With sweeping hills, idyllic land and access to the Ovens River, it’s a wonder why Harrietville didn’t pop onto the early settler’s radar sooner. Admittedly, it was hard to get there. For several years the settlement was reached by rough horse tracks, and the surrounding hilly country was thickly wooded.
Those obstacles were quickly overcome once gold was discovered in 1852, suddenly swamping the half dozen pastoralists with miners. Within ten years, the number had swollen to 2,850, almost exclusively of Chinese descent. The Chinese Mining Village still exists largely undisturbed today, with mine workings, water races, building foundations and gardens.
Harrietville was never short of water, but given its location at the base of the Alpines, it was also prone to flooding. There were no less than four floods between 1905 and 1917, the last of which wiped out the bridge and left the town stranded. But with more gold to be found, they didn’t stay stranded for long.
Harrietville’s Water Supply
Originally Harrietville’s urban supply was from individually owned groundwater bores.
In times of drought, such as the droughts of 1967-68 and 1982-83, the Ovens River flow was augmented by pumping from the Harrietville Dredge hole. The pump used was owned by the Tobacco Leaf Marketing Board.
In 1985 a public meeting was held in Harrietville to discuss a proposed reticulation water supply for the town, with more than 60 people attending.
Harrietville’s residents hospitalised due to water borne-diseases
The Council of the Shire of Bright appointed the Bright District Water Board to carry out the investigations into a suitable water supply. This followed previous advice from the Health Surveyor who urged that the water supply be tested, as a number of residents had been hospitalised due to water-borne diseases. The Bright District Water Board appointed consulting engineer, John Scroggie to assist with the investigation. Tests undertaken proved conclusively that Harrietville’s water was not fit for consumption, with 70% of the underground supplies in Harrietville failing to meet World Health Organisation standards.
A New Water Supply for Harrietville
In March 1985, the Harrietville Urban District and Construction of Works for Supply of Water to the township of Harrietville was proclaimed, allowing for the construction, maintenance and continuance of water supply works for Harrietville.
The new scheme involved extending the Mt Smythe system, which involved the diversion of water from Simmons Creek by gravity throughout the year, with supplementary pumping from the Ovens River during peak demand and periods of low flow in Simmons Creek.
Works commenced on 3 March 1986 and were carried out by the Bright District Water Board’s Day Labour Gang. Harrietville’s initial water scheme cost $400,000, with one third of the costs provided by the Government. The works took two years to complete and involved the construction of a 0.4 megalitre storage tank, 2,900 metres of supply and reticulation pipelines, and a pumping station and chlorination unit. The system considered Harrietville’s varying demand for water due to tourism, and had the capacity to serve a population of 200 residents, with a seasonal population of 900.
Harrietville Pump Station
On 11 September 1986, tenders were called for the construction of the Harrietville Pump Station. The 400 kilolitre concrete water storage tank was completed off Alpine Road in February 1987. The pump station on the East Arm of the Ovens River was also completed.
Harrietville’s Water Supply is Officially Opened
The Harrietville water supply was officially opened in the Spring of 1989. The chlorination of the water supply meant that Harrietville’s water was now able to meet with World Health Organisation standards.
The town was subject to water restrictions over the years, lasting for 21 months from the 2007 ongoing drought. However, with an upgrade of the water treatment plant and a change of the primary source to the Ovens River in 2013, there have been no restrictions applied since then.
Harrietville has been left devastated by bushfire on a number of occasions. In January 2013, a bushfire burned at Harrietville for 55 days. North East Water was faced with a doubling in water demand as residents fought to protect their homes; this came at a time of extremely low flow in the Ovens River due to drought. In addition, North East Water was dealing with water quality challenges, with the unfiltered water supply being impacted by firefighting activity and several vehicle crossings occurring above the raw water offtake daily. North East Water was faced with the reality of not being able to guarantee the safety of the water, therefore was obliged to issue a Boil Water Notice to customers. This was followed by the Boil Water Notices being lifted and replaced with full time water carting, with customers asked to conserve their water use for domestic purposes.
New Water Filtration Plant for Harrietville
In April 2013 North East Water completed a temporary water filtration plant for Harrietville. The fully automatic plant alleviated the need to cart water from Bright and enabled water to be drawn from the Ovens River and treated in Harrietville, before being supplied to residents.
The Harrietville watreatment plant uses water taken from the Ovens River. Treatment includes coagulation, flocculation, granular media filters and chlorination.
The treated water is pumped to the Alpine Road tank and gravity fed to the Harrietville reticulation. The formerly used Simmons Creek tank is offline indefinitely.
Harrietville’s Water Supply Today
Harrietville has its own water supply system. The town is subject to high seasonal peaks in demand when tourists visit the town.
Water is sourced from the east branch of the Ovens River and gravitates to the nearby water treatment plant. There is no raw water storage. There was a previous supply from Simmons Creek to Harrietville, but this is no longer used.
Centralised Sewerage System Explored for the Town
Harrietville relies on septic tanks for its domestic wastewater. In 2014 North East Water looked into a centralised sewerage system for the town. After carrying out an ecological risk assessment it was determined that the septic tanks were not having a negative impact on the waterway. A sewerage system was also found not to be an affordable option for the town.
Myrtleford is situated on the Ovens Highway, near where the Ovens River and the Buffalo River meet.
The earliest known European settler to the area was a Mr John Hillas, who owned the cattle run known as the Myrtle Creek Run. After gold was discovered in the Buckland Valley in 1852, thousands of travelling miners would cross Myrtle Creek en route to the goldfields and would use the area as a place to rest. A small township developed near the fording (crossing) place and was aptly named Myrtleford.
Mining was a significant contributor to Myrtleford’s economy. Two reefs were found close to Myrtleford, one of which was the Reform Reef, which was in use until 1888.
Early agriculture was fruit and vegetables grown by Chinese miners, followed by dairying, tobacco and hops growing. Much later in the 1940s Myrtleford would become well known for its tobacco growing, housing the headquarters of the Victorian Tobacco Grower’s Association.
Stage coaches ran between Beechworth, Myrtleford and Bright from the 1850s and the first store opened in 1856. By 1889 Myrtleford had three churches, a library and two schools.
By 1903 the population of Myrtleford was 434. Residents sourced their water from tanks and wells, and did so until the creation of Myrtleford’s first water supply system in 1934.
Following World War Two there was a huge increase in Myrtleford’s population (which reached 2,741). The town’s services were developed accordingly, with a war memorial hospital being built in 1959, a high school in 1960 and an additional water reservoir being built in 1971.
Responsibility for the township of Myrtleford changed several times. Originally the Buckland Roads District, created in 1862, was responsible for the township of Myrtleford, until Myrtleford became part of the Shire of Bright in 1866. However, the establishment of ridings into the Shire of Bright in 1869 created dissatisfaction regarding the sharing of rate revenue, and the Myrtleford and District Progress Association were proactive in campaigning for residents pushing for Myrtleford to be a separate municipality from Bright.
It was not until 8 June 1960 that the Shire of Myrtleford was proclaimed, with the new municipal chambers and offices opening in 1967.
Today Myrtleford is part of the Alpine Shire Council, which was formed on 18 November 1994.
Until 1934, Myrtleford residents relied on unreliable tanks and wells for water supplies. The Myrtleford Water Scheme laid pipe from the headwaters of Buffalo Creek at the foot of Mt Buffalo to a concrete reservoir on the south-western side of reform Hill. The fall of the pipe was such that pumps were not needed to deliver the water to the reservoir.
Pipes throughout the reticulation system were originally made from tongue and grooved timber, bound together by spirals of wire and coated in bitumen. You can guess how that water tasted. Still, residents welcomed access to town supply as it improved fire safety and enhanced gardens and sporting amenities.
In the early 1950s the ‘Old Reservoir’ proved inadequate, and an expanding population and industry demanded a new reservoir in the northern area of the town. This, too, was the replaced with another reservoir built at ‘Nil Gully’ in 1971.
Sixty years to the day after the launch of the Myrtleford Water Scheme, Myrtleford Water and Wastewater merged with others to form Ovens Region Water Authority, the predecessor to North East Water.
In keeping with government goals to have Victoria’s water supplies bacteriologically safe to drink, the Authority made the decision to disinfect the town water supply at Myrtleford. After two public meetings, the Myrtleford Water Disinfection Reference Group was formed to assist Ovens Region Water Authority evaluate alternative water disinfection methods. The discussion process led to the installation of a pilot Ozone-Ultra Violet plant.
But it wasn’t cheap. The Authority agreed to finance disinfection of the water supply up to the amount set aside for chlorination and advised the community that they would install Ozone-UV disinfection only if a majority of Myrtleford customers agreed to fund additional costs.
A survey of customers was conducted and the results showed an overwhelming response in favour of the Ozone-UV Disinfection method. The project also attracted a great deal of interest as this was the first time this type of disinfection method had been used for a drinking water supply.
The Deputy Premier and Minister for Agriculture & Resources the Hon. Patrick McNamara officially opened the new state-of-the-art Water Treatment Plant on 18 June 1999.
We didn’t stop there. In 2003-04, a half-million dollar upgrade of the Myrtleford Wastewater Treatment Plant also took place. The plant’s traditional lagoon-based system was replaced with an innovative dual-powered lagoon treatment system (this greatly improves effluent quality and assists in finding reuse markets – farms, golf courses – for the treated water).
A new clear water storage for the Myrtleford Water Treatment Plant was completed a few years later, and a new water treatment plant for Myrtleford was completed in 2011.
North East Water’s immediate predecessor was the North East Region Water Authority, which was formed on 1 July 2007. This Authority was a result of an amalgamation of two former water authorities, Ovens Region Water Authority and Kiewa Murray Region Water Authority. Each of the former authorities had its own set of challenges to overcome, with the achievements of each authority contributing to North East Water’s success today.
Ovens Region Water Authority
Ovens Region Water Authority provided water to the townships of Wangaratta, Benalla, Yarrawonga, Bright, Devenish, Glenrowan, Goorambat, St James, Tungamah and Whitfield. The Authority took over the responsibility for water supply to Myrtleford and operated a small water supply system at Bundalong on behalf of the Moira Shire Council. In its first year the Authority was servicing an estimated population of 43,000 across 17 towns.
A major focus of the Authority was to achieve the Government’s requirements to bring the water supply in line to meet World Health Organisation Standards and to dispose of effluent in an environmentally responsible way.
The Authority’s Wastewater Discharge Policies and Procedures report identified that townships with a population of greater than 500, namely Bundalong and Porepunkah, be sewered by the year 2000. The Water Quality Improvement Programme highlighted that disinfection works were required at Myrtleford, Springhurst and Whitfield in order to meet the World Health Organisation Standards.
During its first full year of operation, Ovens Region Water Authority achieved significant outcomes. The Authority met the objectives outlined by the Government, including efficiency gains, debt management and the development of a Drinking Water Quality Management Strategy, a Wastewater Management Strategy and a Drought Management Strategy. All of this was achieved whilst successfully integrating the systems of the former authorities and developing the Authority’s first Strategic Plan and Corporate Plan.
Supply to the townships of Harrietville, Bright, Springhurst and Glenrowan was from unregulated streams and the supply to Goorambat was from groundwater. The supply to the remainder of towns was drawn from streams regulated by Goulburn Murray Water.
Kiewa Murray Region Water Authority
At around the same time, Kiewa Murray Region Water Authority was formed by Government Order on 1 December 1994. The Authority took over the water and wastewater functions of the Wodonga Rural City Council and Kiewa Valley Water Authority.
On 9 February 1995, as a result of a further order by the Minister for Natural Resources, the Authority also took over the water and wastewater functions of the Shire of Indigo and the Upper Murray Water Board.
Kiewa Murray Region Water Authority was responsible for urban water supply and sewerage for a population of 51,000 including Beechworth, Chiltern, Corryong, Dartmouth, Mt Beauty, Rutherglen, Wodonga and Yackandandah.
Straight to work
An Engineering Consultant was engaged to assess the strengths and weaknesses of each of the Authority’s 25 water and wastewater systems. Issues identified included overloaded wastewater systems and sewer infiltration, as well as a lack of treatment capacity and disposal area management. It became clear that beneficial reuse of wastewater was imminently required in order to avoid the need for significant tariff increases for customers.
It was projected that a Capital Works Program of approximately $70 million over five years would be needed to meet the basic requirements of the Health and Environment authorities. It was also identified that the new Authority didn’t possess all of the technical skills required to operate the systems responsibly. There was a focus on developing the technical skills required for the effective operation of systems and additional technical support was provided for the smaller communities.
North East Water Region Authority
The Victorian Government envisioned that the water industry could gain greater efficiencies through the amalgamation of water authorities into larger authorities. At the request of the Minister, both authorities put together a report demonstrating the efficiency gains that could be achieved by a merger, and the North East Region Water Authority (NERWA) was constituted on 1 July 1997 by Government Order.
In its first year of operation NERWA provided water and wastewater services to 36 towns, villages and cities in North East Victoria, serving an estimated population of 91,000 in an area of approximately 20,000 square kilometres.
The Minister had high expectations for the merger. These included a 15% saving in operating costs, better customer service, and greater reliability and quality of service provided to customers. The Minister was also seeking greater opportunity for customer consultation, as well as a stronger focus on catchment based environmental management.
In his first year as Chief Executive of NERWA, Jim Martin was tasked with achieving the expected benefits as outlined by the Minister, together with the specific objectives outlined by the Government, whilst ensuring the smooth integration of the staff, systems, infrastructure and approaches of the two former authorities.
In 2007, the North East Region Water Authority became a Corporation.
At the end of its first year of operation, North East Water was providing water and sewerage services to an estimated population of 100,980 people in 38 towns across north east Victoria. 37 water treatment plants (seven of which were dosing stations) and 18 wastewater treatment facilities were in operation. 137 staff worked from our head office on Hovell Street, Wodonga and across operational centres in Wodonga, Wangaratta, Benalla, Yarrawonga, Rutherglen, Beechworth, Myrtleford, Mt Beauty and Bright.
Following the retirement of Jim Martin, Craig Heiner commenced as Managing Director in July 2008, following a long-standing history with NERWA and Kiewa Murray Water.
Unlike most towns in North East Victoria, St James was not built on the promise of water. Though its boundaries are defined by the Murray, Goulburn and Ovens rivers, St James is situated in a flat landscape with no significant stream or waterway. Though pastoral stations littered the area, it was the railway line from Benalla (destined to terminate to Yarrawonga) built as far as St James by 1883 (where it ended for three years while construction continued), that was the motive for the township.
And a town formed. A school was opened in 1884 and ten years later St James had five hotels, two bank branches, two churches, two stores and a creamery.
In 1892 a storekeeper, George Coles, bought a shop in St James. In 1910 his son, George Junior, after having worked for several rural and Melbourne retailers, acquired the St James business, which would be the genesis of the G.J. Coles and Co chain of variety stores. Coles ‘North Eastern Store’ was in the main street a few doors east of the railway crossing.
In 2006, it was determined to connect St James (along with Devenish and Tungamah) to the Yarrawonga water system. North East Water committed to providing a potable (drinking) water supply to the three townships to remove reliance on the existing Goulburn-Murray Water channel system that historically supplied the towns. In St James, this involved building a 500kL storage tank and 42kms of pipelines at an overall cost of $3.9 million.
Yackandandah is situated between Beechworth and Wodonga. The area was traditionally occupied by the Jiatmathang tribe and was visited by Aboriginal tribes seasonally who would hunt and search for food there.
The town’s name is believed to have come from the pastoral run Yackandandah, which was taken up in 1837. Yackandandah is derived from an Aboriginal word, understood to mean ‘country of hills’, which aptly describes the landscape of the town.
Following Hume and Hovell’s exploration of the area, some of the earliest known white settlers were James Osborne and his family, David Reid and his family and George Kinchington and his wife. Their settling of the area is still evident today, with flats such as ‘Osborne’s Flat’ still in existence.
The discovery of gold at Yackandandah in 1852 brought a huge surge of people to the area keen to acquire gold. Settlers descended to the Yackandandah Creek and set up communities there housed in tents. As with other gold fields, the Chinese were among the miners and were largely responsible for excavating the Yackandandah Gorge to provide the water for mining operations.
By 1855 mining activities stretched from the Yackandandah Creek to Osborne’s Flat. During the 1860s and 1870s gold mining had attracted a population of around 5,000 to the area.
The town was officially surveyed in 1856 and in 1857 the selling of land commenced. Public buildings and amenities were built to support the growing community of miners and their families. The stone bridge that was constructed in 1860 across Commissioners Creek provided access into the town for stage coaches.
The Roads Board of Yackandandah, established in 1862, became the Shire of Yackandandah in 1864 and was one of the largest in Victoria.
The town gained a Post Office in 1863 and by 1865 also boasted two saw mills, five hotels, a flour mill, schools, churches, medical facilities and shops.
The arrival of the railway line on 23 July 1891 only enhanced the prosperity of Yackandandah, with the town now connected to Beechworth and Melbourne by rail.
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Since North East Water took the reins in 1997, Yackandandah has seen a series of firsts. Almost immediately, we went to work on designing and building a full water treatment facility. Yackandandah’s first winter storage was constructed in 2001, and the first re-use irrigation scheme was completed the following year.
And if there was anywhere in north east Victoria to go green first, it was in Yackandandah. In 2017, in conjunction with the Intelligent Water Network (IWN), North East Water established Victoria’s first water treatment plant powered by solar and battery storage.
In October 2017, North East Water commenced operations of the 40kW photovoltaic solar array and 42kWh lithium ion battery bank at the Yackandandah Water Treatment Plant. The clean energy system has the potential to generate sufficient power and store enough energy to operate the plant independently of the mains power grid for most of the year.
Being grid-connected and driven by smart energy management software, the system could also export power to the grid when electricity prices peak, and draw power from the grid when prices fall, further reducing power bills. The battery bank also avoids the need for a back-up diesel generator to cover grid black-outs and brown-outs.
