Water according to Walter
Picking up on last week’s watery theme, this post turns to Councillor Walter’s connection with metropolitan water supply.
This week, price increases for water were approved by the Essential Services Commission. The increases were largely attributed to the desalination plant.
The Argus of 28 March 1936 contains an article Story Behind the Tap: Our Water Supply cost millions written by George S Walter. Walter was a Port Melbourne Councillor for an astonishing 40 years, twice Mayor and also vice-chairman of the Water Supply Committee of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works. The article, written towards the end of a life time of public service, takes a sweeping historical overview of water supply to emphasise the value of clean water from both a public health and price point of view – a penny a day. He goes back to antiquity to make his argument, and contrasts London and Melbourne’s water supplies on price and consumption per head. When he was writing, the importance of a clean water supply to public health was perhaps stronger than in our minds today. The Yan Yean and Maroondah dams then provided Melbourne with clean drinking water and the MMBW looked to the Upper Yarra for future water supply possibilities. Since then Melbourne’s water supplies have been augmented by the Thomson Dam with spare capacity provided in the as yet unused desalination plant.
Walter ends with the contemporary message: “It all seems so simple to the consumer, who just turns on a tap and obtains the greatest necessity of life. It is hard for him to realise the story behind the tap, the work entailed, the organisation necessary, the engineering skill involved, and all for the benefit of the consumer and to preserve his health”.1
Visit the monument to Walter on the Reserve where Bay and Crockford St part company. Font fans may well enjoy the lettering on the plaque.
Walter lives on in Walter St, and Walter Reserve – part of Port Melbourne’s Railway Reserves.
George Samuel Walter 1872 – 1937
Councillor of Port Melbourne 1897 to 1937
Mayor of Port Melbourne 1901-1902, 1934 to 1935