22nd October 1960

The desalination plant opened

Guernsey’s ability to produce its own fresh water received a significant boost on 22 October 1960. That was the day that the Right Honourable R A Butler, the Secretary of State for the Home Department (effectively the British Home Secretary) opened the seawater distillation plant at La Hure Mare, Vale. It was capable of distilling 80,000 gallons of seawater into 20,000 gallons of raw water every hour.

A facility like this was particularly important on an island such as Guernsey, which still relied on agriculture – and tomato exports in particular – for a portion of its income.

In 1960, Guernsey had 1,100 acres of greenhouses, all of which needed a steady and reliable source of fresh water. It could store around six months’ supply in its various reservoirs – around 500 million gallons – which would be enough to see it through a dry summer. However, this left it highly reliant on further rainfall at the end of the growing season to prepare for the next run of crops.

The economics of water

The contract to supply and build the distillation plant was put out to tender. The winning contractor, G & J Weir Ltd, calculated that equipment costs would be £257,000 and running costs would stand at around £32,000 per annum. This took into consideration the prevailing fuel costs and an anticipated use of 2000 hours a year. That equates to an average of five and a half hours per day.

The oil-fired plant was built on a half-acre site close to Juas Quarry. Juas remains one of Guernsey Water’s largest storage reservoirs, able to hold 120 million gallons. The plant worked by using heat to boil off sea water. The water condensed and was captured, leaving the salt behind.

Initially, it proved to be a great success but ultimately proved uneconomical. Within 10 years, had been abandoned in favour of traditional above-ground water storage facilities, particularly in the island’s quarries.


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Other events that occured in October

Guernsey Post Office was established 1st
Guernsey switched to Reichsmarks 2nd
Sark was the target of Operation Basalt 3rd
Sark voted for democracy 4th
Guernsey lifeboat saved a Swedish schooner 5th
Jeeves actor died in Guernsey 6th
Sarnia Theatre celebrated its most successful year 7th
The Story of Adele H opened in cinemas 8th
Howards’ Way came to Guernsey 9th
Guernsey Ladies’ College opened 10th
A Trislander ate itself between Jersey and Guernsey 11th
The Channel Islands’ king set sail for England 12th
Major General Sir Isaac Brock died 13th
Footballer Matt Le Tissier was born 14th
Island FM brings commercial radio to Guernsey 15th
Channel Television saw off a rival broadcaster 16th
The first mines were dug on Sark 17th
Sark’s Stocks Hotel was damaged by fire 18th
Elizabeth College’s foundation stone was laid 19th
Hitler ordered the Channel Islands’ fortification 20th
Guernsey’s stone crackers demanded a pay rise 21st
The desalination plant opened 22nd
Sir Charles Hayward buys Jethou for £91,000 23rd
Guernsey Monopoly board game went on sale 24th
Dame Sibyl Hathaway chose her Desert Island Discs 25th
GUNS founder Charles Machon died 26th
Bailiff Sir Peter de Havilland was born 27th
A man “disappeared” from a Guernsey ferry 28th
Express & Star bought Guernsey Press 29th
The first lighthouses were built on the Casquets 30th
States of Guernsey voted to lower the voting age 31st