One of the most important uses of the land that is now the grounds of the Arboretum was the to provide a dependable water supply for the hospital. The lack of an adequate water supply for the large number of hospital patients and employees was a perennial problem for more than 50 years.
In 1843, the hospital purchased a spring of water, obtained rights of way from neighbors, and constructed an aqueduct of about a mile of 1-1/2 inch lead pipe.
The vernal pool south of the present Apple Orchard seems to have been the location of this first spring, which later became known as the East Fountain. Continuing problems prompted the farm to remove the pipe and relocate the aqueduct trench to a better descending grade in 1852.
Additional efforts included the installation of a three-inch iron pipe in 1856 to improve the flow of water. Finally, in 1876, when the water supply continued to prove inadequate, a new waterworks system was built.
The new waterworks consisted of an impounding reservoir (near the Piggery Road) and the "Granite Hill Reservoir" (now the Outdoor Education Center). The impounding reservoir received water from several living springs and drainage from nearly a hundred acres. A steam operated pump lifted the water up to the Cistern, a 100-foot-square reservoir lined with clay and bricks.
The water from the Cistern was used to supply the hospital, while water from the East Fountain continued to be used for drinking and cooking. Water gathered in the Cistern was gravity-fed to the hospital buildings on the west side of Hospital Street. The Hosta Trail now follows the route of the pipe that carried the water.
In the late 1800s, the trustees of the hospital boasted of having the best waterworks of any similar institution in the country, but droughts were still a problem. In 1880, a third reservoir was built by damming the ravine between the other two, creating what is now Viles Pond. Water also was occasionally taken from the Kennebec River when other supplies ran low.
In 1886, ten years after the waterworks incorporating the Cistern was built, the Augusta Water Company contracted to supply water for the hospital. The hospital used city water in addition to water from the 1876 waterworks until 1915, when the Cistern was drained.
The farm land on the east side of Hospital Street continued to be used by the hospital for dairy, pigs, poultry, and produce until 1972 .