Water Was Always A Bargain

By  | December 16, 2012 | 0 Comments | Filed under: Local History

No doubt about it, one of the best buys anyone gets these days is water. Even at 57 cents a thousand gallons (the present rate in Cambridge) you can’t miss. The average bathe takes about 20 gallons, so you get 50 baths for 57 cents. You can probably flush your toilet 200 times for 57 cents and even your new swimming pool (which holds 19,000 gallons) can be filled for about $11. But then good water at reasonable rates was always the rule of thumb in the Old City of Galt. That comes through loud and clear when you read the Galt Waterworks Rules and Regulations printed in 1911. The little brown book was printed by the Reporter Press., and it outlines the do’s and don’ts for the water users of the day, and the rates of consumption.

Back then J. H. Radford was the commission chairman. Albert Hawke was mayor and the bylaw was also signed by William Scott, commissioner, and Joseph McCartney, secretary. As early as this writer can tell, most water users paid a flat rate in those days, and only if you requested it, or if the Water Commission suspected you were using unusually large amounts, did you go on a meter. Just listen to these rates for households. If you had a six rooms or less, your water bill would be $5 per year, for six rooms or more it climbed to $7.

Since the bylaw provides that you must pay quarterly, on the first day of January, April, July, and October, your bill for a six room house would be $1.25, less the discount of 15 per cent if you paid within 14 days of the due date. So you’d travel to the Water Commission to square your bill of about 90 cents. If you wanted to water your lawn and garden, you could pay $3 a year for the privilege of doing so as often as you wanted, from May 1 until Oct. 1, if your lawn and garden wasn’t over 1000 square feet.


The bylaw cautions that all work done by plumbers must be completed in a “workmanlike manner”, that no persons of their manservant’s shall be allowed to tap a main and carrying water home for a public fountain was a definite “no-no” punishable by a fine. Window washing with a hose between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. was prohibited. To be found guilty of an infraction of the water bylaw could cost you not less than $2 and not more than $20.


Private stables paid $2 per house stall annually, but operators of “cow houses” paid $1.50 per year per cow. Do cows use less water than horses? Fish stalls were in one of the highest brackets, a whopping fee of $10 per year. If you wanted a fancy fountain in your garden you could have one with a one sixteenth inch jet operating nor more than eight hours a day for $12 per year.

Those must have been the days when there were breweries in the area, because malt houses were mentioned and they were assessed 15 cents a bushel, based on the capacity of the steep tub. If you can figure that out then you are older than I am. The wise Old Water Commissioners must have been suspect of photograph galleries, pop and soap factories, confectioners and tanneries, because these were excluded from paying a flat rate. They could get water only by meter or “special arrangement”.

If you were building a house, or for that matter building anything, you could arrange to pay for the water involved on the basis of 10 cents per 1000 bricks, 3 cents per perch stone or 25 cents per 100 square yards of plastering. The corner barbershops were charged $3 per year for the first chair and $1.50 per year for each additional chair.

Perhaps the most puzzling clause in the book is Number 14. It stated quite flatly that any person lending, giving, selling, or otherwise disposing of water supplied through the commission could be prosecuted. Would that make it illegal to give the neighbour kid a drink?

Be careful of your answer, because it says here that if you’re called before the water commission to make a statement about your consumption, it will be taken under oath.


Born in Preston on December 2, 1934, Bernice Marjorie (Brine) Adams was well known for her work as a radio commentator, as a journalist and as a member of first the Galt and then the Cambridge city councils. Adams wrote a regular column for the Cambridge Reporter called "Adams About Anything". The column featured stories about local history, personalities and all the fun of raising teenagers. She was described as "fiery", a "hard worker", a person who possessed a "colourful personality" and one of council's "most forceful and influential spokesmen." The Bernice Adams Awards program that recognizes local contributions to the visual arts, the performing arts, music and communications and the literary arts, was named in her memory. Mrs. Adams died on November 26, 1980 and is buried in Mount View Cemetery.

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