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    Adelaide - Water Supply

    Adelaide's Reservoirs

    (Taken from Geoffrey H. Manning's A Colonial Experience)


    B6243By 1850 the River Torrens, a once sylvan stream, was a succession of ugly, muddy ponds, its banks denuded of the gums and undergrowth that once had made them a beauty spot. Under the strain of up to 500 cart loads of water a day for a burgeoning city of 11,000 inhabitants, the pools shrank alarmingly at the end of rainless summers. Water carting was not so crude at this time for Mr Pybus's 'waterworks', with a strong steam engine, raised 300,000 gallons a day.

    The difficulty was that too often the daily requirement was not always available and the project of a reservoir, which had been toyed with by dilettante engineers for a decade, became a real necessity. There was also another reason. Gradually the association between the undrained city and the recurring outbreaks of 'colonial fever' were borne upon the doctors of the day and elaborate plans were proposed for sewering the most populous part of the town. Then it was remembered that sewers without water were like a cart without a horse.

    The fertile Mr Pybus, seeing the writing on the wall, evolved another plan. If the hill between the waterworks and North Terrace were only swept away, he could pump the river water right up into the town and 'if something ornamental was insisted upon', he would recommend a reservoir at or near government house gate, connecting with similar reservoirs in the squares at which the water carts could load cheaply and expeditiously. But the hill would not remove itself, so he advanced another scheme - one lot of overhead tanks holding 300,000 gallons set on a platform near the river and raised twenty feet above the level of Victoria Square.

    The Coming of Our Reservoirs

    Into this maze of planning and conjecture stepped the Colonial Engineer, Colonel Freeling, with a breath-taking project, the damming at Brownhill Creek for a reservoir of 46 million gallons sufficient for a town of 30,000 people. Freeling went further in his planning - Greenhill Creek, First, Second, Third and Fourth Creeks, affluents of the Torrens, were gauged, then the parent stream itself. Its flow far surpassed the total of its creeks and, accordingly, he boldly changed his front and Thorndon Park became Adelaide's first storage.

    The original contract was completed in May 1859 following which certain additions and alterations were made. The retaining wall of a weir in the gorge was planned originally for ten feet, but was raised to twenty feet and finally rebuilt a little further upstream, because its masonry was shoddy. Truly the government was in deep water and had to pay its way out.

    So, in 1860, Adelaide rejoiced in reticulated water and forgot what it had cost. Forgot, too, the warning to open taps to allow air to escape before the advancing water, thus allowing stopcocks to be blown off and low floors flooded. Lavish with a gift ready at the turn of a tap, the council watered the streets directly from the hydrants until the damage to the metal, and the sight of splashed and half-drowned citizens, led it to a better way. Still ecstatic, it sprayed an office front to show what could be done in case of fire, to the delight of the owner, who saw his facade washed clean, and the chagrin of tenants, who found their books all wet and muddy.

    People drank at the stand-pipe at the corner of North Terrace for the novelty and soon there were two drinking fountains in the principal streets, for to know that the precious fluid flowed beneath your feet, and to be compelled to walk the dusty streets without the means of tasting it, was to be worse off than before. So everyone, except the publican and those who offered ginger pop, was satisfied.

    The drought of 1865 made Adelaide review its water storage facility, for the alarmingly low level at Thorndon Park and the superabundance of money in the Treasury were phenomenons which induced the city to raise a voice for a new reservoir. The legislature which was distributing largesse with a prodigal hand, lent a generous ear and Hope Valley came into being, although the original plan for a storage of 900 million gallons was pared down to about 760.

    Mr Bennett Hull was the Assistant Engineer for Waterworks at this time and I remember him quite well. He lived at Kensington and attended St Matthew's Church and was one of the old-fashioned type of gentlemen officials. He wore Windsor uniforms, with small gilt buttons on a white waist coat.

    When completed the Hope Valley reservoir behaved badly at first for it leaked extensively and Mr W.H. Huilett was made the superintendent in charge of the work effecting repairs. The water was turned on in June 1872 and the catchment area covered 135 square miles, with an average annual rainfall of 30 inches. It was this reservoir which allowed water to be laid on to Glenelg.

