attendant, three reservoir/filter attendants, four filter attendants, a treatment controller, a senior technician, three technicians, three clerical assistants, two distribution officers, four water officers, a new works Inspector, a storeman and four labourers.

All the impounding reservoirs remained in use, with treatment at Castle Moffat, Whittingehame, Hopes and Stobshiel (capacity 12.3 million gallons per day). One new service reservoir had been constructed and four abandoned. Consumption was now 7.38 million gallons per day.

Since this reorganisation many changes took place (and many were ongoing). The depot at Macmerry was relocated to Duddingston in 1996. The local office in Haddington was closed in 1998 and all staff transferred to the Fairmilehead headquarters or voluntarily retired.

To reduce leakage, a commitment was made to ensure that all mains are replaced within a 20- year period. As the policy was developed, those areas most in need of upgrading were targeted; the rural mains around Gullane was replaced in 1998, Dirleton in 1999 and Gifford village mains in 2000. The work improved the water quality provided to customers, which together with the overhaul of all service reservoirs, met the more stringent regulations imposed by the EEC. Traprainlaw, Chalkieside, Penston and Kingslaw were all upgraded in 2000.

Consumption at the end of the Millennium was 7.23 million gallons per day.