If Saint-Nazaire is surrounded by water, the town nevertheless faced big problems with drinking water supply when it expanded rapidly in the second half of the 19th century. Neither the water from the Loire river, containing too much salt, nor the water from the nearby Brière marshes was fit for human consumption. In the beginning, when there were only a few hundred inhabitants, private wells and some public fountains were enough. But from the 1850s, once the harbour was built and Saint-Nazaire was booming, the situation changed dramatically. Around 1880, there were already 13,000 inhabitants, and the needs for drinking water were enormous. The city dwellers needed drinking water, and both industry and the ship steam engines also consumed huge amounts of freshwater.
In the 1880s there was still no regular and safe drinking water supply. In order to collect rain water, artificial ponds were created in natural basins. This is how the Guindreff and Belle-Hautière lakes came into being. Unfortunately the fresh-water yield turned out to be far lower than estimated.
After massive works, the ponds of Québrais and Guindreff could finally play their role… when the situation changed radically once again. In June 1917, the first American troops landed in Saint-Nazaire. The town was to become a huge military basis, and between 1917 and 1919, nearly 200,000 American soldiers were to be stationed in Saint-Nazaire. The water problem was more critical than ever. The Americans undertook huge works among which the digging of the Bois-Joalland lake.
The lakes and ponds are still there, today a source of pleasure rather than of drinking water. The water that flows out of the taps in Saint-Nazaire comes from a protected groundwater table, near Campbon, and from the Férel water treatment plant. But above all it is of excellent quality!