Film ID:
YFA 4386



Visitor Tabs


This film, made by the British Waterworks Association, is a documentary narrated by John Mills which gives an overview of the different ways that water is provided in Britain and how it was supplied to people's homes.

Waterworks: A short story of Britain's water supply made for the British Waterworks Association by Films of Fact Ltd. (Member of the Federation of Documentary Film Unit, 1946)

Director and Editor - George Collins
Photography - Cyril Arapoff
Script - Miles Tomalin
Unit Manager - Sydney Sharples
Camera operator - John Reid
Produced by Paul Rotha and John Wales
Diagrams designed by Isotype Institute
Animation by Diagram Films Ltd.

The film begins showing darkening clouds overhead and people sheltering from the rain, carrying umbrellas. It then presents a diagram showing the natural water cycle: evaporation, condensation and rainfall, and drainage. Another diagram shows where the rain falls in Britain and where the main centres of population are, showing the location of the mountain reservoirs. Those areas away from the rainfall and the mountain areas must either divert it from the larger rivers or dig for it. It shows how dams are built across valleys to store water. The commentary explains that to keep the water pure, human dwellings and livestock are kept away from the surrounding area. At the lower end of the valley, a trench is dug to reach the rock and a core is put in, built up with earth to complete the dam. A brick dam is shown. Trees are grown at the sides to strengthen the soil. Water is shown pouring down the side of hills into the valley. The water in a reservoir is shown being drawn into pipes below a tower. From there it passes along an aqueduct. Aqueduct pipes are shown going over a railway and across a river.

In the south and east the water is got from underground. A diagram shows how this is done, with pumps bringing the water to the surface. The other source is from rivers, drawn off through intakes. The flow through intakes is measured in adjoining buildings. As this decreases in the summer, some is stored in reservoirs. More than half the country's supply is pumped from low lying water. A man is shown working in a large pump room. A giant reciprocating pump is shown at work. At the bottom are centrifugal pumps. A man takes water samples to be taken to the laboratory for inspection where later they will be analysed.

The film then goes on to discuss and show the several types of water filter: slow gravity filters, a battery and rapid filter; and water forced through covered steel cylinders. They all work the same, passing the water through graded gravel and sand which make a filter bed 3 or 4 feet thick. In the settling tank the heavier particles sink to the bottom, assisted by chemicals. The clearer water runs over into the filter. The germs get trapped in the sand leaving the outflowing water nearly 100% purified. The filter beds are cleaned every few hours by reversing the flow. Finally the water is sterilised using chlorine.

The film moves on to show workmen laying pipes. Some is contained in enclosed surface reservoirs for 24 hours. A diagram shows why these are needed, by showing the different rates of usage during the day; with the reservoirs filling by night. A diagram shows the water flow in a house. A workman adjusts a turncock in the road, using a long handled tool. Another workman checks the leakage. He then listens to the water flowing to each house through a stethoscope. Workmen are shown fixing a leak in a mains pipe in a street.

A view over a city is shown as the film recounts the various parts of the system that are required to keep the water flowing. The commentator finishes by declaring that water is the cheapest, but least valued, commodity.

The end