    Nearly 30 years elapsed before eyes were turned further afield and, after it had run the gauntlet of Royal Commissions, and invidious comparison with a project at Barossa, plans emerged for Happy Valley, notwithstanding the jibes of its antagonists that the reservoir would submerge a township and a cemetery. Important elements in the plan were the building of a marble-faced dam across the Onkaparinga River at Clarendon and the tunnelling of hills for the huge pipes conveying water from the weir to the reservoir.

    Boring was commenced simultaneously at points more than three miles apart, carried 400 feet below the crest of a higher hill, and calculated with such exactitude that when the working parties met at the centre the deviation fell short of an inch. On 7 August 1896, four years after the first pick was driven, the inlet valve was opened by Sir Fowell Buxton and the six-foot inlet channel began filling the 8,000 million gallon storage.

    For many years the presence of black swans were a cause for concern when they flew in nightly and settled on the reservoir. The general opinion was that they fouled the water and 'should be frightened, or, if necessary, actually shot off the reservoir. They are an element of danger to health where drinking water is concerned.

    General Notes

    Also see Torrens, River

    The exploits of "The Pioneer Well-Sinker", Mr James Cronk, are traversed in the Advertiser,
    6 July 1904, page 8g; also see
    29 September 1886, page 7e.

    The reminiscences of an old colonist are in the Observer,
    17 February 1877, page 6f.

    "Water and Light in Pioneer Days" is in the Register,
    25 December 1919, page 7c.

    "Adelaide's Early Water Supply" is in The Mail,
    26 June 1926, page 1f. Also see
    11 July 1891, page 42a and
    Geoffrey H Manning's The River Torrens - Its Use and Abuse as a Water Resource - 1837-1860 (pamphlet - copy in Mortlock Library).

    A meeting of water carriers is reported in the Register,
    6 December 1845, page 2d,
    South Australian,
    5 December 1845, page 3a; also see
    22 May 1847, page 2d,
    9 June 1847, page 2b,
    17 July 1847, page 2d,
    29 April 1850, page 3d,
    3, 5 and 27 November 1856, pages 2g, 2e and 2c,
    3 January 1857, page 2d,
    7 April 1859, page 3a.

    Information on the water supply is in the South Australian,
    14 October 1845, page 3d.
    "Pure Water for Adelaide" is discussed in the South Australian,
    24 August 1847, page 3c.

    Well sinking is discussed in the Observer,
    4 July 1846, page 9c.
    "Wells in the City" is in the Observer,
    18 November 1916, page 31a.

    The prospectus of the Adelaide Water Company and other information is in the South Australian,
    6, 13, 17, 24 and 27 October 1848, pages 3c, 2a, 3b, 3a and 1b (supp.),
    14 November 1848, page 3a,
    11 May 1849, page 2a.

    A public meeting in connection with supplying the city with water from the River Torrens is reported in the Adelaide Times on
    16 October 1848, page 4a; also see
    20 November 1848, page 2d,
    29 April 1850, page 3d,
    1 May 1850, page 3c:

    Information on a company to be formed to supply water to the city is in the Register,
    1 and 4 December 1847, pages 2e and 2c,
    8 January 1848, page 2a,
    14 and 18 October 1848, pages 2c-e and 2d-3d; also see
    30 March 1850, page 2e,
    2 May 1850, page 3b,
    8 June 1850, page 3c,
    10 July 1850, page 3e,
    19 November 1850, page 3c,
    10 December 1850, page 4b,
    25 March 1851, page 2b,
    24 April 1851, page 2b,
    5 November 1851, page 2d.

    Also see SA Gazette & Mining Journal,
    4 April 1850, page 3a,
    8 August 1850, page 2c,
    South Australian,
    6 June 1851, page 3a.

    "The Water Question - Here and Elsewhere" is in the Observer,
    27 July 1850, page 2a (supp.); also see
    12 July 1851, page 7c.
    15 November 1924, page 18c.

    The Adelaide Times of 17 April 1852, page 3f says:

    Pybus & Turner's waterworks at the River Torrens are described in the Register,
    8 March 1855, page 3d.

    Corporation by-laws are discussed in the Register,
    30 December 1856, page 2f.

    "Fire and Water" is in the Register,
    7 January 1857, page 2c.

    "The [River] Dam and the City" is in the Register,
    27 February 1858, page 2c.