As a member of the community coalition Totally Renewable Yackandandah, the Corporation pledged to power local operations with 100% renewable energy by 2022. RMIT University have studied the generation from the clean energy system and the consumption patterns of Yackandandah water treatment plant to determine both how to operate the system at lowest cost and maximise the return on investment in the system.
As a pilot program and the first solar-powered water treatment plant in Victoria, the project has also provided significant learnings for the sector. North East Water has hosted several water corporations at the site, as well as VicWater, and presented on the findings to a variety of industry stakeholders.
Water brings settlers, and settlers bring agriculture. For Whitfield in 1845, the King River was the water and the settler was William Clarke, who took up a pastoral run along one of the several stream valleys that fed the King River. And the agriculture it created? Well in Whitfield, it was mostly beer and cigarettes, with hops and tobacco the most productive crops.
The tributaries (streams that flow into a river, in this case, the flood-prone King River) provided enough fertile soil to attract a stream of settlers, and by the early 1900s, the number of residents had increased to just under one hundred. Schools (plural) and a church (singular) were opened and a narrow gauge railway line from Wangaratta kept the town connected across the valley.
With a population of a little over 200, Whitfield has one of North East Water’s most intricate water reticulation systems. Raw water is extracted from two shallow groundwater bores on the banks of the King River, and pumped over 3 ½ kilometres to a raw water storage tank. From there, the water is treated (if you’ve ever wondered what that involves, it includes flocculation, dissolved air flotation, filtration, pH correction, UV disinfection and chlorination, all of which is a delicate balancing act). The treated water then enters a 235kL clear water storage before entering your tap. And how hard do the team in Whitfield work? Well, in 2018, they were a top four contender for Victoria’s best tasting water.
Wandiligong is littered with curiously named creeks (including Lucky Jack, Mount Orient and Lord of the Hills), but it was the discovery of gold in 1856 at the meeting of Growlers and Morses Creeks that saw the sleepy hollow of Wandiligong and its handful of residents suddenly spring forth as a town.
Named after the Wondillegong pastoral run (taken up by William Forlonge in 1845) and thought to derive from an Aboriginal word describing a ‘spirit’, the settlement was based on a continual water supply and several profitable reefs. A school was opened in 1860, along with Catholic and Methodist churches (followed closely by Presbyterian and Anglican churches). The population of Wandiligong was maintained at over 1000 people until the 1880s and the pressure of pupils on the school accommodation led to the building of an elaborate brick building with an imposing bell tower in 1877, which still stands today.
Reef and deep lead mining continued until the 1900s. The narrow valley in which the town is situated was increasingly used for orchards, hops, tobacco and nut groves, and the Wandiligong Horticultural Show became an important annual event during the 1880s.
At around 1900 two further elements intruded on the landscape. Exotic trees were planted – notably avenues of poplars – and Growlers Creek became a site for gold dredging. The dredging consumed valuable alluvial flats and left a denuded riverbank landscape. An anti-dredging league obtained some concessions to dredging damage, but the industry continued until about 1930. Timber was consumed for mine props and dredge fuel, and in about 1917 pine plantations were established on dredge tailings and the lower hill elevations.
When dredging ended, Wandiligong’s population declined, abetted by the railway line travelling only as far as Bright, 8 km downstream.
Since 1994, Wandiligong’s water has been ably supplied by the Bright Water Treatment Plant via the Ovens River. Six kilometres of pipeline were laid that feed to four 136kL storage tanks that provide water for the town’s 196 connections. In 2017, Bright’s Water Treatment Plant went through a $6.4 million dollar upgrade, further supporting the town of Wandiligong and beyond. The accompanying water storage at Freeburgh also increased water security from 60% to 95%.
For a change of pace, it wasn’t gold that brought settlers to Walwa, but another, less exotic metal – tin. Though a pastoral run had been establish in 1839, it was prospecting for tin ore in 1882 that saw a spattering of new arrivals and agriculture that formed a permanent settlement.
Despite the economy boost from the tin mine and the fertile land along the Murray River, Walwa grew at a quieter pace (in fact, Walwa has only 16 more residents now than it did 100 years ago). Grazing cattle helped form their dairy industry, and a small but consistent population ensured the requisite schools, churches and hotels.
Shortly after North East Water formed, we set about building the Walwa Water Treatment Plant to improve the quality of Walwa’s water supply. Water at Walwa was previously pumped directly from the Murray River into an open storage basin, and then into the town’s reticulation, without any treatment or disinfection. Invariably, this didn’t meet World Health Organisation (WHO) standards. In rainy periods, the river became very discoloured and water to the town was subsequently quite poor. In addition, water sampling indicated high levels of ecoli and coliforms in the water, which made it unsafe to drink.
A Victorian Government directive required all water supplies to meet WHO standards, so despite its small population (approximately 150 residents), Walwa has seen a substantial investment in improving its water supply system.
As is sometimes the case, the new plant experienced some teething problems for a period following it’s commissioning, but was soon (and continues to) run reliably and producing excellent results in terms of water quality.
North East Water also set about completing the town’s sewer system. In 2007, Towong Shire Council secured grant money to partly fund the construction of a sewerage scheme for Walwa. It sought a commitment from North East Water to become involved in the implementation of the scheme, and to ultimately take over its operation. Towong Shire Council subsequently implemented a septic tank effluent drainage scheme (STEDS), which was completed in 2012.
A STEDS scheme is a sewerage system that collects septic tank effluent in a series of pipes and pits and directs this effluent to a treatment facility for final treatment. At Walwa this treatment occurs in a series of lagoons, which are located to the north east of the Walwa Recreation Reserve. The treated effluent is reused by an adjoining farmer for pasture irrigation.
Sixty five properties are connected to the Walwa sewerage scheme, including the hotel and the general store, all of which have resulted in a significant improvement to local amenity.
Though it was Charles Sturt who explored the Murray and first surveyed Wahgunyah, it would be another man who was forever associated with the town – John Foord.
In 1838 a party led by John Foord set off from Yass in New South Wales with 1,000 head of cattle in search of fresh grazing land. Along with John Crisp, Foord took up 30,000-acres of land that they on the southern side of the Murray River.
When gold was discovered in Beechworth in 1852, paddle steamers began to make their way up the Murray. Foord seized the opportunity, purchasing a punt and a steamship, building a flour mill, and purchasing 640 acres where he surveyed and established the private township of Wahgunyah to serve as the supply base between the river trade and the goldfields. He was also involved in the building of bond stores and hotels in the fledgling township.
With true entrepreneurial spirit Foord encouraged new settlers to grow wheat which he ground at his mill. The punt became an important crossing point for stock and passengers and, in 1862, he became a major shareholder in a privately-licensed toll bridge which was erected across the Murray. It replaced the punt and became vital for the carriage of Riverina grain and timber to Foord’s mills in Wahgunyah.
Adding a final stroke of good fortune, gold was discovered on Foord’s property. The brief goldrush that followed led to a settlement known as Wahgunyah Rush which subsequently became known as Rutherglen.
Due to its location on the banks on the Murray River, the Wahgunyah Water Treatment Plant collects raw water directly from the river for treatment before pumping it directly into Wahgunyah’s (and Rutherglen’s) reticulation network. Despite the relatively small population, the Wahgunyah water network has a staggering 78kms of mains.
A spate of upgrades began in 2017 including an additional treatment step at the plant in the form of flocculation/clarification and Dissolve Air Floatation (DAF) to the existing filters. A secondary part of this project also included an electrical upgrade of the existing ageing switchboards.
Wahgunyah’s Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) is located 5kms north-west of Rutherglen. Wastewater is collected in three small catchments that pump to an additional catchment before being transferred to the WWTP. As if often the case for large industrial customers, Uncle Toby’s have their own dedicated main and treatment lagoon. Now that’s service!
Tungamah was established on the banks of Boosey Creek, a 70km waterway that stretches from Yarrawonga to beyond Wangaratta. Curiously named after an Aboriginal word thought to mean ‘wild brush turkey’, the township was gazetted in 1875, when pastoral runs were being made available for closer settlement.
In 1876 a school was opened, and within seven years Tungamah was described as a flourishing village with a post office, three stores and two banks. Ten years later, the railway line connected Tungamah to Benalla and Yarrawonga, and Tungamah’s population reached its peak. The railway, however, enabled local farmers to spend in the bigger towns, and Tungamah’s population began a slow decline.
As irrigation from the Murray River was extended, farming activity strengthened (to this day, sheep still outnumber people by over 50 to 1), and with slightly undulating land surrounded by almost treeless plains, over 85% of the shire is now farmed.
In 2006, it was determined to connect Tungamah (along with Devenish and St James) to the Yarrawonga water system. Prior to this, Tungamah recieved its water supply via an open channel diveerted from Bosey Creek, which was subject to potential contamination (not to mention the evoporation). North East Water committed to providing a potable (drinking) water supply to the three townships to remove reliance on the existing Goulburn-Murray Water channel system that has historically supplied the towns. In Tungamah, this involved building a 1ML storage tank on Mays Hill. At an overall cost of $3.9 million, 42kms of pipelines were laid.
At around the same time, Moira Shire Council nominated Tungamah for the provision of reticulated sewerage under the Victorian Government’s Small Town Sewerage Program. The scheme was based on the provision of a modified conventional sewerage system, with lagoon based treatment and land-based reuse (in the form of pivot irrigation). Modified conventional sewerage was the preferred option because of a number of local factors including scheme affordability. Contracts were signed in 2012 and the scheme was completed in April 2016.
In the midst of a six-year drought, James Roberts took up the Tawonga pastoral run. Squatters had been there several years prior, and in 1836 leases were offered to them for grazing cattle in an attempt to begin pastoralisation of the land. By the time Roberts arrived in 1841, land was better prepared and being formally offered at a pound ($2) an acre. The run (which would become home of the Tawonga Station) included alluvial river flats of the Kiewa River, though the drought meant that Roberts had little to do but wait for the rains.
Cattle and (oddly) turkeys were the primary income stream for Tawonga, with Beechworth its biggest market. Cattle lead to dairy, and with the advancements seen elsewhere in the state, the dairy lead to a saw mill.
After the railway line was extended to Bright in 1890, Tawonga was within 25 km of a railhead, which was made easier when the horse track between was widened to take vehicles. Livestock could be driven to Bright and dairy produce transported to there from the Tawonga butter factory (previously cattle and turkeys would be walked, made all the more difficult as turkeys stopped moving at sundown). The Bogong hotel was opened at Tawonga in 1910 and survived 101 years before being destroyed by fire.
Tawonga (and Tawonga South) are both serviced via the Mt Beauty Water Treatment Plant, with an additional storage tank built in Tawonga South in 2005. Water is sourced from the Kiewa system, thanks to a complicated set of mains that feeds water through a tunnel (that supplies water for hydro-electricity generation at the West Kiewa power station operated by AGL) into a 110kL concrete open settling tank (to allow sedimentation of organic matter) before being transferred 6.6 km to the 4.5ML Tawonga raw water basin. It’s then sent out through the reticulation and straight to your tap.
The Mount Beauty sewerage system (which supplies the Tawongas) was originally constructed around 1958 at which time it covered central and north Mount Beauty. The reticulation system in North Mount Beauty was replaced between 1998 and 2004 with concrete sewer upgraded to PVC pipework. Central Mount Beauty still contains predominantly concrete sewers however ongoing renewal works have seen shallower sections prone to sewer blockage relined (albeit this is still a minority of the pipes). Ongoing replacement of concrete manhole lids with lighter weight steel lids has occurred at a rate of about 20 per year.
The Tawonga South area is predominantly comprised of vitrified clay and PVC sewers from the early-mid 1980s. Wastewater from Tawonga South reaches the WWTP via the caravan park pump station and rising main along Embankment Drive while central and north Mount Beauty gravitate to the plant.
Settlers arrived in Springhurst in the late 1830s, with its land used for farming and grazing. The area had a very small population until the discovery of gold in the 1850s, with mining at nearby Eldorado.
The opening of the Railway station on 29 November 1873 connected Springhurst to Wangaratta and Melbourne and contributed to a growth in population in the late 1800s.
The Springhurst supply system consists of a 55ML Reservoir constructed in 1963 on Diddah Diddah Creek (approximately 4km upstream of the town). A water main delivered raw water to the water treatment plant, with the treated water then supplied to the town using an online pressure pump.
From its inception until it was taken over by Ovens Water in 1994, Springhurst was operated by a local waterworks trust. Although there are no documented records, anecdotal evidence from local residents suggests that the surface water supply was very reliable with the Reservoir spilling each year (always a good sign there was enough water).
Between 2002 and 2009, however, the Reservoir failed to fill on four occasions, three times from being drawn down to dead water (water the current system was unable to access), and once due to blue green algae. Water carting was required for 6 months in 2003, 5 months in 2007 and was in place for 3 months in 2009.
Even when water quantity was not a problem, there were ongoing quality issues in the reservoir from elevated levels of iron, manganese and algae (both green and blue green), particularly at the lower storage levels.
North East Water expansively explored groundwater options, though we concluded that the shallow, unconsolidated sediments were not extensive enough to sustain prolonged pumping.
So in late 2009, North East Water launched a project to link the water supply for Springhurst to the far more reliable grid system supplied from Wodonga and the Murray River. Not only did this system provide significant improvement to the operational inefficiencies of providing supply to Springhurst, it also eliminated the operational complexities and risks associated with resource availability and water quality. The supply from the Murray provided a long-term, sustainable resource to Springhurst and allowed for the same level of service as for major towns.
Rutherglen was born thanks to the 1836 equivalent of a five-star Yelp review from renowned explorer Major Thomas Mitchell. His promising account of the region (and its proximity to the Murray River) is thought to be responsible for attracting early settlers. The first two – John Foord and John Crisp – took up the ‘Wahgunyah Run’, some 3,500 acres that encompassed the modern day townships of Wahgunyah and Rutherglen.
Not that it was always called Rutherglen. The township, originally known as the Wahgunyah Diggings, then Calico Town, then Barkly, would be named after the hometown of its most prolific publican, John ‘Seven Star’ Wallace, who was offered naming rights if he shouted the bar.
Though the winemaking in the district preceded it, gold was the making of Rutherglen. Gold was found in what is now the main street of Rutherglen, and when the handful of lucky miners bragged of their fortune, a few thousand others joined them.
Thanks once again to steady waters and fertile soil of the Murray River, pastoralists kept the local prospectors (as well as those in Beechworth) watered and fed and by the mid-1860s, Rutherglen had a population in excess of 10,000. As dry leads were spent, within a year, less than 800 remained.
One of the more unique items North East Water inherited was the wine bottle water tower in Rutherglen. Though it hadn’t been an integral part of the water supply system for a number of years, the tower represented a significant landmark within the local community when, in 1969, a community project saw the addition of a steel framed network to the top of the tank to provide a ‘wine bottle’ appearance to the overall structure.
In early 2012, inspections of the steel tank revealed the onset of significant corrosion to where the ongoing safety of the tank was a growing concern. As such, North East Water engaged a structural engineering report to assess the overall condition of the tower and tank and to recommend remedial actions. This included the removal of the tank and associated steel frame from the top of the tower, though the overall structural integrity of the tower was considered acceptable with the addition of some support bracing and minor remedial actions. And we set to work correcting these failures.
Once work was completed, the tower was sold to Indigo Shire council for the princely sum of $1.
Rutherglen receives it water via the Wahgunyah Water Treatment Plant, where raw water is extracted directly from the Murray River.
Rutherglen also shares with the Wahgunyah’s Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) located 5kms north-west of Rutherglen. Wastewater is collected in three small catchments that pump to an additional catchment before being transferred to the WWTP. As if often the case for large industrial customers, Uncle Toby’s have their own dedicated main and treatment lagoon.
The Rutherglen/Wahgunyah wastewater system produces general reclaimed water which is supplied to multiple agricultural and urban customers. Reclaimed water is used for irrigating pasture and public open spaces in Rutherglen, including a schools, parks and a golf course (irrigation is also undertaken on 15ha of land at the WWTP).
Porepunkah is situated approximately 5 kilometres north-west of Bright, at the foot of Mt Buffalo and at the junction of the Buckland and Ovens Rivers. It is believed that the name Porepunkah is derived from Aboriginal word meaning ‘meeting of the waters’, from the Minubuddong language.
While Hume and Hovell would have sighted Mt Buffalo from their camp at Whorouly earlier, European settlement of Porepunkah took place in the 1830s. It is believed that the first permanent white settler was John Buckland, who took up the lease for the Barwidgee Run in January 1840, with Port Punkah or Little Portland Run (Porepunkah) included in his lease.
The discovery of gold during the 1850s led to an increase in miners to the area, a large number of which were Chinese. Porepunkah is the nearest modern town to the site of the fatal Buckland Riots that took place on 4 July 1857, which involved the hostile and savage treatment of the Chinese by the other miners.
In 1860 Porepunkah was surveyed as a township, with the Post Office opening in 1870 followed by the Porepunkah Primary school on 23 January 1873. Porepunkah was officially proclaimed a township on 22 June 1910 by Lord Carmichael, the Governor of Victoria.
The opening of the Bright Railway line in 1890 facilitated visitors to Porepunkah, who would stop there on their way to Buffalo.
Porepunkah remains popular with tourists today, who enjoy the recreational benefits of the Buckland and Ovens Rivers and the access afforded to Mt Buffalo and the Buckland Valley.
Originally under the purview of the Bright Waterworks Trust, reticulated water would only be introduced in Porepunkah in 1980. Prior to that, residents extracted their water from either private wells or directly from the Ovens River. The water supply scheme constructed for Porepunkah included a low off-take weir across Buckland River some 120 metres upstream of the Buckland Bridge. A supply main, over 12 kilometres in length, took the water for the weir to a service basin (an earthen tank of 4.5ML capacity). The ambitious project also included what in 1980 would still be a rarity – chlorination.
