The 133 year old Stawell Water Supply system, crucial to supplying clean water to the historic goldfields town, will be awarded an Engineers Australia Engineering Heritage Marker at two ceremonies this Sunday.
“When gold was discovered in the Stawell area in the 1850s, the need for a reliable water supply became readily apparent. Miners had to carry water over great distances and the water that was available was not clean, meaning typhoid was a major killer in dry climate goldfields like Stawell,” says Mr Owen Peake, Chair of Engineers Australia’s Victorian Heritage Committee.
“Engineer John D’Alton proposed what was at the time the most elaborate country water works in Victoria, an ambitious gravity fed system which diverted water from the Grampians-fed Fyans Creek to supply the burgeoning town. After six years of construction, the system was completed in 1881, and some components of the D’Alton’s system are still in operation today.
“Integral to the system was a tunnel which runs for one kilometre under the eastern side of the Grampian Mountains – the longest tunnel excavation of its type in Victoria at the time and one of the first tunnels to use dynamite in preference to less stable black powder in the state. The tunnel remains in excellent condition and is still in service 130 years after its initial construction, forming part of the modern Stawell Water Supply system.
“A weir at Fyans Creek, 24.2km of piping and 12kms of wooden fluming was also constructed, the latter of which was eventually replaced with bushfire resistant steel.
“The Stawell Water Supply represents a significant engineering achievement at a time where modern engineering technologies, such as topographic maps, were unavailable to those designing the system.
“Even today the provision of safe water supplies is problematic in many parts of the world, although we take such systems for granted in Australia. The Stawell system’s ability to stand the test of time demonstrates the technical ability of the engineers and workers on the project, without whom the town of Stawell would not have been able to grow as it did,” said Mr Peake.