Pumps, Pipes and Purity: The Turbulent Social History of Providing the Public with Enough Safe Water (BOK)
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By the 1870s, it seemed obvious that if people used less water pumped from wells contaminated by sewage, the risk of spreading waterborne illness and disease would be dramatically reduced. However, not until the 1950s were water mains laid to the majority of households in rural districts across the whole country. Bernie Eccleston uses the experience in North Yorkshire to illustrate how attempts to extend piped water provision were contested in disputes within families and local communities, between tenants and landlords and over who should be responsible for providing public water supplies. Even when water mains were laid, it became increasingly obvious that they were unable to deliver sufficient supplies to allow people to make proper use of all the new bathrooms and inside toilets that were installed during the 1950s. What was more, inadequacies in the way the industry was organised and regulated left the public exposed to the dangers of drinking water treated by antiquated purification systems. While piped water was available in rural areas like North Yorkshire, deficiencies in the quantity and quality of supplies to the public were evident even in the second half of the 20th Century.