The project ran into a temporary dilemma when the contractor was placed in the hands of a receiver. Fortunately, the Waterworks Trust took the workers under their employ, and the project was completed with only a two-week delay. Unfortunately, the moment it was completed, water restrictions were enacted and it was Christmas 1981 before the township was finally able to access the water.
With a population of 550 people, Porepunkah was the last town of its size in north east Victoria to be provided with a reticulated sewerage system under the Victorian Government New Town Sewerage initiative. Following a long period of community consultation, North East Water received ministerial approval to proceed with the scheme in February 2004.
As simple as it sounds, the town was connected to the Bright Wastewater Treatment Plant. To achieve that, however, required North East Water to design a sewerage scheme that included almost 9,000 meters of gravity sewer mains, 2,000 pressure rising mains, and packaged sewage pump stations, all for the tidy sum on $2.3 million.
The January 2003 Alpine bushfires had a devastating effect on many of North East Water’s catchments including that of Porepunkah. The fire muddied the catchments, and North East Water began a program to address the water security of towns that were reliant on pristine catchments to provide water of a high quality.
Porepunkah was at the top of that list. Bushfires throughout the Buckland and Ovens Valleys resulted in the loss of much of the natural vegetation in Porepunkah’s supply catchment. The raw water quality was subsequently diminished to the extent that following any rainfall the storage basin could not be filled, and following heavy rainfall, residents were asked to boil drinking water.
To address this, North East Water designed and built a pipeline link between Porepunkah and Bright, were water treatment was also being put in place. The project was fast-tracked in 2004 and remains in operation today.
Though the Indigenous nation of the Pangerang people had lived there for centuries, in 1838, the number of residents in Oxley amounted to one. The first white settler, George Faithfull, took up ten rams and a disproportionate amount of land – 92,000 acres – along King River. The well-heeled Faithfull built his homestead (named ‘Wangaratta’) and bred cows and sheep, but the discovery of gold in Ovens Valley resulted in a steady stream of diggers (and, inevitable enough, bushrangers) crossing through Oxley. By 1862 foot traffic (and the services to accommodate them) had increased enough for a district to be declared. Water services, such as they were in 1862, were sourced from King River, and the boom industry, outside of prospecting, was water carting.
Securing water security for Oxley was initially a little tricky. Raw water is primarily sourced from the King River and the water supply system draws from a catchment area that includes a significant upstream storage in Lake William Hovell. The catchment encompasses an area of extensive agriculture and grazing, and with the presence of many dairies and septic systems within the King Valley, the raw, surface water source for Oxley was considered to have high likelihood for contamination and was exposed to potential risks from elevated turbidity (dirty water) after storm and heavy rainfall events.
Subsequently, Oxley required a treatment capability that matched the unique needs of the town. A water treatment plant was devised that included sand filters, treatment, and then pumped to an elevated tank for storage. 7.5 kilometres of mains have been laid to feed the town.
Similarly, a system was needed to address sewerage, with Oxley on septic tanks until 2013. In 2005, the Rural City of Wangaratta nominated Oxley (amongst other towns) for the provision of reticulated sewerage under the Victorian Government’s Small Town Sewerage Program. The scheme linked wastewater to the Wangaratta sewerage system, and North East Water worked with Oxley to ensure affordability. The scheme was eventually completed in 2013.
Moyhu is situated near the King River, 27 kilometres south of Wangaratta and 180 kilometres from Melbourne.
In 1838, Dr George Mackay took up the ‘Myrrhee’ pastoral run (it is thought that the name of the run is derived from the Aboriginal word meaning ‘wind’). The earliest known selector at Moyhu was a Mr Thomas Byrne and his family settled near Meadow Creek in the 1850s. Thomas Byrne’s son, Andrew, became a prominent figure in Moyhu’s development. Andrew donated his land to establish the St John of the Holy Cross Catholic Church. He became a prominent resident of Moyhu, later becoming Councillor and establishing a racing club, butter factory, a co-operative store and sponsor of sporting clubs.
The first known land sales were in 1859, and in 1863 a family of Irish settlers, the Farrells, arrived in Moyhu. It is thought that the name ‘Moyhu’ was given in honour of their Irish village Moydow (the Irish pronunciation of Moydow sounding very similar to Moyhu). Dominick Farrell married Catherine Byrne, one of the earliest known selectors at Moyhu.
During the late 1800s Moyhu was a lively town, with regular race meetings and dances. The Post Office opened in 1868 and by 1933 Moyhu had two butter factories, a market, two stores and a hotel. The population of Moyhu grew from 63 in 1901 to 427 by 1921.
The first known school was a slab building with a bark roof creatively named ‘Rural School No. 96’, which was granted aid by the Board of Education in 1871. This was followed by the ‘State School 1335’ in 1874, which was housed in a new building in 1907 with major additions built in 1959.
Moyhu became a significant producer of agriculture, influenced by the market gardening and tobacco growing skills brought by the Chinese, followed later by the influence of Italian migrants in the 1940s and 1950s, who grew tobacco and realised the potential of the region to produce the European wine that is still enjoyed today.
The railway reached Moyhu in 1899, with the Wangaratta to Whitfield line being the narrow-gauge line to be built in Victoria. The railway facilitated the transportation of Moyhu’s dairy products and provided access to markets. The railway closed in 1954 once motorised transport was available.
Today Moyhu is part of the Rural City of Wangaratta.
Despite a population of only 235 (or 102 connections, as at 2018), Moyhu has a comprehensive system for ensuring safe and reliable drinking water. Raw water is pumped from the King River, where it is treated before being sent to a 140kL elevated storage. Due to the density of the town, it only takes 3.5kms of water mains to service the entire town.
In 2017, North East Water invested in just under 5kms of sewerage reticulation to form a Septic Tank Effluent Drainage (STED) system. Essentially, the private septic tanks connect to the gravity reticulation system to form part of the treatment train (that is, pre-treatment occurs in the septic tanks, final treatment occurs at the Moyhu Wastewater Treatment Plant lagoons).
Mount Beauty is situated at the bottom of Victoria’s highest mountain, Mt Bogong. Traditionally the area was visited by the Dhudhuroa and Yaitmathang peoples who hunted along the Kiewa River (from the Indigenous word meaning ‘sweet water’). Mt Bogong (which is also an Indigenous name meaning ‘Big Moth’) played a significant role for Aboriginal poples, who would come to Mt Bogong each year to conduct ceremonies, perform rituals and to settle disputes. The communities would gather Bogong moths from the foot of the mountain and feast on them.
It is believed that Hume and Hovell visited the Kiewa Valley in November of 1824. The rich fertile land brought European settlers to the area in 1835.
Some of the earliest known settlers were the Richardson, Maddison and Holland families. It is said that Charles Richardson named the town Mount Beauty when admiring the view from the top of a steep spur on his run.
A drought that occurred between 1838 and 1844 saw pastoralists come to the Kiewa Valley with its fertile land and engage in cattle grazing, dairying, tobacco growing and timber harvesting and milling.
Mount Beauty is famous for being a town that was developed by the State Electricity Commission to house the workers during the construction of the Snowy Mountains Hydro Electric scheme. Between 1949 to 1974, more than 100,000 people from over 30 countries worked on the scheme. At its peak there were 4,000 workers in the town.
As construction of the Snowy Mountains Scheme slowed down, the houses were sold to permanent workers, and in 1960, Bright Council (now Alpine Shire Council) took control of the township.
When North East Water inherited Kiewa Murray Water in 1994, and with it Mt Beauty’s water and wastewater services, a plan was put in place to replace the 1950s trickling filter treatment plant used to treat wastewater.
Like most things when it comes to treatment of wastewater, it didn’t come cheap; the Mt Beauty Treatment Plant upgrade cost $2,455,000. The state of the art tertiary treatment facility used a combination of screening, biological processes, chemical polishing and UV disinfection to remove nutrients from the sewage water. At the heart of the new plant is a sequenced Biological Nutrient Removal process, which may not mean much to most people, but enabled North East Water to treat up to 4.5ML per day to a standard suitable for on-land reuse (such as farming) or discharge to the Kiewa River (with no environmental impact).
To best understand the complexities of North East Water’s activities, and the resilience of our communities, look to the township of Mt Beauty.
The bushfires of January 2003 threatened a number of towns in our region – Mt Beauty, Tawonga, Dartmouth, Bright, Harrietville, Beechworth and Yackandandah – and caused a huge jump in water consumption as residents fought to protect their homes. Many of these towns were already on restrictions as a result of a severe drought and systems were further strained as firefighters tapped into town supplies.
When fires were eventually brought under control they had burnt a huge swathe of bushland including several of the catchments our towns rely on for their drinking water.
The entire Kiewa and Diamantina catchments (which supply Mt Beauty, Tawonga and Tawonga South) were burnt out along with about 85% of the Buckland River catchment (Porepunkah) and about 70% of the Ovens River and Bakers Gully catchments (Bright and Wandiligong) also gone.
With so much ash now lying on the ground in these and other burnt catchments, we expected that rainfall would bring much of it into the rivers and streams and severely affect water quality. Twelve of our towns rely on these waterways as the source of their reticulated supply, so we saw planning for a rain event as a high priority.
As a result we conducted a meeting with relevant agencies including DSE, the CFA, Parks Victoria, DHS and bushfire experts to formulate detailed contingency plans for each of the towns we expected would be affected.
And merely a few weeks later, a storm hit.
The storm devastated the Buckland catchment, causing major landslips, flooding in the river and the depositing of a massive load of ash and sediment into the water, transforming the normally pristine river into liquid mud, something no one in the region had ever experienced before.
In these situations, things move fast. North East Water immediately placed Porepunkah (which draws its water from the Buckland River) on stage 4 restrictions, shut down the offtake and switched the town supply to the 4.5 megalitre clean storage.
We placed Bright, Wandiligong, Mt Beauty, Tawonga and Tawonga South on emergency restrictions after substantial rain following the storm caused the Ovens and West Kiewa rivers to run dirty. We supplied towns with the stored clean water for several days until the rivers cleared.
Meanwhile staff were tracking a large ‘slug’ of very dirty water that had entered the Ovens River from the Buckland catchment and was making its way downstream to Wangaratta.
Though the clean-up and rebuild of infrastructure would continue for years, North East Water restored all services within weeks. And Mt Beauty showed both its resilience and grit in riding out the storm.
‘The land is exceedingly good with fine hills and grassland, it is as pretty a spot as I have seen since leaving home.’
So said explorer Hovell in 1824 of what would come to be known as Milawa. Twelve years later Major Thomas Mitchell would pass through, and after being known only as ‘The Square’, it would be 50 years since Hovell first passed through before the name of Milawa (meaning ‘flat land’) would be adopted.
As with most towns in North East Victoria, Milawa centred on agriculture and alcohol. In these early times the Emu Hotel occupied one corner and the Commercial on the opposite corner. General merchandise was available at McKenzie’s store and there were two blacksmiths, a saddler, a bootmaker, a carpenter and, best of all, a doctor. A dairy company was established in 1891 and by 1896 was one of the biggest dairy companies in Australia.
A Mechanics Institute comprising a free library and a spacious hall opened in 1889. A court was established in 1874 by a visiting Magistrate in a room leased, conveniently, from the Emu Hotel. Not to be left out, the Commercial Hotel hosted the police station, but, competitively, the lock-up adjoined the Emu Hotel.
Milawa has no public water supply and instead accesses its water through three co-operatives. There are no current plans for Milawa to be connected to water supply by North East Water.
Milawa Sewerage Scheme is Declared
The Milawa Sewerage Scheme was officially declared on 8 April 2014. The scheme provided Milawa with a more reliable wastewater system, with effluent treated through a modified conventional sewer system.
The scheme was funded through the Victorian Government’s Country Towns Water Supply and Sewerage Program and services approximately 110 properties.
The provision of sewerage services has addressed the onsite wastewater management issues previously experienced. The scheme has also reduced the impact on the stormwater system servicing the town and minimised any risk to public health and the environment.
Milawa’s wastewater is pumped to the Oxley main pump station. From there, wastewater from both Oxley and Milawa is pumped to Wangaratta, where it is discharged to a manhole in Kums Street, in the Graham Avenue catchment. The wastewater is then collected from the Graham Avenue catchment and other catchments, before being pumped to the North Wangaratta Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Before the town of Kiewa even had residents, it had a pub. The Lagoon Hotel was constructed in 1859 and farm selectors turned up five years later, attracted to the numerous lagoons and anabranches that sprung from the Kiewa River, as well as, presumably, not having to wait several years to get a cold beer.
The river flats were suited to dairy herds and in 1893 the Kiewa Butter Factory was opened (it later became the North Eastern Dairy Company and then part of the Murray Goulburn dairy conglomerate). A large orchard and cool store were established in 1908 and 1913, and the irrigated Kiewa Valley orchards were established in 1924, one of the first in Victoria.
Kiewa Murray Region Water Authority became responsible for Kiewa and Tangambalanga’s water and wastewater services when the Authority was constituted in December 1994. By 1994 the Authority was providing water to a population of 690 in the Kiewa / Tangambalanga area but was not yet providing wastewater services. The water supply was untreated.
During the 1995-96 financial year. Kiewa Murray Water constructed a 1.5 megalitre water storage. The following year, the North East Region Water Authority became responsible for Kiewa’s water and wastewater service and began looking into a water treatment facility, with commissioning due by 1999.
Kiewa’s Water Supply
Kiewa/Tangambalanga was connected to the Wodonga reticulation in November 1999 through a supply pipeline from Wodonga. Water is treated at the Wodonga water treatment plant and flows through the supply pipeline to a 10 megalitre tank at Baranduda. From there, the water flows through a 14 kilometre long pipe to a 1.5 megalitre tank at Tangambalanga.
The Tangambalanga tank is filled to a seasonal set point, at which supply is shut off through the closure of an automatic control valve. The valve is located on the supply line between the towns of Kiewa and Tangambalanga; when the valve is closed Kiewa is supplied from Baranduda and Tangambalanga is supplied from the storage tank. The valve re-opens when the Tangambalanga tank falls to a pre-determined level.
During its first year of operation, the North East Region Water Authority formed the Kiewa / Tangambalanga Sewerage Scheme Consultative Committee. The Committee assisted with the exchange of information between the community, contractors and the Authority during the construction of the scheme. The wastewater reticulation scheme was commissioned in November 1998, and the scheme was completed during the 1998-99 financial year.
Over time the Wodonga sewerage system was expanded to include Kiewa-Tangambalanga. Wastewater from the gravity reticulation in Tangambalanga is pumped through a wet well submersible arrangement across the Kiewa River to the Kiewa pump station. The pump station transfers wastewater from Kiewa and Tangambalanga the 12 kilometre distance to a large gravity main upstream of the Baranduda lagoons. The Baranduda wastewater treatment plant receives the domestic waste from Kiewa, where it is partially treated through a two lagoon system. From the Baranduda wastewater treatment plant the wastewater is sent to the West Wodonga Wastewater treatment plant for full treatment, after which it is either used for reuse or discharged to the river.
Eskdale is a small, rural town in the Mitta Mitta valley, approximately 55 kilometres south-east of Wodonga. It’s thought that the town’s name came from the River Esk in a place called Eskdale, Cumbria in England.
From around 1860, early settlers came to the area in search of gold, which was discovered at Pioneer Creek in Mitta Mitta and Mount Elmo; a tributary of Little Snowy Creek.
Eskdale’s amenities were developed to accommodate the early settlers, with the first school opening in 1881. The town was officially surveyed by G H Lavery in 1887 and was the Mitta Mitta valley’s first town.
Once mining declined, cattle farming and dairying became important industries for Eskdale, supplying the Mitta Mitta valley, with the town’s river flats and land providing farming excellent conditions.
Eskdale’s Butter Factory opened in 1903 and the construction of Dunstan’s timber saw mill, drying yards and kilns attracted a great deal of people to the town in search of work. With the Butter Factory closing down in 1968 followed by a merger with Murray Goulburn and the saw mill burning down in a fire in 1975, the population of Eskdale declined to just under 250 people.
While the Little Snowy Creek provided Eskdale’s community with a great spot for swimming, releases from the Dartmouth Dam soon after the dam’s construction in 1979 made the river hazardous. The Eskdale swimming pool was opened in the early 1980s to provide a safe place to swim.
Since the 1950s the Eskdale community relied on water pumped from Little Snowy Creek. When the Creek ran dry (not for the first time) in February 2009, residents had to rely on water trucked in by North East Water. By 2010 Eskdale was officially connected to town water.
Since the 1950s, the Eskdale community relied on water pumped from Little Snowy Creek and into a storage tank. A key driver for the water supply was the fact that the town would run out of water during drought. When the creek ran dry (not for the first time) in February 2009, residents had to rely on water that had been trucked in by North East Water.
Eskdale is connected to Town Water
In 2009-10, North East Water installed a new water treatment plant and Eskdale was officially connected to town water. Treatment includes coagulation and filtration, pH correction and chlorination. Following treatment, pressurised treated water is fed to two tanks. From there, water is gravity fed to the Eskdale distribution system.
Today, Eskdale’s water is from the regulated Mitta Mitta River downstream of Lake Dartmouth. Raw water is pumped 1.8 kilometres from the Mitta Mitta River to the Eskdale water treatment plant.
The Eskdale community relies on septic tanks for treatment of its domestic wastewater.
Bundalong is a small town located on the Murray River, 15km east of Yarrawonga. It overlooks the river where it is joined by the Ovens River and widens to the east of Lake Mulwala. It is thought that the name Bundalong is derived from an Aboriginal word meaning ‘joined together’.
The Bundalong Post office opened on 2 October 1876 and closed in 1940. The first school opened at Bundalong south in 1878, about 10km away on the road to Wangaratta. In 1884 a second school called Bundalong opened closer to the Murray River, the school was later to be renamed Edmond and relocated to the Bundalong Settlement Village.
