Article ID: CBB647347400

National water supply, debates between geologists and engineers and the role of the society of arts (2018)


Responding to the initiative of their President, the Prince of Wales, the Society of Arts organised three meetings on National Water Supply, from 1878 to 1884. Since the early years of the nineteenth century, the issue of water supply had been examined by numerous Commissions and Committees, but they had failed to recommend any course of action leading to a comprehensive scheme. At the first Congress, in May 1878, twenty-four contributions were received in response to a call for views on how a national scheme might be implemented. It was agreed that a lack of information, was holding back action and a resolution was passed asking Government to establish a Commission to collect data on such things as rainfall, underground water and river flows. At a second Conference, in May the following year, the Society offered medals for dividing England and Wales into Water Supply Districts, receiving twelve submissions of which two were awarded silver medals. The submission of Frederick Toplis proposed a structure remarkably similar to that eventually adopted, almost 100 years later, in 1973. There had been no response to the resolution of the previous year, which was again supported without success. A third Conference, in July 1884, went over much of the ground covered previously. The three meetings were successful in that they brought together engineers, scientists and politicians, in a neutral environment, to discuss the ‘water question’, although disagreements between water engineers and geologists over the amount of underground water available were not resolved. They were unsuccessful in initiating Government action; the collection of rainfall data was not taken over by a Government Department until 1919, and it was not until 1935 that the systematic collection of data on both surface and groundwaters finally began.

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Authors & Contributors
Argentieri, Alessio
Luzzini, Francesco
Giuliano Pinto
Henry, John C.
La Vigna, Francesco
Scarmoncin, Franco
Acque Sotterranee
Earth Sciences History: Journal of the History of the Earth Sciences Society
Franco Angeli
UWA Publishing
University of Nebraska Press
Water resource management
Environmental history
Groundwater; Aquifers
Davy, Humphry
Time Periods
19th century
18th century
Early modern
20th century
17th century
United Kingdom
Tuscany (Italy)
Venice (Italy)
Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA)

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