Living in the Fen as I have done, all my life, I have been acutely aware of water in its many forms. Rain, floods, ponds and on the other hand, the lack of water - drought.
When I was younger our water supply in North Fen fell on our roof and was collected in a tank. Soft water. We washed in it and we drank it. Often it got stale and was livened up by chucking in a large lump of lime. I don't remember if it improved the flavour but at least it killed the squigglers! Of these there were many-every tank contained them. Mosquito larvae which resembled miniature tadpoles; some interesting little red ones lived on the bottom. We drank them all for when boiled they added body to our food!
I think that the village of Downham, the metropolis that is, was on piped water before I was born.
There was a standpipe on each of the village greens, indeed one exists today, opposite the Plough Inn. In times of severe drought my father used to put a two hundred gallon tank in the cart, yoke up the horse and journey to the Church green standpipe for a fill-up. I seem to recall that Mrs Skinner who lived adjacent to the green was the custodian to the key of the standpipe. This was handed over on receipt of sixpence (2 1/2 p). Father would switch on whilest I held the horse or at least tried to. the noise created by a two inch bore of water hitting an empty tank has to be heard to be believed (indeed a gentleman visiting the village likened it to the sound of "an old cow giving birth to a sackful of tins". The horse usually bolted; father would mutter unprintable oaths but order would be eventually restored; we would put a sacking cover over the tank to prevent spillage and return home- we never arrived with a full tank but it kept us going until it rained.
All the farm animals obtained their water supply from the dykes and it was not by accident that farmyards were situated near them. The water was carried to the yard in two pails which were suspended from a yoke ( a wooden gadget carried on the shoulders from which the pails hung on chains). In times of drought a "dip hole" was dug in the dyke to hang out the water supply to the last drop, and postpone that dreadful visit to the standpipe.
We finally got piped water to my North Fen home just before I got married in 1955. I had bought a house in Pymoor with a piped water supply. Believe it or not the first salesman to call was a chap selling water softeners who told me that my stomach resembled a furred up kettle! I had previously only consumed about half a gallon of hard water so you can perhaps imagine my reply!