A major Problem in the life of the Naval Reservation has been the need of an adequate water supply. In the early days, water was supplied by contract with local railroads. The water was transported in tank cars from the Guantanamo City aqueduct to the docks at Caimanera or Deseo, and later Boqueron, and thence to the station in Navy barges. The barges generally docked at the station wharf of South Toro Cay and the water was discharged to pipes running up to the 100,000 gallon reservoir on North Toro Cay, as related in a previous chapter. One barge habitually docked at a pier on the east side of North Toro, the pier being located south east of Commandant's Hill. From there a shorter pipeline ran to the same reservoir. However, the South Toro station wharf was the point at which water was drained off from the reservoir into smaller water barges for delivery to population centers on the Reservation. Later on, in 1913, a 200,000 gallon tank (No. 38) was constructed on the hill south of the new "Main Station", and this tank became the principal water storage. The tank on North Toro, however, was utilized for many years thereafter.

The foregoing method of transportation made the cost of the water preposterously high and was a vital factor in retarding the development of the station as a major base for the Fleet.Hospital Cay Other sources were urgently needed. In 1908 a water distillation plant was erected on Hospital Cay. The equipment had been removed from Dry Tortugas and although it had a rated capacity of 2000 gallons per hour, it was never really operative, as the equipment was so nearly worn out that it failed to produce acceptable water.

In the early days numerous borings were made in an effort to obtain potable water by shallow wells. Earliest borings were on Hospital and Toro Cays (1905-07), without success. Rainfall in the immediate area of the Reservation is infrequent, therefore no water supply could be expected from small catchment areas, as can be done at other tropical locations. The Stewart Engineering Company in 1917 tried to obtain potable water from wells, operating under contract. Instead they found copper. A couple of mine shafts were dug on a hill, now called Copper Mine Hill, Just to the westward of the Anti-Aircraft Training Center, and the company requested authority to operate their diggings as a copper mine. Authority was denied, presumably because of restrictions on private enterprise imposed by the lease agreement. Also the quality of the-copper ore was perhaps not high enough to warrant exploitation.

During Fleet concentrations in this area, water barges had to be operated day and night in order to ferry water from Cuban sources to meet Fleet requirements. Peak deliveries during Fleet concentrations varied between 5,000,000 and 8,000,000 gallons per month.

"Hydrographic Office Chart No. 5198 (September 1928) indicates & water tank located north of the station boundary near the northern-most reaches of Granadillo Bay (south of Boqueron). The Cuba Eastern Railroad (now the Guantanamo and Western) had spur tracks running to this tank. A pipeline led from the tank to a wharf located at the station boundary on Granadillo Bay. Presumably the station received water under contract at this wharf.

During 1929 and 1930 an effort was made to construct an impounding area behind the concrete butts of the rifle range, to catch run-off from the hills. An outlet works was constructed but the entire project was abandoned when, after a heavy rainfall, the porous soil permitted the water to seep under the concrete butts. The remnants of this project are in evidence adjacent to the Public Works Nursery and not far from the 17th hole of the present-day golf course.

About 1931-32 the water contract was transferred from the Guantanamo Railroad Company, on the Caimanera side, to the Guantanamo and Western Railroad Company. It appears that for some time water was being obtained from both the Caimanera and Boqueron sides, but this contract indicates a definite shift to Boqueron at this time. The Guantanamo and Western had better facilities to transfer the water to the barges. The Navy also received a better price scale in the change of contract. The new prices ranged downward from $3.12 per 1000 gallons, compared with the former minimum price of $3.25 per 1000 gallons.

The present phase of the water supply problem began in 1939, when action was initiated to enter into a long term contract for the purchase of water, as provided for in a congressional act of 1934. After competitive bidding, an award was made to Henri Schueg Chassin Company of Santiago de Cuba on 25 July 1938. The contract became effective on 1 July 1939, when water was first delivered. The contract runs for 20 years, with renewal options each 10 years. It required the contractor to construct a water intake and pumping plant at the Yateras River, about 11 miles northeast of the main part of the Reservation, a surge tank about halfway between the Reservation and the pumping plant, a water treatment plant on the Station and a pipeline connecting the pumping plant with the surge tank and the treatment plant. The treatment plant will become the property of the Navy at the expiration of the contract.

The acquisition of water by this means was the beginning of a phenomenal expansion of Base facilities. In 1941-42 it became necessary for the Navy to construct additional pumping facilities three times larger than the original plant. The Navy constructed an additional surge tank and a larger pipeline parallel to the original line. The Navy also constructed additional treatment plants on the Base during this period. The Henry Shueg Chassin Company by agreement was privileged to buy from the Navy the additional facilities constructed during the war years, located outside of the Base. This option was exercised on 3 December 1947 and all off-Base facilities are now owned by the water contractor. Chronologically, however, this part of the account is getting ahead of the remainder of the history.

Go to Chapter Eleven