The saga of establishing a town water scheme for Manilla is a long one, spanning the years between 1899 and 1932, when proposal after proposal met with passive resistance, due mainly to the inability of Manilla Municipal Council to adequately fund such a project, with or without Government subsidy.
Two factors seem to have been responsible in the long delay for piped water. Firstly, a lack of financial resources was a genuine barrier to progress on the water supply issue. Manilla Municipal Council was, for the most part, severely under-resourced. During dry times the subject would again be raised in Council. However any meaningful discussion met with the ever-present financial stumbling block and notably, some opposition from several members of the allied Mandowa Shire Council, whose demands for water had already been met, through the successful sinking of bores.
In January 1899, Manilla Progress Committee was notified by the Colonial Government of a grant to the sum of £30, for a pump to draw water from the Namoi river. The committee rejected the offer as inadequate and asked for £3,000 instead, to cover the cost of a pump, a windmill and a well. The request was unsuccessful.
Macleod suggests in his Transformation of Manellae, that had Manilla been miles from the river, the water scheme would have come much earlier, that the mere proximity of the river encouraged the men in control to let the local water carters supply the needs of the people.
It seemed only in times of severe water shortage and drought that the subject of a town water supply would be addressed and a steering committee set up to investigate viability etc., only to fall time and again, by the wayside. For the people, it would be thirty years of waiting for the determined will of council majority, of relying on local water carters to replenish tanks and the drilling of bores to access ground water. Finally it took a vote at the poll, initiated by Ald. Stoddart, to claim in no uncertain terms, the townspeople’s right to a permanent water supply.
Council meets to evaluate options (1927)
In November 1932 the Manilla Express reported that work had at last begun on Manilla's Town Water Scheme. 20 years previously, two essential projects, electricity and water, had been considered together. Electricity was the 1st to be planned with the assistance of a franchise arrangement delivering power by 1915, however the water scheme was beyond reach. Comfort, convenience and the health of the community had been of utmost concern, particularly in times of low rainfall. Only now were the people's dreams of water flowing throughout the town, to homes and businesses, being realised.
Along with a healthier lifestyle, the townscape would also be enhanced by water, with the beautification of residential properties and parks.
The Manilla Express notes the dedication of Councillors Stoddart and Clifton in the drive for a permanent water supply, however the
project was generally acknowledged as 'Macleod's Dream'. The passion of A.R Macleod, Editor of the Manilla Express and Municipal Mayor for the all years of attempting to secure a water scheme for Manilla, would be marked in 1934, by the installation of a water fountain (a bubbler) in the Council grounds, in acknowledgement of his dedication to the project.
A. R. Macleod "The Transformation of Manellae" (1949) The Manilla Express (Editions 1899-1933)
Manilla's Water Scheme including the essential filtration system was completed a cost to ratepayers of £20,000 on a loan repayment scheme, the balance of half the overall cost being met by a Government employment plan.
Sir Philip Game turns on Manilla's Water Supply (1933)