An article from the Ovens and Murray Advertiser dated 2 July 1898 provides insight into the Bundalong Village Settlement that was created for settlers in the Bundalong area. It appears that the good farming land, an abundance of wheat and Bundalong’s proximity to the Murray and Ovens River were a major draw card for settlers. A good system of farming management was introduced by one of the settlers, a Mr Lee, who is described as ‘progressive and prosperous’. The village settlement also had a congregational church and a hotel.
In 1898 there were 60 allotments; married men were allocated 15 acres while single men were allocated 10 acres. There were numerous young children, who would travel three miles to the Edmond school. Both the schools would later close down; with the Edmond School closing in 1936 and the Bundalong South School closing in 1970. By 1903 Bundalong’s population was about 90.
Today Bundalong has a number of houses, boat launching ramps, a general store, a tavern / restaurant, a caravan park and a State Forest to the east and south along the rivers. Wheat plantations remain a feature of the town’s farming sites. At the 2011 consensus, Bundalong had a population of 604.
Bundalong’s residents originally accessed their drinking water through a community scheme. The scheme used an offtake at Lake Mulwala to access water, while other residents used private groundwater bores to source their water.
The Ovens Region Water Authority became responsible for Bundalong’s sewerage services when the Authority was constituted on 19 December 1994. However, there is no record of the Authority providing water services to Bundalong at this time. Given the size of the town and the small number of residents, it’s likely that drinking water was obtained from Lake Mulwala.
By 1998, the North East Region Water Authority recorded that there were 20 properties in Bundalong. However, there were no customers billed for water and Bundalong’s supply was non potable water.
As at 2002, Bundalong’s water was chlorinated and was then stored in a roofed tank, before being supplied to the township of Bundalong. At the time, 24 properties were supplied with chlorinated water directly from Lake Mulwala. At that time Bundalong’s water system did not receive full treatment and would experience high turbidity in the water following heavy rainfall events.
Around that same time, North East Region Water Authority constructed a water treatment plant for Bundalong. The plant used the dissolved air flotation and filtration treatment process, and was in use until February 2013.
Dual Water Supply
In November 2011, the Board of North East Water approved the next stage of the upgrade to the Bundalong water supply scheme. The upgrade would provide a dual water supply, with one pipe supplying high quality potable water for indoor uses, and a second pipe to supply river water for outdoor use. The provision of a dual water supply was a first for North East Water and enabled more than 220 residents to connect to a reliable and safe water supply, with the bonus of an alternative supply for outdoor use.
Construction of the $5.7 million project commenced in the middle of 2012 and included the installation of more than 15 kilometres of pipeline, as well as a new raw water pump station. The new scheme sees Bundalong’s potable water treated at the Yarrawonga water treatment plant and transferred to Bundalong along a 10.5 kilometre pipeline.
The Dual Water Supply Scheme was officially declared on 1 March 2013, with water made available to approximately 300 properties. The first customer to connect to the new supply in February 2013 was a Mr Keith Patterson, who was happy to have a constant supply of safe drinking water, after previously being reliant on a well and pump.
With the introduction of water supply via the Yarrawonga pipeline, the Bundalong water treatment plant was no longer required. North East Water built a new concrete storage tank and the water treatment plant was decommissioned. The old treatment plant is now used as the chlorine set and pump booster for Bundalong’s non-potable water supply.
Bundalong’s Water Supply Today
Today, Bundalong receives treated water through the Yarrawonga reticulation and pipeline to Bundalong. The treated water receives a booster treatment in the form of chlorination before it enters the clear water storage at Bundalong. From there, the treated water is sent to the Bundalong reticulation.
The raw water supply, provided to Bundalong residents for outdoor use, is supplied from Lake Mulwala.
Bundalong Sewer Scheme
In its first year of operation, the North East Region Water Authority completed the Bundalong Sewerage Scheme.
The Bundalong Sewer Scheme was officially opened in October 1998, by the Honourable Patrick McNamara, Deputy Premier of Victoria and Minister for Agriculture and Resources.
The wastewater treatment plant is located on Playfairs Road, south west of Bellbridge. Today the wastewater treatment plant consists of two primary lagoons and an 88 megalitre winter storage. The system includes approximately 6.5 kilometres of gravity sewerage, four pump stations and 6.4 kilometres if sewer rising mains. The wastewater is pumped to the lagoon wastewater treatment plant. Given the low inflows of wastewater that are received by the treatment plant, there is no reclaimed water produced.
The area that is today known as Bright was explored by Hamilton Hume and William Hovell in 1824, who were the first Europeans to discover Mt Buffalo on 24 November 1824. Prior to this the High Country was occupied by Aboriginal people for thousands of years. They would visit the High Plains during the warmer months to hold ceremonies and to gather the nutritious Bogong moths. Sadly the arrival of European settlers and pastoralists in the late 1820s had a devastating effect on the lives of the traditional inhabitants of the land. Aboriginals were forced out as their land was cleared to make way for cattlemen and stock grazing, destroying the cultural traditions and way of life that had been enjoyed over thousands of years.
The discovery of a rich goldfield in the Buckland Valley just 10 km from Bright in 1853 attracted a great deal of settlers to the area, with people arriving from Europe, China and America. Disputes and robberies were commonplace. The settlers busied themselves with mining and the building of water races. Shanties appearing along the road side to house the miners, although many slept under the stars. Evidence of the town’s mining history can be seen along the riverbeds today in the sluicing races, rock stacks and open mines.
On 25 January 1860 the Post Office was opened and named Morse’s Creek. The Morse’s Creek goldfield was chosen for the town’s survey in 1866 and the town was renamed Bright, in honour of the British politician and reformer, John Bright. Streets were named after politicians and lawyers of the era.
The discovery of gold
Gold was discovered in the Buckland Valley in 1853 by a Mr W. H Pardoe, after the gold rushes in Beechworth had eased. The discovery of gold attracted a great deal of settlers to the area, with people arriving from Europe, China and America. Shanties appeared along the road side to house the miners, although many slept under the stars. The first form of gold mining was alluvial mining; this often involved using a shovel and sieve to dig and sift through the alluvial deposits of gold from the sediment on the bed of the river. Alluvial gold washed out of the river gravel was taken from the Buckland Valley first followed by other discoveries along the Ovens River to Harrietville.
Hydraulic sluicing was introduced in Victoria around 1855 and was carried out at the Ovens River in Bright during the 1870s and 1880s.
Hydraulic sluicing on the Buckland River occurred from 1855, with 6,000 diggers mining for gold.
‘The Valley of the Shadow of Death’
The flocking of miners to the area created a settlement ridden with disease. Some miners brought wives and children with them and they had to battle with extreme summer heat trapped in the Buckland valley followed by harsh, cold winters. Miners would spend many hours each day waist deep in freezing cold water, protected from the elements at night only by canvas tents. Pneumonia and other illnesses were common. With no hospital or medical assistance, women and babies would often die during childbirth. It was common for young babies to die before reaching their first birthday.
There was no sanitation and the only water available for drinking purposes was sourced from the rivers and creeks, which quickly became polluted by the thousands of miners and animals. Within six months, an outbreak of ‘colonial fever’, which was most likely typhoid, meant that most diggers, as well as a number of women and children, had soon either died or fled the area.
For years the Buckland River was known as ‘The Valley of the Shadow of Death’ and it remained abandoned until a great number of Chinese miners arrived in 1857.
The Buckland Riot
Robberies and disputes were common between miners, with Chinese miners receiving the worst treatment. The Chinese were willing to work the abandoned claims and their success provoked jealousy in the Europeans. Their building of a Chinese Temple and Joss House only intensified the divide. Racial tensions escalated and resulted in the Buckland Riots that took place on 4 July 1857 in the goldfields of the Buckland Valley.
A plan was formed to remove during a public meeting to have the Chinese removed from the goldfields. The original plan was to lead the Chinese out of the Buckland Valley at gunpoint. However, what started an orderly operation escalated into a violent attack on the Chinese by around 100 rioters, who viscously beat the Chinese miners before throwing them into the river. Some Chinese miners were forced into trenches, shot and buried. The dwellings and stores of the Chinese were destroyed, as well as the Joss House. It is said that English and the Scottish miners helped some of the Chinese escape. The riot only ended when Beechworth Police arrived, under the leadership of Robert O’Hara Burke, by which time the 2,000 Chinese miners had either been killed or had fled the area. Twelve men were charged over the riot, with three found guilty of unlawful assembly and one of riot. A police camp was set up. The Chinese later returned to the area after the discovery of reef mining in 1860, with 2,000 Chinese miners among the 2,500 miners in the Upper Ovens / Buckland goldfield in 1864.
By the end of 1866 the Buckland workings were all but exhausted the value of the most sought after sluicing grounds fell by 50%.
The Buckland River Hydraulic Gold Sluicing Paddock was one of several sluicing sites along the Buckland River and dates back to the mid-1860s. The site is an area of 100 metres by 50 metres, containing a small sluiced open cut, pebble dumps and a tail race. Water for sluicing would have been brought to the site through a high pressure pipeline from higher up the river and then directed at the gold bearing deposits above the river.
The Canyon Gold Hydraulic Gold Sluicing Site is a large excavation containing pebble dumps and tail races. The tail races were cut through a ridge of bedrock from the open pit to the Ovens River. Water for sluicing was delivered to the site by water races and then directed at the gold bearing deposits. Today a signed walking track follows the Ovens River past the sluice site, reached from the Star Bridge.
Reef quartz mining
Once the sedimentary gold had been obtained miners turned to reef mining. This involved the digging of shafts and tunnels to reach the quartz rock underground. In 1857 a rich quartz reef was discovered and was mined heavily until the 1900s.
In 1860 quartz mining was underway on the Ovens River and Morse’s and Growler’s Creeks. However, with only nine of the roughly 1,200 miners being experienced in reef mining, there was still a great deal of sluicing the beds and banks of the river. Large sluice boxes were used for the higher flats, aided by a strong head of water from the water races. Small waterwheels were used to drive Californian or elevator pumps in the lower claims.
Today the walking paths that were used by miners can still be seen, as well as the old tailraces that transported tailings and wastewater into the Ovens River.
The Pioneer Reef Mine was a large quartz mine in operation from 1905 until 1948 and produced between 20,000 and 25,000 ounces of gold. Water was taken from the Ovens River through a race to the edge of Rifle Range near Germantown, to supply the machinery. The water continued through an 18 inch diameter pipe to the battery along a distance of 1,418 feet. A Mine Manager’s Residence was built in 1900; it was later converted to a Bed and Breakfast and is still used today. Rifle Range Road still exists in the pine plantations and the remains of the old battery can be found next to Wandiligong Road.
From the 1900s there was a revival of gold mining, with miners turning to bucket dredging to extract gold. The main areas for gold were in Bright along Morse’s Creek, in the Ovens River Valley and several dredges were used on the river near Freeburgh and Germantown.
Between the years 1900 and 1959 around 60 huge dredges were used with huge buckets used to extract gold in and along the river. The dredges used wood fired steam power engines. The Racecourse Dredge was in use from 1909 to 1918 and produced 8,000 ounces of gold. Two other dredges at Bright extracted more than 11,700 ounces of gold. However, it came at an environmental cost with the mining practice destroying the river bed and local forests. The topsoil from the dredged areas would be swept away leaving huge areas of gravel behind and the effects were visible for half a century. In an attempt to improve the devastated landscape, conifers were planted and would go on to form softwood plantations. During the First World War the first pine plantation was established, using the dredge tailings from mining. The pine plantation was also made in an attempt to combat the spread of St John’s Wort. Forestry is still a significant industry today.
While dredging ended in 1922, evidence of the town’s mining history can still be seen along the riverbeds today in the sluicing races, rock stacks and open mines.
The role of water in mining
Water played a significant role in the success of gold mining. In the late 1800s water played a vital role in hydraulic sluicing operations; high-pressure water was used in ‘elevators’ which used high-pressure suction lifters to raise the broken down gravel that contained gold into the sluice boxes that would be raised on trestles.
By 1857 it is believed that 100 miles of water races had been created in the Buckland Valley, at a cost of £300 per mile.
In the late 1800s long, high-level water races were constructed to supply high-pressure water to the larger hydraulic sluicing operations.
Water wheels would power the stamp batteries that were used to crush the gold-containing quartz rock that was mined from underground.
Water was highly valued by the miners and there was a great deal of disputes that arose regarding the ownership of water. The introduction of a licence system for diversion in 1852 enabled the setting of fees, privileges and conditions.
Race holders benefited from selling their water to claim holders, this including the selling of water to commercial enterprises. During the 1860s it was common for Buckland miners engaged in ground or hydraulic sluicing to rent what were called ‘ground sluice heads’ from race owners for £2 to £3 per week. This was later replaced by a share agreement towards the end of the 1860s, with the race holder becoming a partner in the claim and receiving a quarter of the gold that was mined (after working expenses).
Life in Bright in the early 1900s
By 1903 the population of the town was 500, with the population of the Shire sitting at 4,500. Bright was described in the Australian handbook as ‘a post and mining town’. Residents had access to a money-order post office, savings bank and telegraph station. With the arrival of the railway in 1890 Bright became a terminal station on the extension from Everton, with daily coaches running to Wandiligong and Harrietville.
The Bright Waterworks Trust was responsible for supplying the town with water, which was sourced from Baker’s Creek. Gold mining was the town’s chief industry and many tourists visited the town during the summer. Bright also boasted three hotels, two banks, a school, four churches, the Salvation Army, an Athenaeum, police buildings, a fire station, court house, a brewery and a saw mill.
When settlers first grazed their stock in the 1820s mutton and in particular beef were very popular produce. When the majority of grazing land was destroyed by bushfire in the 1850s local cattlemen moved to the high plains and produced high country beef.
The Chinese miners brought their vegetable and fruit growing skills to the area, providing a much needed addition to the diets of miners. Farmers made a good living supplying their produce to the miners, with farmers making more money selling their produce to miners than some of the miners themselves.
As mining declined many miners turned to farming, with the rich soil providing ideal growing conditions for hops, tobacco, oats, maize, nuts and fruit.
After both world wars immigrants brought their farming skills to the region – the Italians brought their tobacco growing skills to the region and this industry was very successful until 2006.
Today the region has a reputation for its soil and ideal climate for producing excellent produce, which includes nuts, apples, wine grapes, berries.
The arrival of the railway in Bright played a significant role in the development of the town. The new railway to Bright was completed in 1890, as a branch from the existing line to Beechworth. The line followed the Ovens Valley and facilitated the movement of people and produce, with easier access between Mt Buffalo, Bright and the High Plains. As a result Bright became a hugely popular tourism destination, and well known for its excellent produce. The railway also facilitated the introduction of gold dredging in the early 1900s, transporting the required heavy machinery to the goldfields.
The railway ran until 1983 when the line between Bright and Myrtleford closed, followed by the closing of the line towards the junction at Bowser. During the late 1990s the line became the “Murray to Mountains Rail Trail”, which is still enjoyed as a cycling and walking track today. The Bright Railway station is now a museum.
The History of Bright’s Water Supply
The Bright Waterworks Trust was constituted on 23 May 1890, with the purpose of constructing, maintaining and continuing waterworks for domestic supply to the township of Bright.
The Trust’s first tender called for the construction of the Bakers Gully Reservoir on 26 July 1890.
Construction of the Bakers Gully Reservoirs
Bright’s water supply was originally sourced from two reservoirs in Bakers Gully. The first Bakers Gully Reservoir (the lower reservoir) was constructed in 1891 and had a capacity of 9.1 megalitres. This was followed by the construction of a higher reservoir in 1912, with a capacity of 13.6 megalitres. The reservoirs were connected to the town reticulation system by a 250 mm main. However, the creek in Bakers Gully didn’t flow for several months of the year, therefore it was required to pump from the Ovens River directly into the reticulation system during the drier months of the year.
Bright Waterworks Trust Constructs new Pump Reservoir
In the early 1960s there was a decrease in the storage capacity of the Bakers Gully reservoirs, partly due to silting from the effects of forestry operations and from the fires of 1939. This was occurring at a time when the permanent population and tourist population of Bright was increasing. To alleviate the decreasing storage capacity and to meet the requirements of a growing population, a pump reservoir was installed on the Ovens River in 1983.
The Bright Waterworks Trust employed local contractors Huggins and Kewish to construct a new weir at the off-take in the Ovens River alongside the pumping station. The pump reservoir had a capacity of 200 megalitres and was connected into the town’s distribution system by a rising main. The new reservoir bypassed the two Bakers Gully reservoirs, which became disconnected from the town water supply, to be used only as an emergency supply.
The stop board design of the weir meant that the river level could be raised in times of low flow, to enable the new pump to operate at its optimum efficiency.
The pumping facility at the offtake was expanded and became the sole water supply for the town.
The Bright District Water Board
On 5 June 1984 the Bright Waterworks Trust was replaced by the Bright District Water Board, which assumed control of all constituted water supply districts in Bright.
In times of drought the Bright District Water Board would use two dredge holes at Harrietville for additional water supply. The dredge holes stored water, which would then be pumped directly into the Ovens River, to boost supply during times of drought.
New gravity water supply scheme for Bright
A new gravity water supply scheme from Bakers Gully was implemented by the Bright District Water Board and was in operation from August 1992. The diversion of the Bakers Gully Creek to the 2 megalitre storage tank enabled the Bright township to gravitate water, as well as having the pumped supply.
The scheme cost approximately $100,000 and consisted of a nine inch pipe running 2.5 kilometres across Bakers Gully Road. An offtake from the creek ran through two sanitation pits, with chlorination at a very low rate of 1 part per million.
Bright’s water supply would now operate on a dual system. During times of adequate flow, supply would occur by gravity to the two megalitre tank. In the event of flow falling below demand, a pumped supply would be sourced from the Ovens River, to occur automatically.
The second supply would further improve the quality of Bright’s water supply and significantly reduce pumping costs. The life of the pumps would also increase as they were only required to operate in summer.
A link-up water main was also installed in Hawthorne Lane to assist in improving Bright’s chlorine detention time.
