This section is from the book "The Principles And Practice Of Modern House-Construction", by G. Lister Sutcliffe. Also available from Amazon: How Your House Works: A Visual Guide to Understanding & Maintaining Your Home.
(16.) Powers and Duties of Local Authorities as to Water-supply. All public cisterns, pumps, wells, reservoirs, aqueducts, and works used for the gratuitous supply of water, vest in the Local Authority, and the Authority may cause the same to be maintained, "and plentifully supplied with pure and wholesome water ".
In the absence of a Water Company, or with an existing Water Company's consent, the Authority has power to construct works for the gratuitous supply of water (Public Health Act, 1875, § 64).
Similarly, in the absence of a Water Company, or in cases in which the Water Company cannot and is not willing to allow a sufficient supply of water to a district, the Local Authority has full power to supply the district with water, and to execute any necessary works, or to purchase, with the sanction of the Local Government Board, any existing water-works or rights (Public Health Act, 1875, §§ 51, 52). The section reads as if it were permissive, but if wholesome water is needed, the word "may" really means "shall', a default in supplying water under these circumstances being an offence under the Public Health Act, 1875, § 299.
Local Authorities have powers to carry water-mains within or without their district similar to those exercised in the case of sewers (Public Health Act, 1875, § 54); the Water-works Clauses Act, 1863, and certain provisions of the Waterworks Clauses Act, 1847, are incorporated with the Public Health Act, 1875,
Parish Councils also have urban powers with respect to the utilization of any well, spring, or stream within the parish; the expenditure of maintenance is limited to 3d. in the pound on the rateable value of the parish, save with the consent of the Parish Meeting (Local Government Act, 1894, §§8, 11).
(17.) The Supply of Water to Dwelling-houses. Urban Authorities, unless by Order of the Local Government Board they have Wen invested with powers conferred under the Public Health (Water) Act, 1878, have somewhat less power than Rural Districts to enforce a water-supply to dwelling-houses. The general powers applicable to both Urban and Rural Authorities under § 62, Public Health Act, 1875, are briefly as follows: - If it appears that a house is without a proper water-supply, according to the report of their surveyor, and such a supply can be furnished thereto, at a cost not exceeding the water-rate authorized by any local Act, or (where there is no local Act) at a cost not exceeding twopence per week, or at such other cost as the Local Government Hoard may determine on the application of the Local Authority, then the Local Authority must give notice to the owner, requiring him to supply the house with water. In case of non-compliance the Local Authority may do the work, and recover in the usual way the expenses, or they may enter into a contract with a Water Company for supplying the house, and the premise- may be compulsorily rated. Although this power is generally applicable to Rural and Urban Districts, its operation is mainly confined to Urban Districts, because the words, "furnished thereto", taken in conjunction with the context of the section, evidently refer to a supply from water-mains and are considered not to apply to wells.
(18.) Special Powers of Rural Sanitary Authorities. The Public Health (Water) Act, 1878, is in force in all Rural Districts. It is also applicable to Urban Districts by order of the Local Government Board. Under section 3 of this Act it is the duty of the Sanitary Authority of a district in which the Act is in force, to "see that every occupied house within their district has, within a reasonable distance, an available supply of wholesome water, sufficient for the consumption and use for domestic purposes of the inmates of the house". When it appears to a Local Authority, on the report of their sanitary officers, that an occupied dwelling-house has not such a supply, and such supply can be provided with the outlay of capital which, at 5 per cent interest, would not exceed 2d. per week (that is. a sum of £8, 13s. 4d.), or at a greater cost sanctioned by the Local Government Board (not, however, exceeding £13), then by a somewhat complicated procedure the supply may be enforced. The procedure, indeed, gives so many facilities for an obstinate owner to delay the supply, that if every technical objection is taken, many months must necessarily elapse before such supply is given.
New houses cannot be occupied in districts in which the Public Health (Water) Act, 1878, is in force, unless the Sanitary Authority has certified that there is an available source of supply within a reasonable distance. A person may appeal to a Court of Summary Jurisdiction should a Local Authority refuse to give such certificate, and the Court may, on hearing the ease, make an order authorizing the occupation of the house.
(19.) Pollution of Water. There are various powers with respect to the pollution of water by gas or gas products both under the Public Health Act, 1875. and the incorporated Water-works Clauses Acts; the chief working section is, however. Section 70. Public Health Act, 1875. This provides that, on the representation of any person to a Local Authority that within their district the water in any " well, tank, or cistern, public or private, or supplied from any public pump, and used or likely to be used by man for drinking or domestic purposes, or for manufacturing drinks for the use of man, is so polluted as to be injurious to health", the Local Authority may take action before a Court of Summary Jurisdiction to remedy the same. Unfortunately, many of the benches of magistrates consider the words "injurious to health" not synonymous with "dangerous", and require proof of actual injury, a proof rarely possible.
(20.) Prevention of the Pollution of Streams, Water-courses, and Rivers. Under the Public Health Act, 1875, a Local Authority, with the Ham-lion of the Attorney-general, may take proceedings by indictment in Chancery "for the purpose of protecting any watercourse within their jurisdiction from pollutions arising either within or without their district" (§ 69). The chief legal powers relative to the pollution of streams are, however, contained in the Rivers Pollution Prevention Act, 187G (as amended by the Rivers Pollution Prevention Amendment Act, 1893). This act may be enforced by either the Local Authorities, the County Councils, or both. Under this act three kinds of pollution are dealt with: - (1) solid matters; (2) sewage; and (3) manufacturing and mining pollutions. But little action has, until quite recently, been taken under the Act with regard to solid matters, or to mining and manufacturing refill
The powers with regard to sewage-pollution are those that are the most useful and applicable. It is an offence for any person knowingly to allow sewage-matter, directly or indirectly, to get into a stream. In the amended Act, it is specially laid down that, when sewage is carried along channels vested in a Local Authority, and such sewage falls or flows into a stream, the Sanitary Authority shall, for the purposes of the Act, be deemed to "knowingly" permit the sewage to so fall, flow, or get into the stream. A good defence under this section is, however, that the best practicable and available means are being taken to render the sewage harmless.