    "Public Uses of Water" is in the Register,
    5 January 1860, page 2g,
    "The Water We Drink" on
    16 January 1860, page 2g,
    "City Water Rates" on
    1 December 1860, page 2g.

    For information on the water supply see Register,
    1, 12 and 27 December 1860, pages 2g, 2h and 2f,
    28 February 1861, page 2g,
    6 July 1861, page 1a (supp.),
    5 October 1861, page 5f,
    30 October 1861, page 3h,
    26 March 1862, page 2f,
    20 May 1862, page 2g,
    19 June 1862, page 2c,
    8 July 1862, page 3a,
    9 May 1866, page 2d,
    10 July 1866, page 2d,
    25 July 1868, page 2e,
    2 November 1868, page 2b.

    "A Trip to the Waterworks" is in the Register,
    2 July 1857, page 2g.

    "Impurities of the Torrens" is in the Observer,
    11 February 1854, page 5c.
    An article entitled "The Torrens Water", by an analytical chemist, is in the Advertiser,
    28 February 1860, page 3a,
    "Our Water Supply - The Torrens and Its Tributaries" is in the Advertiser,
    6 February 1884, page 5e:

    "The Waterworks and the Citizens of Adelaide" on
    8 June 1864, page 3a; also see
    23 and 30 July 1864, pages 4f and 4e,
    24 September 1864, page 3c,
    26 January 1866, page 2e,
    25 January 1866, page 2c.

    "Adelaide's Water Supply - History of the Scheme" is in the Advertiser,
    31 May 1929, page 14a.

    "Water Supplies - Some Interesting Memories" is in the Advertiser,
    20 December 1913, page 6g,
    "Old Time Water Conditions" in the Register,
    16 December 1919, page 6e,
    "Water and Light in Pioneer Days" on
    25 December 1919, page 7c.

    Artesian boring at North Adelaide is discussed in the Observer,
    7 December 1850, page 3a.

    Information on Messrs Taylor and Berry's proposal to supply water to the city is in the Observer,
    5 February 1853, page 5b.

    "Our Water Supply" is in the Observer,
    3 February 1855, page 5b.

    Also see Register,
    28 May 1855, page 2e,
    24 July 1855, page 2f,
    4 September 1855, page 2f,
    5, 14 and 25 January 1856, pages 2d, 2c-e and 2e,
    14 and 15 February 1856, pages 2c and 2d,
    8 April 1856, page 2d,
    5 and 9 June 1856, pages 2e and 2c.

    "The Water Supply of Adelaide" is in the Observer,
    29 November 1856, page 6c; also see
    Parliamentary Papers 104, 109 and 140 of 1855-56,
    Also see Observer,
    10 January 1857, page 5e,
    9 May 1857, page 6e,
    13 and 16 February 1857, pages 2e and 2b,
    19 January 1858, page 2c,
    26 and 31 August 1858, pages 2g and 2d.

    "A Trip to the Waterworks" is in the Observer,
    4 July 1857, page 7f,
    "The City Waterworks" on
    23 January 1858, page 6c,
    "The River and the City" on
    6 March 1858, page 5f; also see
    7 and 28 August 1858, pages 2c (supp.) and 2c (supp.),
    4 and 18 September 1858, pages 6d and 6d,
    16 October 1858, page 6c,
    6 November 1858, page 6e,
    26 February 1859, page 8g,
    6 August 1859, page 3b.

    "Leaden Water Pipes" is in the Register,
    19 February 1858, page 2g,
    23 October 1858, page 2f.

    Also see Register,
    23 February 1859, page 2h,
    18 April 1860, page 2f,
    5 June 1860, page 3a,
    17 and 22 September 1860, pages 2g and 3h,
    3 March 1860, page 6g,
    21 April 1860, page 6b,
    29 September 1860, page 5g,
    5 October 1860, page 2f,
    23 November 1860, page 3d.

    "City Water Rates" is in the Observer,
    8 and 15 December 1860, pages 5a and 4d-6h,
    "Water Rates of the City" in the Advertiser,
    29 November 1861, page 2e; also see
    4 July 1862, page 2b and
    6 August 1862, page 2b and
    30 January 1880, page 2c,
    2 and 7 February 1880, pages 3b and 2c,
    25 June 1881, page 2c,
    9 July 1881, page 3d,
    25 June 1884, page 5b.

    "The Late Manager of the Water Works" is in the Register,
    13 July 1861, page 2b-g.