Ovens Region Water Authority and Bright
The Ovens Region Water Authority assumed responsibility for Bright’s water supply and wastewater services when it was formed on 19 December 1994. Bright’s water was sourced from the Ovens River system, and while compliance with the World Health Organisation standards for bacteriological quality was not 100%, it was still high.
In its first year of operation, the Authority commenced discussions with the Bright Golf Club, with a proposal to use treated wastewater to irrigate the golf course.
By the time the North East Region Water Authority was constituted on 1 July 1997, the Bright water supply was still prone to experiencing ‘dirty water’; while the supply was disinfected it did not receive other forms of treatment.
Temporary Water Filtration at Bright
Historically water for Bright was taken from the Ovens River and was treated with chlorine disinfection. The Bright water supply also provided drinking water to the towns of Porepunkah and Wandiligong. While the quality of the water supply met the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines for turbidity, the bushfires that occurred in 2003, 2006 and 2007 negatively impacted the river, resulting in extremely high turbidity levels and sediment.
North East Water had to issue ongoing Boil Water Notices as a temporary measure to ensure the quality of the drinking water. This was compounded by the devastating impact of the drought on the Ovens River during 2005 and 2006, with the river at risk of drying up during 2007. In order to access water, North East Water drilled additional bores. However, the groundwater came with potential health risks in the form of Iron, Manganese and Arsenic. North East Water came up with the solution of implementing temporary water filtration at Bright, to be able to effectively treat the groundwater and ensure the quality of the water supply for customers.
North East Water commissioned Amiad to deliver four containerised filtration plants. The selected site for the plants was a tree reserve close to the chlorination facility.
The project included a raw water pump, coagulation, filter media selection, construction of the filtration units, pipework, electrical components and security fencing.
Day one of the commissioning proved to be incredibly challenging, with more than 50 millimetres of rainfall taking turbidity levels in the Ovens River to greater than 140 NTU! However, the plant was able to reduce turbidity levels from 140 NTU to 5 NTU. With optimisation of the plant, the drinking water was produced with turbidity levels lower than the acceptable 0.3 NTU.
North East Water was able to lift the Boil Water Notices that had been in place for six months, which was a great outcome for the community.
Construction of the Bright Off-River Storage and Bright Water Treatment Plant
The need for a water storage for Bright was officially confirmed in a special report commissioned by Mr David White, the Minister for Water Resources in 1983.
By March 1988 the level of concern regarding the security of Bright’s water supply was rising. Stage 1 water restrictions were required at Bright, Porepunkah and Harrietville. Water was also being pumped direct from the Harrietville Dredge Hole into the Ovens River to try and keep the flow up to the permitted minimum. The river flow was thought to have fallen as low as 11 megalitres per day. There was also concern that the river wouldn’t be able to meet needs of irrigators and diverters further downstream.
The proposal for an off-river storage was first considered in the Bakers Gully area by the Bright District Water Board in 1989. An alternative proposal for the development of a lake in the Hawthorn Lane area was also considered, however the Bakers Gully proposal had the additional benefit of being an elevated site that would enable water to be gravity fed to the town water system.
In 2007 North East Water identified that a more secure and reliable water supply was needed for the communities of Bright, Wandiligong and Porepunkah.
Following consultation with the community, the Bright District Advisory Group and the Bright Off River Storage Stakeholder Liaison Group, Freeburgh was agreed as the most suitable site for the storage to meet the needs of customers and the environment.
Construction of the 520 megalitre off-river storage reservoir commenced in early 2014. On 17 November 2014 the pumps were switched on and the filling of the storage commenced.
The $14 million project included a new pumping station on the Ovens River to pump water to the off-river storage, a 520 megalitre off-river water storage reservoir, a new water treatment facility and additional treated water storage tank and a new pipeline to Bright.
The project has enabled the provision of a more reliable and secure water supply to our customers. Benefits to the environment have also been realised, with more water in the Ovens River during periods of low flow, leading to improved river health and aquatic life.
Construction of the Bright Water Treatment Plant
The Bright Water Treatment Plant was officially opened by North East Water on 8 March 2017. The dissolved air flotation-filtration plant has a capacity of five megalitres per day.
North East Water Staff and members of the Bright Community at the Opening
Bright’s water supply today
Today Bright’s water is supplied by the Ovens River at Freeburgh, upstream of Bright. The raw water is then diverted into the 520 megalitre raw water storage. The raw water is then treated at the water treatment plant before being distributed to the Bright reticulation.
Bright is connected to sewer
Before being connected to sewer, the township of Bright relied on septic tanks and pan services to dispose of its domestic waste. Up until as late as 1980, 35 towns in Victoria were not connected to sewer. The absence of a sewer scheme posed a serious health risk to the Bright community and this risk increased significantly during the peak season for tourism, with up to 250,000 visitors travelling to the town each year.
A sewerage scheme for Bright was initiated in 1974, followed by the constitution of the Bright Sewerage Authority in September 1978. The principal works to be carried out as detailed in the Victorian Government Gazette included reticulation sewers, manholes, main sewers, pumping stations, rising mains, outfall sewers and treatment works, at an estimated cost of $1,870,000.
At the time, residents were anxious and concerned about the cost of the sewerage scheme; the average connection per house cost $1,500, on top of annual rates of around $120 to $130. Residents felt that they were being asked to bear the financial burden of a scheme that was required to cope with the peak tourist population of 10,000 and the 250,000 visitors to the town each year.
The commencement of the scheme was delayed due to a lack government funding available. Fortunately, the Authority was able to secure loans from the State Bank and the State Insurance Office.
In 1981 The State Rivers and Water Supply Commission allocated $800,000 to commence construction of the Bright Township Sewerage Scheme.
In January 1982 contractors James A. McMahon constructed the sewerage ponds on the Back Porepunkah Road.
The reticulation construction was then carried out by Prentice Bros & Minson Pty Ltd on 8 February 1982 and involved approximately 17.5 kilometres of piping. The first pipeline, 225mm in diameter, was installed to the bowling green, with another branch to be installed to the Alpine Hotel.
The Bright Sewerage Scheme was designed to service a population of 12,000 but also had to be able to cope with tourism, with around 250,000 visiting the town each year. The scheme was unique for its use of treated effluent to spay-irrigate 120 acres of pines in the plantation by the treatment site. There was also a screen of pines used to enclose the treatment site.
The first property was connected to Bright’s sewerage scheme on 2 March 1983. By October 1986 422 connections to sewer had been connected (56% of the town).
Bright was officially connected to sewer in 1986. On 27 November 1986 the Minister for Water Resources, the Honourable Andrew McCutcheon officially opened the Fraser’s Lane Wastewater Pumping Station, to celebrate the completion of major construction for sewering the township of Bright. At the time of the opening, the Bright Sewerage Scheme was at a cost of $5.861 million.
Bright’s Wastewater Treatment Plant
The Bright-Porepunkah wastewater treatment plant is located within a pine plantation. The plant consists of a primary aerated lagoon, an offline lagoon (which has not been used since 2002) and a maturation lagoon.
Matt Leach providing better photo
In March 2018 works commenced to upgrade the wastewater treatment plant. Works will include the construction of a new aerated primary lagoon and two secondary facultative lagoons.
Today, the Bright-Porepunkah sewerage scheme comprises 57 kilometres of sewerage reticulation. Bright’s wastewater is collected at a wet well pump station in Frasers Lane, before being transferred along a 2.7 kilometre rising main to the Bright-Porepunkah wastewater treatment plant.
Reclaimed water is returned to stream through gravel beds, with some of the reclaimed water used for third party irrigation at the Bright golf course.
Just over 100 years after it was established, the majority of Bonegilla was under water.
In 1835 Charles Ebden took up the Bonegilla pastoral run. The name is thought to be derived from an Aboriginal word meaning deep water hole or big cattle camp, both of which would be accurate. Much of the development of the town was due to the Cudgewa railway line which opened in 1889 (and closed in 1981). The line was used both in the development of and transporting materials for the Snowy Mountains Scheme.
Though the establishment of Lake Hume in 1936 would drown the town, Bonegilla would become the temporary home for over 320,000 migrants when the military camp, originally harbouring prisoners-of-war, would be turned into a short term immigration reception centre. Up to 5,000 lived there on some occasions (the local primary school struggled with erratic school populations and over 40 nationalities), and it’s now estimated that over 1.5 million Australians are descended from migrants who spent time at Bonegilla.
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The impact of North East Water’s involvement at this location is still in development, please check back soon.
Running alongside Indigo Creek, a settlement of what would come to be known as Barnawartha was formed in the early 1840s. The name is derived from an Aboriginal word, variously recorded as meaning ‘tall rushes’ or ‘parting of the storms’. East of the hilly, forested township of Chiltern and north towards the Murray River, Barnawartha had extensive open land suitable for grazing and cultivation . Cereals, fodder, potatoes and dairy goods were the primary produce until a successful vineyard was planted in 1858. Wine would win out over potatoes, and the region established itself as a land of vineyards.
Barnawartha’s history is littered with much of the same elements of its neighbours – a much-hyped but short-lived gold rush, the establishment of schools, churches and a sawmill. There is also a link to Ned Kelly; the original Bogong Winery was established by Gustav and William Baumgarten, but only after William served prison time for supplying Ned Kelly with horses.
Barnawartha’s Water Supply
Kiewa Murray Water Region Water Authority became responsible for Barnawartha’s water supply and sewerage services when the Authority was constituted on 1 December 1994. During its second year of operation, the Authority provided water to a population of 510 and wastewater services to a population of 110.
Barnawartha’s supply was untreated and was sourced from two bores, with an additional back up bore also available. Water was fed to a roofed service basin, before being provided to the Barnawartha reticulation.
New Water Treatment Facility for Barnawartha
A new disinfection plant for Barnawartha was completed in November 1999. This allowed the water supply to be chlorinated, which brought Barnawartha’s water in line with the World Health Organisation Guidelines.
Barnawartha is connected to the Murray System
During the 2008-09 financial year, North East Water constructed the Wodonga to Chiltern pipeline. The project involved the construction of a $2.7 million pipeline that stretched 16 kilometres from the Logic Centre inland port at North Barnawartha, to the Chiltern reticulation system. The pipeline was completed in March 2009, and in June 2009 Barnawartha began receiving water from the Murray system via the new pipeline.
Today, Barnawartha’s water is from the Murray system. Water is sourced from the Wodonga Creek, an anabranch of the Murray River. Raw water is pumped 5.5 kilometres, from the Wodonga Creek to a 32 megalitre raw water storage situated at the Wodonga Water Treatment Plant. From there the treated water is transported through the Wodonga to Chiltern pipeline, leaving the pipeline at North Barnawartha, where it is distributed to the Barnawartha reticulation system.
New Sewer Scheme for Barnawartha
During North East Region Water Authority’s first year of operation in 1997, the Barnawartha Sewerage Consultative Committee was formed. The Committee assisted with the exchange of information between the community, the Authority and contractor during the construction of the Barnawartha Sewerage Scheme.
The Barnawartha wastewater scheme was established in 1998 and was officially opened on 11 October 1998, by the Honourable Patrick McNamara, Deputy Premier of Victoria and Minister for Agriculture and Resources. The scheme used PVC pipework, with wastewater transported to a local lagoon treatment plant.
In 2012, a 4.2 kilometre PVC rising main to the Logic gravity sewerage system in Barnawartha North was constructed. Sewage is transported and treated at the West Wodonga wastewater treatment plant.
Yarrawonga has the distinction of being the only one of our 41 towns that was founded by a woman. In 1842, Elizabeth Hume, aided by her brother-in-law Hamilton Hume, established the Yarrawonga run by a lagoon near the Murray River.
Along with her nine children, Elizabeth moved to the area after her husband was killed by bushrangers. Naming her home Byramine (meaning ‘rustic retreat’), the home had a unique octagonal central room, or ‘the fortress’, which ensured a clear view out all windows in case of attack (the homestead remains in its original condition, and is open to the public today).
Mulwala was declared in 1858, and was a crossing place for people travelling to the Victorian goldfields. The village of Yarrawonga was founded in 1868, and by 1874 was large enough to justify the opening of a courthouse. By the 1890s, Yarrawonga-Mulwala was an important crossing point, and a local economy boomed.
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Thanks to Lake Mulwala via the Murray River, and downstream from Lake Hume, Yarrawonga has a decent water supply. So much so, that when North East Water inherited the system from the Yarrawonga Waterworks District, we began plans to help secure the water future of its neighbours in Tungamah, St James and Devenish. Work began on a 28km pipeline from Yarrawonga to Devenish in 2007 and were completed a mere 12 months later. To limit the impact on Yarrawonga we also built a $1.5 million 5 megalitre clearwater storage.
Handling wastewater was a little trickier. Initially, a 430 megalitre treated wastewater storage and transfer system was constructed as the cornerstone of a fully integrated reuse scheme and was managed by a neighbouring farmer.
In the interim, sewers were replaced and relined, and work commenced in 2006 on the Yarrawonga Sewerage Treatment Plant. The improved plant, now on Beatties Road, increased and improved services and saved 500 megalitres of water per year.
When the Devenish Hotel was on the verge of closure in 2004, the locals put their heads and their wallets together to save it. Now managed as a co-operative, the Devenish Community Hotel tells you everything you need to know about the history of this town – they roll up their sleeves and they get the job done.
A little short of half way between Benalla and Yarrawonga, Devenish was part of a district known as Major Plains and one of the many surveyed regions by Major Thomas Mitchell. Much to the chagrin of the squatters who had set up camp several years earlier, farm selection along Broken Creek began in the early 1860s, with a staggering four separate schools established by the mid-1870s.
Despite being one of the few north east Victorian towns denied a gold rush, the town survived thanks to the railway from Benalla to Devenish. After a series of miscalculations saw the official site of the town moved no less than three times, the establishment of the Railway Hotel in 1874 – now the Devenish Community Hotel – ensured the future of the town.
Devenish’s Water Supply
The Ovens Region Water Authority became responsible for Devenish’s water supply from 19 December 1994. Devenish’s supply came from the Broken Creek system and as at 30 June 1996, 59 properties were supplied with water. The water source was problematic as the creek was effectively an open stock and domestic channel, with no coverage or protection from the elements. Approximately 90 per cent of water was lost through evaporation and the water was also of very poor quality.
Raw water was diverted from the channel to a 25 megalitre storage and then to a water treatment plant from where it was stored to a 35 kilolitre clear water storage. A 135 kilolitre standpipe then provided supply to the town.
Devenish is connected to the Yarrawonga Water Supply
In 2006, Devenish was connected to Yarrawonga’s water supply. The Tungamah pipeline project involved the construction of a 360 kilometre long pipeline to connect Devenish, St James and Tungamah to the Yarrawonga water supply.
Today, Devenish’s water is supplied from the Yarrawonga system, and sourced from the Murray River (Lake Mulwala). The water is treated at the Yarrawonga water treatment plant and flows through the pipeline to Devenish. When the treated water reaches Devenish it is stored in a half megalitre tank, where it receives booster hypo chlorination before being pumped to the Devenish water tower, from where it is gravity fed to the Devenish reticulation.
There are no wastewater services provided to Devenish, with residents using septic tanks for their domestic waste.
When the region’s most prolific explorers, Hamilton Hume and William Hovell, discovered what would come to be known as the Broken River, they’d clearly run out of names. ‘Swampy River’ was problematic for the first delineated road from Sydney to Melbourne, and was renamed ‘Broken River’ 16 years later when a temporary bridge was constructed (thus ‘breaking’ the river) to allow overland access.
Following the Faithfull Massacre in 1838, a police border post was established, and with that followed settlement. Pastoral overlanders took full advantage of the grazing and pastoral lands along the river, growing wheat, orchards and vines.
Poor penmanship lead to the naming of the town when Edward Grimes, completing the application for the pastoral run, neglected to cross the ‘t’ in ‘Benalta’ and Benalla was born. It is thought the town’s name is derived from an Aboriginal word meaning ‘water hole’.
Benalla’s Water Supply
Securing Benalla’s Water Supply
Before the Second World War, Benalla’s water supply was sourced from the Broken River. Water was pumped from deep holes in the bed of the Broken River into two 40,000 gallon steel tanks at Riverview Road. The people of Benalla would experience dirty water, as well as water shortages.
Benalla’s Water Tower
The T V Cowan Tower, named after the Trust Chairman of the time, Thomas Vaughan Cowan, was constructed in 1935. The concrete tower was 30 metres high and could hold 454 kilolitres of water.
Seeking a Continuous Water Supply
The Benalla Waterworks Trust, established in 1882, wanted to provide Benalla with a continuous water supply. The Trust purchased just over 129 square kilometres of land in the Toombullup and Archeton area, as the site for a new reservoir, to be known as the Loombah Reservoir.
Construction of the Loombah Reservoir Secures Continuous Water Supply
The Loombah Reservoir was constructed between 1940 to 1945, under the Chairmanship of William McCall Say. The Loombah Reservoir had a holding capacity of 680 megalitres and enabled a continuous water supply to be secured for Benalla. Residents were invited to attend a mother’s day picnic by the reservoir to celebrate its completion, with around 600 people attending!
The Kelfeera Service Basin
In 1950 the Kelfeera Service Basin was constructed. The basin is lined with concrete and has a capacity of 3.64 megalitres. The Basin was situated 11.5 kilometres from the water tower and acted as a break pressure tank.
A pipeline was constructed from the Loombah Reservoir to the water tower. There was also a pipeline connecting the Kelfeera Basin to the water tower and a pipeline connecting the Kilfeera Basin to Loombah Reservoir.
Diagram showing Benallla’s Storage Supply Arrangements as at 1988
F R Harrison Basin (South Street Basin)
The South Street Basin was constructed in 1969-70 and was connected to the Kelfeera Basin by a 375mm mild steel cement lined pipe. The basin has a capacity of 4.5 megalitres and water inflow to the basin was controlled by a keystone butterfly valve. Two pumps were controlled from the water tower by a “non-float electrode system”.
