What had I found?
I should have remembered as I have read about it before, but had not seen it in map form. This was one of several options put forward to supply the town of Geelong with a clean, reliable water supply - something which was desperately needed by the 1850s.
A full description of the woes of Geelong's early water supplies would require a significant amount of time and blog space and in any case, the whole story of Geelong's aqueous history is addressed in Leigh Edmonds' book Living by Water: a History of Barwon Water and its Predecessors, 2005 which can be downloaded from the above link. Here however, I will look briefly at not only what happened, but what might have happened.
As I have mentioned in the past, the first step in securing a water supply for Geelong was the breakwater built by Captain Foster Fyans with the aid of convict labour in 1841. This stopped the flow of salt water back upriver from Barwon Heads and dammed the flow of the river, resulting in higher water levels between Breakwater and Buckley Falls.
For several years, this was the extent of Geelong's water supply. The water from the river was either collected directly (free of charge) by the local citizens or was pumped from the river and distributed by private contractors. Joseph Griffen installed a pump near Moorabool St in 1841 and a little later, William Jewell erected a tank on the riverbank near Yarra St from where water-carriers could fill their casks.
|William Jewell's pump by the Barwon River. Image taken from Sand, Fireworks|
and Boxthorn: the History of Breakwater and Area (William Smith, )
In 1852, the council established the Geelong Water Company whose brief was to secure a water supply for Geelong from some point above Buckley Falls. The engineer hired to undertake the study recommended a 4 foot high dam, located above the falls, however public subscription for the scheme was lacking and the company quietly folded.
|Illustration of the Market Square by S.T. Gill (1857), clearly showing Gray's tank|
and a water cart waiting to fill up. Image held by the State Library of Victoria
In 1852, the colonial government had allocated £800,000 for the construction of water supply schemes for Melbourne and Geelong. £600,000 was to be spent on a dam at Yan Yean to supply Melbourne, with the remainder to be spent on Geelong. In 1855 it established the Geelong Water Commission to look into the state of the town's water and to recommend a more extensive supply scheme.
In his report submitted to the Commission in February, 1857, engineer Henry Millar came to the conclusion that water taken from below Inverleigh was unsuitable as sediment from mining activities along the Yarrowee/Leigh River near Ballarat had so polluted the water that it rendered the lower reaches of the Barwon unusable. Instead, his favoured option was the construction of a reservoir on Wormbete Creek - a tributary of the Barwon running through 'Wormbete Estate', established by Henry Hopkins in 1837. It was the map of this proposal which I had discovered on TROVE.
|What could have been. An 1857 map showing a proposed reservoir located|
on Wormbete Creek, designed to supply Geelong with water.
Image held by the National Library of Australia
Reluctantly, the Commission suggested that water pumped from above Buckley Falls to a holding basin could be implemented for £64,848, but reinforced the unacceptable quality of the water. Next, claiming that the Commission had failed to act, the government appointed a select committee to again investigate Geelong's water woes. The Commissioners promptly resigned en masse.
In June, 1858, the select committee unsurprisingly recommended that a supply should be secured from above Buckley Falls, indicating that the Wormbete Creek option was too expensive. An alternative suggestion that Geelong be connected to the Yan Yean scheme was also rejected. And there things sat.
At the beginning of 1859 two government experts were sent to report on the findings of the Select Committee. Rather than support one of the existing alternatives however, they suggested a fourth option - a reservoir collecting water from the springs and creeks around Mt Buninyong and Mt Warrenheip, which would supply both Geelong and Ballarat. Water from the reservoir could be piped to Geelong along the same line as the Geelong-Ballarat Railway which was under construction at that time.
Again, nothing was done. As the colonial government floundered under pressure from the rapidly increasing population, Geelong council took matters into their own hands and established yet another committee to look into the water issue. In addition to considering the options recommended by the select committee and the government experts, they considered a fourth option; one which would see water collected, not from the Barwon catchment, but from the watershed above Stony Creek in the Brisbane Ranges - a tributary of the Little River.
The scheme would see a reservoir built north of Anakie which would store up to 1,000 million gallons (3,785 megalitres) behind an earthen wall. Water would then be carried via an open channel and a series of pipes to a reservoir at Anakie before being piped to a distribution reservoir at Lovely Banks from where it would be distributed to Geelong residents.
This had the effect of reducing the capacity of the dam to a mere 168 million gallons. To compensate for this, a second reservoir was built further down the creek. The Lower Stony Creek Reservoir as it was known, was constructed in the space of 18 months between 1873 and 1874. This new reservoir had a capacity of 120 million gallons, however, with a larger catchment area, its annual capacity was estimated as closer to 232 million gallons. It cost £17,000 to build but because of differences in elevation, could not use the original channel and pipes. As a result, it therefore required a separate pipe costing a further £12,000 to carry its water to the basin at Anakie.
|The dam wall of the Lower Stony Creek Reservoir, built 1873-1874 from a|
combination of cement, sand and rock it was the first cement dam in Australia and
only the third of its type in the world
Eventually however, despite all the setbacks and delays, on 11th September, 1873 the first water flowed to the Geelong Infirmary and Benevolent Society, with the rest of the town progressively coming on line in the following months. After more than twenty years of political wrangling, Geelong finally had its first reliable, reticulated water supply.
Today, the Stony Creek Reservoir - along with two additional reservoirs built in 1914 and 1918 - still form part of the Barwon Water supply system, also receiving water from the upper reaches of the East Moorabool River. The Lower Stony Creek Reservoir was decommissioned in 2001, with the water from the East Moorabool and the upper reservoirs instead channelled via a new pipe to the Sheoaks Diversion Weir.