    "Wordsworth's Patent Water Engine" is in the Register,
    15 August 1865, page 2e.

    "The Reservoir" is in the Chronicle,
    15 and 22 September 1866, pages 2f (supp.) and 1d (supp.),
    "Proposed Extension of Water Works" in the Observer,
    22 September 1866, page 6e.

    "The Adelaide Waterworks" is in the Chronicle,
    25 July 1868, page 8f,
    15 August 1868, page 12e.

    A cartoon is in The Adelaide Punch,
    13 February 1869, page 42.

    Editorials on the city's water supply are to be found in the Register of April 1869 -
    1, 9, 21 and 23, pages 2d, 2d, 2c and 2e,
    18 May, page 2f,
    15 October 1870, page 3a,
    24 December 1870, page 7a,
    22 September 1871, page 4d,
    18 November 1872, page 4e,
    23 November 1872, page 13f,
    16 May 1891, page 4g.

    A strike at the waterworks is reported in the Observer,
    5 November 1870, page 7e.

    "The New Reservoir and Viaduct" is in the Chronicle,
    6 April 1872, page 8b.

    Modern day citizens are, in the 1990s, complaining about the quality of the water supply which mirrors a complaint of 1872 - see Register, 21 October, page 6d:

    Details of Adelaide's water supply in 1839 are in the Register,
    27 March 1878, page 5e; also see
    18 December 1878, page 4f,
    25 March 1879, page 4d-4g,
    3 January 1881, page 4d,
    5 March 1881, page 7b,
    8 March 1881, page 4d,
    26 April 1881, page 4d,
    12 July 1881, page 4d,
    29 March 1882, page 4d.

    "Supply of Water by Meter" is in the Register,
    12 June 1874, page 5a,
    20 June 1874, page 3b.
    An editorial on the water supply and a proposed meter system are in the Advertiser,
    30 January 1880, page 4g; also see
    2 and 7 February 1880, pages 4e and 4e.
    "The Water Meter System" is in the Express,
    7 February 1907, page 1d.

    "Cutting off the Water" is in The Lantern,
    12 August 1876, page 9b.

    A report on the waterworks is in the Register,
    20 February 1878, page 4c,
    23 February 1878, page 10e; also see
    17 June 1878, page 2g.

    "Pollution of Hill Streams" is in the Observer,
    1 March 1879, page 10f,
    "Water From the Murray" on
    19 April 1879, page 11g.

    "Supply of Water to the City" is in the Observer,
    29 March 1879, page 21g.

    "New Reservoirs" is in the Register,
    18 August 1880, page 5b.

    "Hydraulic Works Constructed During 1880" is in the Register,
    3 January 1881, page 6c.

    "Supply of Water to Public-House Troughs" is in the Express,
    29 June 1881, page 2e.

    Pollution of the water supply by fish is reported in the Register,
    24 February 1882, page 5a; also see
    17 and 21 March 1893, pages 7c and 6e,
    18 March 1893, page 30b,
    22 October 1896, page 5a
    7 March 1882, page 4f; also see
    16 October 1883, page 4d.

    A sketch of a drop of Adelaide water magnified 1,000 times is in Frearson's Weekly,
    11 March 1882, page 73.

    "The Water Supply of Adelaide" is in the Express,
    13, 20 and 27 February 1884, pages 3a, 3c and 3d,
    28 May 1885, page 7a,
    30 May 1885, page 34a.

    "Polluted Watercourses" is in the Register,
    16 May 1884, page 4h.

    "The City Water Rates" is in the Register,
    24 and 25 June 1884, pages 4e and 4h-6b.

    "Water Waste in Adelaide" is in the Register,
    13 March 1886, page 7f.

    A complaint about the paucity of the water supply is in the Advertiser,
    11 January 1887, page 6e.
    11 January 1887, pages 4f-6h.

    "Oppressive Charges for Water" is discussed in the Register on
    16 August 1887, page 6f,
    "The City Water Rates" on
    10 July 1896, page 4f.

    Information on boring for water is in the Observer,
    18 May 1889, page 9a.