The Basin was officially named in October 1981, after the former Chairman of the Benalla Waterworks Trust, the late Commissioner Frank Harrison. Frank was Trust Chairman for a total of 17 years and a Trust Commissioner from 1943 to 1980.
Growing Demand for Water
While this system served Benalla well for several years, a growing population, together with higher consumption and dry years meant that the Benalla Waterworks Trust had to impose water restrictions. In an effort to alleviate the need for restrictions, a cast iron main was installed into the Kelfeera Service Basin during 1963 to 1964 to supplement the supply.
By 1968 to 1969 the pipeline from the Kelfeera Basin was no longer able to meet Benalla’s demand for water so it was decided to install a low level storage basin in South Street. The South Street Basin, with a capacity of 4.5 megalitres, filled overnight, with water pumped directly into the water tower to augment the supply.
Construction of the McCall Say Reservoir
It was still apparent to the Benalla Waterworks Trust that an additional reservoir was needed to meet the consumptive needs of Benalla. In 1971 works commenced on the construction of the McCall Say Reservoir. Construction was with the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission, under the supervision of the Trust’s Engineer, Mr K D Borley.
The reservoir was completed in December 1973, with a capacity of 1,100 megalitres and at a cost of $750,000. The additional reservoir enabled the Benalla Waterworks Trust to successfully provide water to its population of 17,000.
The McCall Say Reservoir was named in honour of William McCall Say, which is very fitting in light of the significant role William played in securing a continuous water supply for Benalla. William was originally a pharmacist lived and worked in Benalla. He went on to become a Commissioner of the Benalla Waterworks Trust from 1928 to 1966, leading the Trust as Chairman for a total of 23 years. He was also the Mayor of Benalla from 1951 to 1954. The McCall Say Reservoir was officially opened by the Governor of Victoria, Sir Rohan Delacombe, on Monday 3 December 1979, with more than 300 people attending the opening.
It is worth noting the foresight of the Benalla Waterworks Trust in securing a continuous water supply through the construction of two major reservoirs. Benalla has one of the highest rainfall catchments in North East Water’s service area, with the reservoirs taking full advantage of the rainfall to provide a continuous supply of water to Benalla’s residents.
Lake Benalla was formed during 1974-1975, by damning the Broken River. The lake is usually full but is drained on occasion, during winter or in the event of flooding.
Ovens Region Water Authority
On 19 December 1994, the Ovens Region Water Authority assumed control of Benalla’s water supply and wastewater services. At the time, Benalla’s water was sourced from the Ryans Creek system and serviced a population of 9,000. The Benalla system was 100% compliant with World Health Organisation standards for bacteriological quality but was subject to issues with turbidity and colour following heavy rainfall events.
One of the Authority’s first steps was to introduce the pay-for-use principle as a two part tariff in Benalla on 1 October 1995. This lead to the new system being gradually implemented across other towns in the region and meant that customers paid only for the water they used.
The addition of Chlorine to the water supply
In 1979, the Victorian Government requested that all water boards adopt the World Health Organisation standards, which did not allow for any E.Coli readings. This led to the introduction of chlorine to Benalla’s water supply. A chlorine plant was constructed six kilometres from Benalla, and chlorine was added to the system at a rate of three parts per million.
The Brian Greed Water Treatment Plant
Benalla was one of the last towns in North East Water’s service area to receive a water treatment plant.
Benalla residents had been experiencing poor water quality for many years. Customer concerns regarding the quality of the water led to water quality improvements two years ahead of the original plan, with the opening of the Brain Greed Water Treatment Plant in 1999. The plant was completed without the need to increase water charges for customers.
The plant was constructed next to the Kelfeera Service Basin, which enabled the energy saving features of the gravity fed system to be retained. The plant was of conventional design and the only pumping required was to move water from the treatment area to the clear water storage tank.
The Brian Greed Water Treatment Plant was officially opened on 5 February 1999, by the Honourable Patrick McNamara MLA, Deputy Premier of Victoria and Minister for Agriculture and Resources. The Plant was opened under the chairmanship of Dr Brian Greed, with Jim Martin as the Chief Executive of North East Region Water Authority. Guests were invited to tour the new $4 million facility the day after the opening, on Saturday 6 February.
New ‘Piano Key’ Dam for Benalla
In early 2013 works commenced to upgrade the Loombah Dam Spillway. The $1.8 million project used ‘piano key’ technology to increase the capacity of the dam to safely pass flood flows. The project was the first of its kind in Victoria at the time and mean the spillway can increase the flow by four times that allowed by a conventional spillway. When the dam spills, the water cascades through the ‘piano key’ design.
The project included the excavation and removal of 12.500m3 of rock and earth fill, which is enough to fill five Olympic sized swimming pools. 2,000 tonnes of concrete was laid and 95,000 tonnes of steel reinforcement was used. The upgrade was completed in July 2013.
Benalla’s water supply today
Benalla’s water is supplied by Ryan’s Creek, Whiskey Creek and other minor water courses, with raw water stored in the McCall Say Reservoir and Loombah Reservoir.
At the Benalla Water Treatment Plant, treatment includes coagulation and flocculation, dissolved air flotation, a granular media filter, pH correction, chlorination and fluoridation. The treated water is stored in a 10 megalitre roofed clear water storage, before being provided to the Benalla reticulation.
Interestingly, the reticulation system still includes pipework that dates back to the 1940s and 1950s. North East Water is currently replacing many of the pipes that date from the 1940s to the 1970s.
Above is a photograph of a wooden pipe that was used in the Benalla reticulation system. Wooden pipes were made out of random lengths of timber that were made into staves (similar to those used in a wine barrel). The staves were bound together by galvanised steel wire, then coated heavily with bitumen. It would take a few days for the wooden pipes to swell or ‘proof’ once filled with water, after which the pipes became leak proof. It was not uncommon for wooden pipes to be left underground when new, modern pipes were installed.
Benalla’s Sewerage System
Benalla’s sewerage system was constructed in the 1930s. We know the Benalla Sewerage Treatment Plant was in operation as far back as 1941. Thomas Putt managed the “sewerage farm” from 1941 to 1958, at which time there was the No 1 pumping station in operation at Shepparton Road and the No 2 pumping station in operation at Wedge Street.
The Ovens Region Water Authority operated a lagoon wastewater treatment plant at Benalla, with the plant treating domestic sewerage and trade waste. In its first year of operation, Ovens Water adopted a strategy for the wastewater discharge policy, in line with the Environment Protection Authority’s State Environment Protection Policy. The policy for Benalla lead to the total reuse of Benalla’s wastewater on land.
The Benalla wastewater treatment plant is located on Holdsworth Road, with the winter storage located on the Midland Highway. The treatment plant includes a fully mixed aerated lagoon, a maturation lagoon, a 320 megalitre winter storage. Irrigation land includes 62 hectares using centre-pivot irrigation and 82 hectares using flood irrigation.
The 320 megalitre winter storage was constructed by North East Water during the 2007-08 financial year at the Scholes Lane site. The storage reduces discharges from the site to the Broken River, with treated water discharged from the winter storage lagoon into a small wetland. The treated water then overflows from the wetland into the Broken River through an open channel.
Bellbridge was built from a single farming property on the eastern side of the Hume Reservoir in the 1960s. One of the youngest townships on our map, the farming property was subdivided in the early 1970s and is identified by the 752 metre-long Bethanga Bridge.
Bellbridge’s water system was developed in the mid-1970s using AC pipes.
During its first year of operation in 1994, the Kiewa Murray Region Water Authority provided drinking water to a population of 430 in Bellbridge, and provided wastewater services to a population of 305.
At the time, Bellbridge’s water supply was disinfected with chlorine but received no other form of water treatment. Following heavy rainfall events, high turbidity in the raw water would result in ineffective disinfection. The North East Region Water Authority recognised that works were required to improve the water supply for Bellbridge and made plans for a new water treatment plant.
The Bellbridge Water Treatment Plant
The Bellbridge Water Treatment Plant was completed in December 1999 and was officially opened on 8 March 2000, by Dr Brian Greed, O.A.M, Chairman of North East Water.
The plant uses coagulation and flocculation, a granular media filter, pH correction and chlorination. It can treat half a megalitre of water per day.
Bellbridge’s Water Supply Today
Bellbridge’s water supply is sourced from Lake Hume on the Victorian side of Bethanga Bridge. Raw water is taken directly from Lake Hume and then pumped through a 1.1 kilometre long pipeline to the Bellbridge water treatment plant. The treated water is then pumped from the water treatment plant into two low level clear water storage tanks. Water from these tanks is gravity fed to the low level reticulation, while water is pumped to two high level tanks before being gravity fed to the high level reticulation.
Bellbridge’s Wastewater System
Bellbridge’s sewerage system was established in the mid-1970s using vitrified clay pipework. Today the system includes both vitrified clay and PVC pipework that was installed after 1990. There are three main pump stations; the stations that serve the Hillcrest Avenue and Bellbrae estate catchments pump wastewater into the main gravity reticulation system, which feeds into a third pump station at Mitta Avenue. Wastewater is then transferred from the Mitta Avenue pump station to the Bellbridge wastewater treatment plant.
The Bellbridge Wastewater Treatment Plant
The Bellbridge wastewater treatment plant was constructed in the late 1970s. The plant had a rotating biological contractor upstream of a lagoon, which was taken out of service in 2007.
In 2001 a 19 megalitre winter storage was constructed; this is also used as a maturation pond. The storage holds treated water for beneficial agricultural reuse within the Bellbridge area and eliminates the need to discharge to Lake Hume.
Today the wastewater treatment plant consists of a primary lagoon, which is split into an aerated section and a facultative section (essentially a waste stabilisation pond which reduces organic content in wastewater).
In 2001 a reclaimed water irrigation system was constructed for Bellbridge. The system is set on five and a half hectares of pasture that is leased by North East Water and uses reclaimed water that is pumped from the winter storage.
Dartmouth is the little town that could. Named after the Dart River, now east of, and cut off by, Lake Dartmouth, gold was officially reported as being discovered in 1874. A short-lived but vast goldfield was created, with five steam crushing mills. An allied mining settlement was established at Zulu Creek, and a school was established in 1909 and closed within three years. As far as 1933, Dartmouth was recorded only as a single line.
It would several decades to put Dartmouth on the map.
Back in the spotlight
Dartmouth came to the fore in 1970 when approval was reached under the River Murray Agreement for the building of the Dartmouth dam where several streams (including the Dart) converged at the Mitta Mitta’s headwaters. An earlier proposal for a storage near the borders of South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria (Chowilla) had been abandoned on the grounds of cost and high evaporation. It had been proposed chiefly to safeguard water for South Australia, and the Dartmouth project was conceived as holding water for slow release to the Murray River and downstream supply to South Australia. Its primary purpose became the storage of water for irrigation, domestic and livestock supply in Victoria and New South Wales.
Construction of Lake Dartmouth began in 1973. A planned township for the contractors and workforce was provided including a shopping centre, a hall, a primary school, sports facilities and a caravan park. In 1976 the town’s estimated population was 1,650 people.
When completed in 1978 Lake Dartmouth had a hydroelectric power station and a capacity of 4 million megalitres. After the project’s completion the town was sold and by 1991 it had been sold again. Its potential as a resort was probably oversold, but there are remains a hotel, motel units and a caravan park. The Mitta Mitta River has been widened by weirs to form Lake Banimboola, adjacent to the former township.
Dartmouth Dam was constructed between 1973 and 1979, and has felt the effects of the decade long drought that occurred in the late 1990s, followed by incredibly low storage levels in 2007, when the dam was only 11 per cent full. This provided a grim and desolate picture, especially compared with the 2.8 million megalitres held by the dam in October 2014.
Kiewa Murray Region Water Authority became responsible for Dartmouth’s water and wastewater services when the Authority was constituted in December 1994. By 1995 the Authority was providing water and wastewater services to a population of 100.
Dartmouth’s water network was completed in the mid 1970s, as part of the construction camp for Dartmouth Dam. There are approximately 8 kilometres of AC potable water mains that were installed around 1974, with a small amount of PVC mains.
Dartmouth did not have a water treatment plant and the supply was not fully treated. Water was sourced from the Mt Tabor Creek, into the Mt Tabor Creek reservoir.
Incidentally, Lake Tabor was built to support the town whilst the Dartmouth Dam was being constructed. After the water was extracted from the Mt Tabor Creek reservoir, disinfection in the form of sodium hypochlorite was applied, before the water was provided to Dartmouth’s customers.
However, the storage wasn’t able to meet the demands of the summer months during dry periods. During the 1998-99 financial year, the North East Region Water Authority invested in an alternative supply for Dartmouth, from the Mitta Mitta River. Water was then pumped to a small disinfection plant that was installed the same year.
The town would experience varying water quality at times, including discolouration of the water supply, due to the system being unfiltered.
In 2010, North East Water installed a temporary filtration plant; up until this point the supply was chlorinated only.
A Secure Water Supply for Dartmouth
On 27 July 2012, North East Water’s Deputy Chair, Frank Burfitt, officially opened a new water treatment plant for Dartmouth. The plant was built in-house by Brian Scobie, an employee of North East Water. The fully automated treatment plant uses treatment barriers consisting of coagulation / flocculation, pressure filtration and chlorine disinfection, to provide a high quality of water to Dartmouth’s residents, all year round. The benefits to the Dartmouth community also included the secure water supply increasing the appeal of Dartmouth for tourists.
North East Water acknowledged the input received from the Dartmouth community, and thanked local resident John Scales, who operated the previous water treatment system for many years. Incidentally, John is also a third generation mountain farmer who helped to construct the Dartmouth Dam in the 1970s.
Today Dartmouth’s water supply is drawn either from Lake Tabor, which is fed by Mount Tabor Creek or from the Mitta Mitta River. The water is then treated at the water treatment plant, sent to the clear water storages and then sent to the Dartmouth reticulation.
Dartmouth’s Sewerage System
Dartmouth’s sewerage system was constructed in the mid-1970s from vitrified clay pipes. Today the system is almost entirely vitrified clay piping from around 1973. There are two gravity catchments; sewage from the Jitema Street catchment is pumped into the second catchment, before being gravity fed the 420 metres to the wastewater treatment plant.
The Dartmouth wastewater treatment plant was constructed in 1973, to cater for the workers constructing the Dartmouth Dam. The same wastewater treatment plant is still used today. Given that the population of Dartmouth decreased significantly following the construction of the dam, the wastewater treatment plant is now surplus to the requirements of the town. The plant consists of an imhoff tank (which removes solids) and sludge lagoon, a primary and secondary lagoon and two maturation lagoons. Following treatment, the water is discharged into the Mitta Mitta River.
Though it would take until the relatively late 1860s for settlers to arrive, Corryong flourished thanks to a location in a wide valley watered by the Corryong Creek (which is joined by Thougla Creek). Farm selections began in 1867 and settlement was sufficiently numerous for a school to be opened in 1872. In 1875 and 1876 a store and a hotel were constructed – or, more accurately, picked up and carried from declining gold settlements and replanted in the burgeoning town.
Corryong proved to be a viable dairying district. A butter factory that opened at Cudgewa was transferred in 1899 to Corryong which was found to be nearer the centre of Upper Murray dairying, turning out about five tons (about the size of a heavy-duty truck) of a butter a week.
Corryong became quite the metropolis, with the Australian Handbook boasting in 1903 that it included three wine saloons and a rare ‘coffee palace’. The handbook also informed readers they could reach Mt Kosciusko in one day by horse, and that Corryong had high-level security, with ‘a police station that was lighted with kerosene’.
Corryong was named after the Kuriong pastoral run, taken up in 1839 by a pastoralist from New South Wales. It is thought that the name was derived from Aboriginal expressions referring to red body painting clay or a possum skin garment.
Corryong and North East Water
Kiewa Murray Region Water Authority became responsible for Corryong’s water supply and sewerage services when the Authority was constituted on 1 December 1994. In the 1995-96 financial year the Authority provided water services to a population of 2,160 and wastewater services to a population of 2,040. Corryong’s water supply was untreated and remained so until 1999.
In its second year of operation Kiewa Murray Water completed a 500 kilolitre water storage, providing an increased reliability of supply.
The North East Region Water Authority was constituted on 1 July 1997. During its first year of operation, CEO Jim Martin was responsible for achieving a set of expectations by the Minister. One of these expectations was to achieve improved reliability and quality of service. With the Corryong water supply not disinfected at the time, there would often be high turbidity in the raw water, resulting in turbidity targets being exceeded. The Corryong Drinking Water Consultative Committee was formed, to look at ways to ensure compliance with Government Drinking Water Quality Standards by 1999.
Construction of the Corryong Water Treatment Plant
Construction of the Corryong Water Treatment Plant commenced during the 1998-99 financial year. The new Corryong Treatment Plant was completed in December 1999, which allowed for UV and chlorine disinfection. Consistent with the wishes of the community at that time, only the UV disinfection was in use.
A new $5.2 million Water Treatment Plant for Corryong
In March 2013 North East Water completed a new water treatment plant for Corryong. The new plant enabled a significant improvement in the quality of the water provided to customers in Corryong and Cudgewa. The new plant uses a dissolved air flotation and filtration (DAFF) process, which effectively removes contaminants that the previous system was not able to remove. This new process, combined with the addition of chlorine disinfection, ensures a safe, high quality water supply for the Corryong and Cudgewa community well into the future.
The new plant was officially opened by the Minister for Water, the Hon Peter Walsh and Chair of North East Water, Joanne Anderson.
Members of the Corryong community also attended the official opening ceremony, along with Mr Bill Tilley MP, Towong Shire Mayor Mary Fraser and Councillors, Towong Shire Council CEO Juliana Phelps and North East Water Board members.
The Water Supply Today
The Corryong / Cudgewa system’s water is drawn from Nariel Creek. From there the water is pumped to a 90 megalitre Hamilton Hill Basin, which was constructed in 1984. The Basin provides protection to water quality conditions in the creek, such as high turbidity levels following heavy rainfall events. From the Basin, raw water is gravity fed to the Corryong water treatment plant. Following treatment the water is transferred to a clear water storage before being provided to the Corryong and Cudgewa reticulation system.
Treating Corryong’s Wastewater
Corryong’s wastewater collection system was developed around 1960 and today includes 29 kilometres of sewerage reticulation.
When Kiewa Murray Water assumed responsibility for Corryong’s wastewater services in 1994, the wastewater treatment plant, which is thought to have been constructed in the 1960s, was already in operation.
By the time the North East Region Water Authority took over Corryong’s water and wastewater services, wastewater performance was below the target compliance. The Authority planned an upgrade of the wastewater treatment plant, to enable compliance with discharge licences to be achieved by December 2001. There were licence exceedances for E.coli, which were likely due to the prolific bird life in the lagoon system at the time.
The wastewater treatment plant was upgraded during the 2014-15 financial year, with an aerator added to provide increased treatment capacity for future growth. The reuse was also upgraded, to include automated flood irrigation.
Today the wastewater system includes the collection system and the Corryong wastewater treatment plant and storage. Reclaimed water is used for irrigation on the land adjacent to the treatment plant.
Just over 100 years after it was established, the majority of Bonegilla was under water.
In 1835 Charles Ebden took up the Bonegilla pastoral run. The name is thought to be derived from an Aboriginal word meaning deep water hole or big battle camp, both of which would be accurate. Much of the development of the town was due to the Cudgewa railway line which opened in 1889 (and closed in 1981). The line was used both in the development of the Snowy Mountains Scheme, as well as transporting materials for the scheme.
Though the establishment of Lake Hume in 1936 would drown the town, Bonegilla would become the temporary home for over 320,000 migrants when the military camp, which originally harboured prisoners-of-war, would be turned into a short term immigration reception centre. Up to 5,000 lived there on some occasion (the local primary school struggled with erratic school populations and over 40 nationalities). It is now estimated that over 1.5 million Australians are descended from migrants who spent time at Bonegilla.
In December 1999, the North East Region Water Authority connected Ebden to the Wodonga water supply. This followed negotiations between the Authority and the Army, who requested upgrades to their water and wastewater systems. As a result, Bandiana, Latchford Barracks, Ebden and Baranduda were linked to the proposed Wodonga works, and to Wodonga reticulation.
Today, Ebden’s water is from the Murray system. Water is sourced from the Wodonga Creek, an anabranch of the Murray River. Raw water is pumped 5.5 kilometres, from the Wodonga Creek via five pumps, to a 32 megalitre raw water storage situated at the Wodonga Water Treatment Plant. The treated water from Wodonga is transferred to a 10 megalitre tank at Baranduda and from there the water is supplied to Ebden Bonegilla.
Septic tanks are used to treat Ebden’s domestic wastewater.
The ‘Old Tallangatta’ was situated where the Mitta Mitta River and the Tallangatta Creek meet. The land was the home of the Pallanganmiddang people, with the word Tallangatta derived from an Aboriginal word describing currawong trees.
The town was settled by Europeans in 1838 when pastoralists took up the Tallangatta pastoral run. As farming grew in popularity the town was provided with amenities, including The Victoria Hotel in 1856. The town was officially opened in the 1870s, with a post office and school opening in 1871, followed by churches, a library, state school, government receipt and pay offices, banks, a court house, private hospital, coffee palace, two breweries, and butter and cordial factories. The impressive 52 bedroom Tallangatta Hotel (pictured below) was built in 1888.
Gold and tin mining was popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; whilst this venture was initially profitable it came to an end because the deeper reefs contained other metals as well as gold and the technology didn’t allow gold to be extracted in a profitable way.
‘Old Tallangatta’, which was colloquially known as ‘Toorak’, was split into two sections; the township and a housing area situated higher up across the Tallangatta Creek.
With no centralised rural water supply department, Towong Shire Council was responsible for the town’s water supply. Water was sourced from springs and tanks and there was no sewerage system in place. Former resident Ray Crispin remembers the ‘old dunny can’ that was used at his home.
Construction of the Wodonga to Cudgewa railway began in 1887, reaching Old Tallangatta in 1891. The railway transported livestock to Wodonga and also served the Mitta Mitta valley. Due to a labour shortage, Cudgewa was not reached until 1921, and with the arrival of the motor car Cudgewa became the terminus. During the 1960s the railway was used to transport goods for the construction of the Snowy Mountains Scheme, as well as to transport cattle and regular goods. The last regular goods train ran in 1978 with the line officially closing in 1978. Today the line is enjoyed as a cycling and walking trail.
Following successive years of severe drought in the 1890s and then a record dry year in 1902, it became clear that a water storage was needed to enable the winter flows to be stored and released as required during the drier summer months. A secure water supply was needed to provide for settlement along the Murray River and to support the extension of irrigation.
A conference was held in Corowa in 1902 to discuss an irrigation scheme for northern Victoria and southern Riverina. A Royal Commission on the River Murray was set up with input from Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia and this resulted in the report ‘Concerning the Conservation and Distribution of the Waters of the Murray and its Tributaries for the Purposes of Irrigation, Navigation and Water Supply’.
The Government envisioned that the construction of the dam would secure a reliable water supply, thereby encouraging settlement and bringing prosperity to the region. It would also create a land ‘fit for heroes’, specifically for veterans returning from the First World War.
It took 10 years for New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia to reach an agreement for the regulation and sharing of the waters of the Murray River. In November 1915 the River Murray Water Agreement was ratified by Acts of Parliament and passed by the Commonwealth, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.
In 1916, the spot where the Murray and Mitta Mitta Rivers met was chosen as the site for the major water storage that is Lake Hume. The storage was to serve the needs of river navigation and to provide reliable water for annual irrigation downstream.
The dam was designed by engineers E M De Burgh (of the Department of Public Works NSW) and J S Dethridge (of the State Water Supply Commission of Victoria). The joint contracting authorities under the River Murray Commission were the New South Wales Department of Public Works and the Water Supply Commission of Victoria. There was a very clear divide between the two States with each setting up a construction camp on either side of the river. The discrepancies in the wages paid and the working conditions on either side of the river resulted in disgruntled workers and strikes.
Construction of Lake Hume commenced in 1919 and at the peak of construction 1,100 men were employed. The temporary township of Ebden was erected to house 500 workers and their families. Soldiers returning from war were given preference for the work, with hundreds of war veterans arriving in 1920 and helping build the dam.
Without the technology and machinery that exists today, the dam was built using very manual labour. This included the hand to hand passing of rock and picks, shovels and bare hands to fill the drays. Workers spent 48 hours each week undertaking this very physical manual labour (these hours were later reduced to 44 hours a week).
Steam power was widely used, with two steam grab cranes used in the early excavation of the quarry. Crushed rock was used rather than the smooth river gravel, and rocks were individually added to produce cyclopean concrete. The bricks were huge, some weighing up to 10 tonnes, and had to be cleaned with a high pressure hose and individually craned into wet concrete.
While the initial stage of the dam completed in 1936 left the town of old Tallangatta untouched, residents lived with a great sense of uncertainty for the future, which ultimately impeded the future growth of the town. It was well known by residents that any expansion of Lake Hume would see their town, their homes and businesses submerged.
Discussions to move the town of Tallangatta began in the late 1940s. Toorak was the area preferred by locals as it would leave the town more or less in the same spot but this was rejected by government in case the Hume Dam needed to be expanded, therefore flooding the town. Bolga was chosen as the new area for the town, with it being well above the water level of the enlarged dam.
Between 1950 and 1961 the size of the dam was increased to accommodate increased water flowing into the Murray River and to accommodate water from the Snowy Mountains Scheme. To make way for the expansion of the dam, more than 100 houses and 950 people were moved and relocated 8km west of the old site. Hotels, churches and other brick buildings were demolished. The moving of Tallangatta began in 1954 and was completed on 29 June 1956, at a cost of two and a half million pounds.
Former resident and local historian Ray Crispin was 13 years old at the time of the move. Ray recalls that the relocation of the town was a great adventure for many of the town’s children. He and a friend earned two pounds a week crawling under the houses and digging stump holes.
At the time, many of the homes were traditional Australian homes consisting of two rooms with an additional ‘lean-to’ added to the back of the home when children arrived. When the town of Tallangatta, was moved these houses were literally picked up, put on the back of trucks and moved to their new location. The extension to the house often fell off during transportation, but it was known that some residents didn’t mind this at all as it meant they would receive a new kitchen or bathroom as part of the compensation deal. Most houses were also given a new coat of paint and gardens.
However the move was a huge undertaking and a very stressful process for residents and business owners. Ray Crispin recalls the arguments regarding compensation and residents were concerned with what they would have in the new town. Ray recalls 50 business owners arguing over where their moved businesses would be located. Several people died during the process of the move, believed to be due to stress and worry. Ray’s father died of a heart attack a week after the move.
The moved town of Tallangatta was designed by Laurie Cullen, who was the Resident Engineer for the State Rivers Water Supply Commission. The town officially opened on 29 June 1956 by Sir William Slim, the Governor General. A rising Mitta Mitta River threatened to disrupt the opening. Almost 2,000 people witnessed the opening of the £1 million town and watched on as Sir William Slim laid the foundation stone of the new Shire offices. Mr Rylah, Deputy Premier, relaid the foundation stone of the old Shire Hall and Cr Sutherland re-laid the foundation stone of the original Roads Board Hall, one of the first civic buildings in the former town. President of Towong Shire, Councillor Fraser, unveiled a plaque to commemorate the opening.
As it was a planned township there was the opportunity to introduce water reticulation. Tallangatta was also one of the first towns to get sewerage, as detailed in an extract from The Argus on Saturday 30 June 1956:
“While many other towns in the State have poor water supply and no sewerage, residents of Tallangatta will have a 1 million gallon storage and an up-to-date sewerage system.”
For the first time houses would have indoor bathrooms with an indoor-sewered toilet. The new town also boasted electric light, a civic square, modern homes, ‘one of Australia’s most modern camping grounds’, kerb to kerb sealing of streets and a new sports centre.
There were only a small number of cars in the town and bicycles were a popular mode of transport. At the town’s two hotels, men and women were segregated with a ladies lounge and main bar. Hardware stores, butchers, hairdressers and barbers, garages and plumbers served the town.
New brick houses were built and the majority of businesses and civic buildings were rebuilt in the 1950s style. The architecture of that era remains today and is celebrated with the annual Fifties Festival.
As North East Water adopted the reins for Tallangatta, it also inherited a storied history of inconsistent drinking water quality. After being asked to move to allow Lake Hume greater storage, the town struggled with attaining quality drinking water, and issue North East Water set about to rectify. A new water treatment plant was constructed and opened in June 1999.
Over the following two years, significant investment was made into Tallangatta’s wastewater services, with plant upgrades ($340K), an 84ML winter storage ($806K) and a pipeline for irrigation use ($268K). The winter storage – a clay lined lagoon for storing treated wastewater for reuse – both assisted the area’s agricultural needs and reduced the need for discharge into Lake Hume.
The one thing Tangambalanga was never short on was water. Just east of the flood-prone Kiewa River, the town spent a great deal of its early years sporadically under water and intermittently isolated.
The town was named after the Tangambalanga pastoral run (1838-39), and it is thought that the name was derived from an Aboriginal word referring to a large freshwater crustacean, the Murray River or white clawed lobster.
Farm selections were sold from the pastoral run in 1874 and a school was opened in 1885. A substantial amount of the Tangambalanga property was kept intact until it was subdivided for closer settlement in 1907. Until then the Tangambalanga village had a hotel, a store and a hall. The town also saw the building of a school, as students were unable to attend neighbouring towns thanks to the occasional isolation caused by the rising river.
One of the first initiatives North East Water undertook in 1999 was to connect the town to the sewer system. That, curiously, was the easy part.
Think getting the water supply to Tangambalanga is easy? The Tangambalanga system is supplied by gravity from the 10 ML Baranduda tank (which is filled from the Wodonga water supply system). This then feeds the 1.5 ML Tangambalanga tank via a 14 km long pipeline. When the Tangambalanga tank reaches total volume, the supply to the tank is shut-off and when it’s closed, Kiewa is supplied from Baranduda, and Tangambalanga from the tank. The valve re-opens when the level in the tank falls to a pre-determined set point.
It may sound like a game of Mousetrap, and maybe even more so after a second main was installed to drain the tank, but the system demonstrates the complex lengths North East Water goes to in order to ensure drinking water for the community.
Content regarding Killara coming soon.
The impact of North East Water’s involvement at this location is still in development, please check back soon.
The Traditional Owners of the town that is now known as Beechworth were the Min-jan-buttu people.
It is thought that Hume and Hovell entered the hills south-east of Stanley in 1824. In May 1839, former naval officer Lieutenant David Reid was exploring Eldorado Creek when he came across the hills in the present town of Beechworth. It is said that Lieutenant Reid was so impressed by the beauty of what he saw on that glorious day in May that he named the area ‘May Day Hills’. Lieutenant Reid built a woolshed which was to become known as the Woolshed goldfields.
Beechworth’s history was shaped by the discovery of gold in 1852. The discovery brought thousands of settlers to the area, including noteworthy politicians and businessmen.
On 1 July 1853 the ‘May Day Hills’ were surveyed by a Mr Smyth and Beechworth was declared a town. Beechworth was declared a district in 1856 and elections were held for the first Council. A land grant was received from the Government for what is now the location of the Shire Hall and Visitor Centre. The first Post Office, which was essentially a rough slab hut, was opened at Spring Creek diggings in 1853.
By 1857 the population of the town and immediate goldfields had reached 16,000 (for comparrison, the current population of Beechworth is 2,789). A new gaol was built in 1859 to house the many criminals that had been working on the goldfields and a powder magazine was erected in 1860 for the storage of gunpowder.
Beechworth went on to be proclaimed a municipality in 1863 and in 1865 the layout of roads and footpaths was formalised. A mental asylum was built in 1867, and its original water supply consisted of seven underground cisterns, each 23 feet deep and 12 feet in diameter. Each cistern could hold 12,000 gallons of water and they were filled with rainwater collected from roofs and fed into the cisterns through hollow veranda posts.
Today the history of Beechworth is evident in the streets that were named after former Councillors and other notable figures. The achievements of pioneers of the past still stand today in Lake Kerferd and Lake Sambell, and sites filled with gold mining history including the powder magazine and Woolshed Falls are enjoyed by many today.
When settlers flocked to the township of Beechworth in search of gold, the township was without an adequate water supply.
After its formation on 20 September 1856, the town’s first Council was tasked with achieving a secure water supply for the town.
Beechworth’s water scheme took 19 years to come to fruition. The years between the proposal of a water scheme in 1855 to the eventual official supply of water in 1874 were filled with setbacks and disputes, all at a substantial cost to the fledgling Council.
The initial proposed water scheme consisted of bringing water from Little or Ovens Rivers with a canal to be cut from the Ovens River, via Stanley and through to Beechworth. Although the Ovens Diggings Water Co. was formed specifically to undertake this work, the scheme did not eventuate.
In 1857 Council sank and installed a well and horse driven pump at the bottom of Short Street. In November 1858 the Beechworth Municipal Council appointed a special water committee to plan a water supply for the township.
Next came what was later known as ‘Brown’s Folly’ (named after Councillor Frederick Brown). An iron tank was set up on the highest point of Church Street, near the Ford Street intersection, to store water that was pumped from the well. The tank was 20 feet by 25 feet by 6 feet and held 22,500 gallons of water. The tank and well were connected by pipes, with pipes also connecting the tank to the centre of town. However, the size and positioning of the tank impacted on the room available for vehicles to pass and this, together with negative public opinion about the aesthetics of the tank, resulted in the tank’s removal within two years.
In 1859, following the failure of the water scheme, the Council accepted a recommendation from Surveyor Henry Grimes to build a dam at Hurdle Flat Swamp. However, this was fraught with issues. The area contained a number of private springs and was under the control of the Mining Board, with a number of leases already sold. After making the area into a reserve, Council’s application was turned down.
Council’s next attempt was to have a private Bill passed through Parliament to assist with the construction of a dam. This took two years and cost the Council £1,256, including legal expenses, and was known as the “Beechworth Water Rights Bill”. The Bill provided Council with the water rights – the option to borrow money to finance the scheme and the right to sell any excess water. However, there was a significant obstacle in the requirement for water rights to be settled by arbitration; this was to cost the Council a huge amount of money.
There was an agreement that the Government would grant Council £5,000 on the basis that Council would raise a similar amount. Council was so confident they could raise the funds by selling water to the goldfields that they called for tenders for the construction of the dam.
The Honourable George Briscoe Kerferd, who moved to Beechworth as a brewer and wine and spirit merchant, played a significant role in securing the water supply for Beechworth. He was a great advocate for the construction of the dam and in this way facilitated Beechworth’s water storage. The Council named the dam ‘Lake Kerferd’ in his honour.
The contract for the construction of the dam was let to a Mr James Parker for £7,281 in December 1861. Work began in early 1862 and was completed by the end of that year.
A key objective of the dam was to retain the waters of the Hurdle Creek Swamp for gold mining activities. Initial plans for the dam were for a dam height of 35 feet, providing a storage capacity of 46 acres. The plans also included that the bank could be raised by 12 feet when more funds became available.
When completed at the end of 1862, the first filling of the reservoir produced 20 acres of water, 17.5 feet deep, costing £12,000 to date. There were additional costs of £2,000 due to a dispute with a contractor.
Following construction of the dam, the Council was on the verge of being bankrupt. Before they’d run into extreme financial hardship, Council had developed a scheme to provide water to the town. The scheme involved building a small reservoir, to be augmented by a race from Lake Kerferd, with water to be reticulated by pipes into town. Council had planned to provide water to 75 sluiceheads at the adjacent diggings but this was not realised. Instead, Beechworth had to obtain its water from the municipal wells.