    "Our Water Supply" is in the Register,
    1 November 1889, pages 4g-6d,
    5, 9 and 12 November 1889, pages 6e, 5f and 5e,
    1 November 1889, page 4a,
    23 May 1891, pages 6a and 25b,
    22 February 1902, page 34b,
    28 March 1896, page 12a,
    13 September 1902, page 10c,
    3 March 1903, pages 4d and 8e.
    Photographs are in the Chronicle,
    22 February 1902 (supplement).

    "The City Water Rates" is in the Register,
    10 July 1896, page 4g.

    "Our Water Supply - Is It Pure?" is in the Advertiser,
    8 January 1902, page 5i; also see
    9 January 1902, page 4d,
    25 January 1902, page 33e,
    4 and 15 February 1902, pages 4d and 9a,
    4 March 1902, page 3c.

    "Our Water Supply - The Onkaparinga Watershed" is in the Advertiser,
    18 February 1902, page 5h,
    the "Torrens Watershed" on
    27 February 1902, page 5h.

    "Fearful Things in Water" is in the Register,
    17 November 1903, page 4f.

    "Pure Water for the Public" is in the Register on
    25 July 1904, page 4f,
    "Adelaide's Water Supply - The Effect of Cheap Excess" on
    26, 29 and 30 January 1907, pages 8e, 6g and 5b,
    13 February 1907, page 4f.

    An obituary of George Nesbitt is in the Register,
    21 November 1905, page 3g.

    "Adelaide in Danger" is in the Advertiser,
    21 January 1911, page 13i.

    "Artesian Bores in Use" is in the Observer,
    10 January 1914, page 45c.
    "Pure Artesian Water - In the Heart of the City" is in The Mail,
    27 August 1914, page 1f; also see
    19 and 23 September 1914, pages 8e and 3e.

    "The Price of Water" is in the Advertiser,
    15 May 1914, page 13a.

    "The City's Peril - Water Supply Diminished" is in the Express,
    5, 8, 13 and 15 January 1914, pages 4g, 3c, 4e and 5d,
    "Is a Water Famine Possible" in the Register on
    6, 20 and 22 January 1914, pages 6e, 7a and 7d; also see
    20 and 21 August 1914, pages 6c-11b and 6f-g,
    19 October 1914, page 4b.

    "Can the Murray be Tapped" is in the Register,
    22 January 1914, page 7c.
    Also see Place Names - Murray River

    "Watermains - Adelaide's New Service" is in the Register,
    12 June 1914, page 5c.

    "The Water Shortage" is in the Register,
    21 August 1914, page 6g,
    "Water Shortage - Problems in the City" on
    17 November 1914, page 7f.

    "Unlawfully Using Water" is in the Register,
    19 October 1914, page 4b.

    "Water Waste and Warning" is in the Observer,
    7 November 1914, page 45a.

    "Water for Adelaide - Some Facts About Government Bores" is in the Register,
    3 March 1915, page 11a,
    "Boring for Water - Success on the Adelaide Plains" in the Advertiser,
    1 and 3 March 1915, pages 10g and 8a.

    "Cheap or Dear Water" is in the Register,
    29 May 1918, page 6c-h,
    31 October 1918, page 4c; also see
    4, 11 and 19 December 1919, pages 7d, 6f and 8e.

    "The Water Rates" is in the Advertiser,
    19 December 1919, page 8d,
    9 February 1922, page 7a,
    "Water Rating" on
    23 October 1924, page 15e,
    "Water Rates - Proposed Surcharges" on
    23 October 1929, page 14g.

    "Metropolitan Water Tests - Chemicals and Bacteria" is in The Mail,
    28 November 1925, page 1f.

    "A Shortage of Water" is in the Advertiser,
    12 January 1927, page 9e,
    21 December 1927, page 12g,
    13 December 1929, page 25e.

    "Water Softeners" is in the Advertiser,
    24 May 1929, page 18d.

    Also see Register,
    30 March 1928, page 9f,
    3 May 1928, page 10a,
    13 April 1929, page 54a,
    3 February 1931, page 6f,
    20 June 1934, page 14f.

    "Schemes Old and New" is in The Mail,
    2 June 1934, page 8d.

    "Plan to Meet Water Famine" is in the Advertiser,
    18 and 26 July 1934, pages 19e and 16d,
    1 and 7 August 1934, pages 19d and 18d; also see
    18 January 1935, page 20f.
    A photograph of boring for water at Plympton is in the Chronicle,
    26 July 1934, page 31.