Between 1862 and 1872 Lake Kerferd was unused, apart from for regattas that were held on the Lake in the 1860s, with teams from all the nearby Murray towns competing. The water of Lake Hume was sold to mining companies, but this was fraught with disagreements. A significant amount of ratepayers’ money seems to have been spent on fighting legal action.
The Council encountered opposition to the Lake Kerferd scheme from the beginning. People felt that Lake Kerferd interfered with their right of water, the most well-known example of this being Connolly & Co who had a mine at the One Mile Creek. The famous case of ‘Connolly and Others versus the Beechworth United Shire’ was held at the Supreme Court in Melbourne in July 1875. The decision was made in Connolly & Co’s favour and Council was required to pay them £3,500 for their right, title and interest in the two sluiceheads of water, plus £1,000 to cover costs.
By 1873 contracts had been let to cut a race from Lake Kerferd into the town, as well as contracts for the filter beds and settling dam. By Labour Day in 1873 pipes had been laid from Lake Kerferd to the town, with Ford St, Camp St and High St being the first to be connected. This work was completed in 1874.
Beechworth’s water was officially turned on by the Honourable George Kerferd on 2 April 1874. The Honourable Councillor Frederick Brown held the hose that sent water over the Post Office tower. It is said that Cr Brown also took the opportunity to spray water over those in the crowd who had criticised him over ‘Brown’s Folly’!
Over the next two years the water was reticulated to the more remote areas of the town at an additional cost of £5,000. This was a great outcome for Beechworth but by the end of 1876 the Council was in debt by a staggering £30,489.
In 1897 the water supply was further augmented when Council purchased Trahair’s race. Later in 1900 the open race into Beechworth was replaced with iron pipes at a cost of £3,500. This was followed by the construction of the Europa Gully Tunnel in 1908, at a cost of £1,030. Following a drought on 1917, Council purchased Lorimer’s race at a cost of £1,030.
The formation of the Rocky Mountain Tunnel was one of the greatest engineering feats in Australian history. It is believed that without the tunnel, mining in Beechworth would have come to a halt.
The beginnings of the Rocky Mountain Company can be traced back to 1856 when a small group of miners sought the right to run a tail race from Newton Falls to the flats at Spring Creek. Over the course of 18 months and at a cost of £3,500, the miners were able to cut a tail race through solid granite rock that gave a fall of 2 inches in 12 feet. However, they weren’t able to drain the lower part of the flat with the race’s current depth.
The miners sold their rights to Messrs Telford and Ransome in 1863, who bought the three adjoining leases. A new company was formed, the Rocky Mountain Company, with a capital of £6,000 in 600 shares of £10 each.
Between October 1867 and July 1869, the existing tail race was cut to a depth of 8 feet, through 450 yards of solid rock. Tragically, a contractor was killed during the blasting operations.
Over the next seven years, the Rocky Mountain Company obtained 6,500 ounces of gold from its claim. Next, the Rocky Mountain Extended Mining Company was formed to cut a tunnel under the town of Beechworth. The courage and determination of the pioneers of the time saw them go against the advice of others and to forge ahead with cutting the tunnel, resulting in a claim 45 feet deep. Work commenced by the Rocky Mountain Extended Mining Company on 10 June 1876, using hand drills. In September 1877 equipment arrived from New Zealand, including the first boring machines in Victoria. The lack of water to operate the air pumps hindered productivity and working hours were reduced to 10 hours a day.
Following the call for new tenders, Mr John Stevens won the new contract at a price of £4 per foot and works resumed on 8 February 1877. Advances in technology included the use of compressed air to create pneumatic pressure to drill holes, a steam engine to drive the compressor, and an air extractor.
The extension of the tunnel continued over the next three years and the Rocky Mountain Tunnel was completed on 24 January 1880. The total length of the tunnel was 2,611 feet, with 2,100 feet of the tunnel being cut through rock. It took 98,280 drills and 18.5 miles of fuse to fire the 32,760 shots to bore holes totaling a length of 18 miles. A total of 8,628 tons of stone were removed.
The tunnel cost a total of £14,600 and succeeded in draining the centre of Beechworth to enable the continuation of mining. The tunnel was later used by Zwar Brothers Tannery. Today the tunnel provides for drainage for the lake and for the town.
Beechworth and the discovery of gold
Beechworth was the first district township to emerge as a result of gold, with gold first discovered in Beechworth in February 1852. The discovery was made by a prospecting party organised by a shepherd named Meldrum above the old stone bridge at the foot of Newtown Hill; this area was to become known as Spring Creek goldfield.
Later that year, thousands of diggers made their way to Spring Creek goldfield. It is said that a claim could yield 30 pounds per week. Digger Peter McCann was considered the field’s luckiest digger, washing £800 worth of gold in two weeks.
Gold was discovered at Reid’s Creek in November 1852 by one of Mr Reid’s shepherds. By this time a population of approximately 8,000 diggers had flocked to the area and were camped on the Spring Creek and Reid’s Creek goldfields.
Hurdle Flat and Europa Gully were added to the number of rich fields in 1853. The rush to Madman’s Gully occurred in March 1853, followed by Nine Mile Creek in April 1853. Nine Mile Creek became famous for the number of Scotsmen who moved there and for its richness of gold.
In the second half of 1853, attempts were made to obtain gold at Woolshed, just below Reid’s Creek diggings, but due to excess water preventing diggers from reaching the bottom, they weren’t successful. Success at Woolshed occurred in early 1854 thanks to the efforts of a determined American named Jack Barton. He used wood slabs from Reid’s old woolshed to timber brace his claims and was able to access gold. Jack Barton later became known as “Woolshed Jack”. Incredibly rich claims were worked here, with one digger discovering 200 ounces of gold.
One, Two and Three Mile Creeks reached their peak in 1855 when Chinese miners came to the previously worked One and Two Mile Creeks. By 1857 there were 2,000 miners at Three Mile Creek, with many miners washing up to 17 ounces of gold a day.
After the discovery of gold at the Woolshed came the discovery at Sebastopol. Then Canadian diggers discovered the Napoleon, with Eldorado being established in 1855.
By 1857 at least 14,000 ounces of gold was leaving Beechworth for Melbourne each fortnight on the gold escorts.
Between 1852 and 1866, it is believed the Ovens goldfield had yielded 3,121,918 ounces of gold.
Life on the goldfields has been described as ‘rough and often crude’ and ‘very colourful’.
The journey from Melbourne to the goldfields was a difficult one that took approximately three weeks for those who could afford the coach journey. Those without transport or the money to pay the fare had no other option than to make the journey by foot.
A Council report dated 27 November 1856 provides insight into the landscape of Beechworth at the time, with tenders called for the removal of all logs, stumps and rocks from the town’s four main streets. Shops and dwellings were largely made from canvas and wood and in his memoirs, Superintendent Sadlier refers to the ‘very unfurnished state’ of the town.
The thousands of miners erected canvas tents along Spring Creek; one of the Council’s earliest by-laws was to prohibit the erection of canvas built shops and dwellings, which as well as being unsightly were easily destroyed by fire.
There was a lack of an adequate water supply, sewerage, sanitation or basic conveniences on the goldfields and this led to an outbreak of typhoid. Doctor Harry Green was the first doctor to arrive in Beechworth. As a result of the lack of hygiene and the prevalence of disease, Doctor Green died only four months after his arrival. Between 1853 and 1860 an average of one child per week died of diseases such as measles, scarlet fever, dysentery, diphtheria and typhoid; this paints a very grim picture of the quality of life on the goldfields.
Reid’s Creek was well known for the number of criminals amongst its population, with 15 murders occurring there in the first six months.
The Reid’s Creek Riot occurred in early 1853 and was the result of growing dissatisfaction and unrest regarding the system of mining licences and the method used to calculate licences.
There was a particular dispute over a licence which led to a digger being shot by a police trooper. While the shooting was said to have been accidental, the armed miners rebelled and only the arrival of police enforcement put an end to the riots.
The Ovens diggers belonged to one of two parties, known locally as the “Punchers” or “Monkeys”. The “Punchers” were “dry” diggers who worked the banks and gullies and wore moleskins.
The “Monkeys” were “wet” diggers who worked the streams. The Monkeys believed themselves to be superior to the Punchers and wore black woollen trousers, Napoleon boots, a silk sash and brightly coloured handkerchiefs. The leader of the Monkeys was “Big” Johnston of the Woolshed and owner of the field’s richest claim.
There was great rivalry between the two parties. Disputes between the Punchers and the Monkeys were common and kept police on their toes, especially as all diggers carried firearms.
In the early discovery of gold, lone diggers would use picks, pans and cradles to search for alluvial gold. However, with technological developments and advancements came new mining methods such as hydraulic sluicing and the use of explosives for hard rock mining.
Beechworth was famous for its use of hydraulic sluicing. This was the process of moving dirt and sediment using water. Large quantities of water were required and this involved cutting deep tail races through solid rock, which was an engineering feat at the time.
By 1880 it is thought that 900 miles of water races had been cut through soil and rock in the district of Beechworth
It is believed there were around 7,000 Chinese miners on the Beechworth goldfields at their peak. The Chinese brought vegetable and tobacco growing to the area. A separate Chinese camp was established above where Lake Sambell is situated today. The camp was essentially a miniature town with restaurants, shops, Chinese theatres, boarding houses and a Joss House (a Chinese Temple).
Chinese miners were regarded very unfavourably and with suspicion by other miners. This was largely due to their willingness to work the claims that had previously been abandoned by others. Also contributing to their hostile treatment by other miners was the fact that Chinese miners also tended to be there for the short-term, earning money to take home to their families.
In 1859 the Chinese Protector’s Office was established. The role of the Chinese Protector was to ensure good relations between Chinese miners and other miners, and to collect the miners’ rights and business licenses. The Chinese Protector’s Office later became the Mining Registration Office in 1864.
The Chinese Burning Towers were used by the Chinese to make offerings to the spirits of the dead; these included food offerings, paper money, paper prayers and burning incense.
Today around 2,000 Chinese miners are buried in the Chinese section of the cemetery at Beechworth.
The Golden Horseshoes Legend
The Golden Horseshoe Legend dates back to the State’s first election for Legislative Council in 1855. The election was held during a time of great political turbulence with great rivalry between the two miners groups, the Punchers and the Monkeys. Longtime activist for miners’ rights, Daniel Cameron, was strongly supported by the Monkeys, including “Big” Johnston who owned the Woolshed field’s richest claim. Legend had it that “Big” Johnston supplied the gold horseshoes fitted to Daniel Cameron’s horse. It is said that the “Monkeys” marched to Beechworth from the Woolshed falls carrying banners and waving flags embellished with gold in support of Cameron. When they reached the Old Vine Hotel, one mile from Beechworth, the golden horseshoes were fitted. Legend has it that the golden horseshoes were one ounce lighter by the time the procession reached Beechworth.
There was great passion displayed by all involved, partly thanks to the free beer that was being handed out during the procession. Both candidates appeared on the balcony of the Star Hotel and by a show of hands, Daniel Cameron was announced the elected candidate.
A recount was ordered by the Punchers and was held the following day at the Courthouse, with Cameron again declared the successful candidate. It is said that “Big” Johnston celebrated by ordering £300 worth of champagne.
The Golden Horseshoes Festival has been held in Beechworth over the Easter weekend every year since 1873 and is still celebrated today.
Ned Kelly has a strong connection with Beechworth’s history. The son of an Irish ex-convict, Ned was born in December 1854. Ned Kelly’s father died when Ned was only 12 years of age, with Ned having to leave school to become the breadwinner for his family.
He served a six month sentence in the Beechworth Gaol at the age of 16, for receiving a stolen horse.
Ned was an apprentice under bushranger Harry Powell and later formed the Kelly Gang, consisting of Ned, his brother Dan, Joe Byrne and Steve Hart.
After shooting and killing three police troopers near Mansfield the Kelly Gang went on the run. The Kelly Gang was supported by sympathisers, 22 of which were arrested and placed in the Beechworth Gaol in 1879. They were released after just over three months due to a lack of evidence against them.
The Kelly Gang was spotted by an informant at the house of Aaron Sheritt on Sheen Station Creek a few miles from the centre of Beechworth. There was, however, a delay of three days as the informant stopped off for drinks on his way to Beechworth, became speechlessly drunk, and was arrested and locked up.
The Kelly Gang had left Sheritt’s house and police spent years searching for the Kelly Gang in the surrounding hills. It is believed that the Kelly Gang used what are known today as the ‘Kelly Caves’ to hide at various times.
The famous Glenrowan Shootout occurred on 28 June 1880 with a violent battle between the Kelly Gang and Victoria Police. The Kelly Gang wore their homemade metal suits of armour, acquired with the proceeds from bank robberies. Ned was severely wounded and captured by police. The rest of the Kelly Gang members were killed during the shootout.
Ned Kelly’s initial hearing was held at the Beechworth Court House. He was later sent to trial at the Melbourne Supreme Court and was sentenced to death by hanging at the Melbourne Gaol on 11 November 1880 and Kelly’s body was buried in a mass grave.
Four-horse coaches ran between Beechworth and Melbourne during the 1850s. By 1856 this service was daily, with coaches run by Green & Connelly and by Foster’s (later to become Fosters & Vinge).
Journeys were hazardous thanks to the risks that included being bogged, flooded rivers and falling victim to bushrangers. It was said that bushranger Harry Powell was known for felling a tree in a spot just after the coach turned a sharp bend (said to be at Buckland Valley) so that he could hold up passengers and rob them.
The coach journey to Melbourne took three days and cost between £5 to £8, depending on the condition of the road. The journey time was later reduced to 36 hours.
By May of 1856 there was a two-hourly coach service between Sebastopol, Woolshed and Beechworth. By 1857 coaches ran twice a week between Beechworth and the Buckland and daily to Nine Mile, Stanley. Later coach journeys extended to Albury, Yackandandah and Chiltern.
Crawford & Connelly became the main coaching line throughout north east Victoria.
The first train arrived in Beechworth on 13 July 1876. The ceremony for the official opening was overseen by His Excellency Sir George Bowen on 29 September 1876. It was a grand affair with a banquet attended by the Minister for Railways, Mr Jones, the Honourable George Kerferd, the Mayor of Melbourne, mayors of the surrounding towns and the French and American consuls. This was followed by a ball for 350 couples, ending with a moonlight train ride to Everton and back to Beechworth.
Beechworth’s desire to be connected to the railway is evidenced in a petition that was sent to the New South Wales Government in 1862, requesting that Beechworth be connected to Albury by railway. The Honourable George Kerferd was instrumental in having Beechworth connected to the railway. After becoming Minister for Mines and Railways in 1869 he had the branch line to Beechworth included in the Railway Construction Bill. He told his opponents “the advancement of Beechworth means more to me than my political career.” In 1874 tenders were called for the first section of the railway line. The contract was awarded to Messrs A & J Overend for £33,000 and work began in August 1874.
The Honourable George Kerferd, Premier of Victoria, was one of the first passengers to travel on this first section when it was officially opened on 1 July 1875. Councillor Frederick Brown, the then President of Beechworth Shire, met Mr Kerferd when he arrived at Everton.
The contract for the second section of the railway line was awarded to Messrs Fishburn & Moreton on 18 June 1875 for £70,018. Work began on 23 June 1876 and was completed by September of that year. A miniature town was created to house the 500 workers who constructed this section of the railway, complete with stores, hotels, workshops, contractor’s offices and stables. Canvas and bark dwellings were erected to house the men. The workers used horses, bullocks and mules to manoeuvre the earth scoops and to pull the drays and wagons. Bricks were made in kilns to create 33 bridges and 45 culverts.
Due to a decline in freight and passengers, the Beechworth to Yackandandah section closed in 1954 and the section between Everton and Beechworth was withdrawn in 1987. In the 1990s the line between Bowser and Beechworth became part of the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail.
The Kiewa Murray Region Water Authority became responsible for Beechworth’s water supply and wastewater services when the Authority was constituted in 1994.
Beechworth Water Treatment Plant
The Beechworth Water Treatment Plant dates back to the late 1800s.
During its first year of operation the Authority converted the existing water treatment plant to a direct filtration process and let contracts to increase the plant’s capacity to 12 megalitres a day. At that time, Beechworth’s water treatment plant was providing water to a population of 4,200.
Upgrades to the Water Treatment Plant
Kiewa Murray Water upgraded the water treatment plant between 1992 and 1995, at a capital cost of $1 million.
A major upgrade of the water treatment plant was also undertaken during 2001-2002 financial year.
Beechworth’s Water Treatment Plant is Converted to a DAFF Plant
In 2005 the North East Region Water Authority upgraded the water treatment plant and converted it to a Dissolved Air Flotation and Filtration (DAFF) plant, at a cost of approximately $2.3 million. This took the design capacity to 10 megalitres per day.
Ensuring the continued safety of Lake Kerferd
Lake Kerferd is a 900 ML storage built in the 1860s and is the sole source of water supply for the township of Beechworth. Minor works were carried out by Kiewa Murray Water around 1995, followed by the addition of a new outlet for the Lake Kerferd storage by North East Region Water Authority in 1998-99.
In 1999 the North East Region Water Authority commenced remedial works on Lake Kerferd, as part of its dam safety improvement program. The first stage of works involved constructing a new gravity outlet through the right abutment of the dam. The second stage involved widening the spillway and constructing a concrete crest and training walls, straightening the spillway alignment and strengthening the embankment. The final stage of works involved raising the embankment crest with the construction of a concrete wave wall, to increase the freeboard required to retain water levels of the probable maximum flood event.
New Concrete Water Storage Tank
During 2017-18 North East Water invested in a 3.5 million litre water storage tank for Beechworth. The tank, approximately 35 metres in diameter and 6 metres high, was constructed close to the existing water treatment plant. At an estimated cost of $1.9 million, the tank increased the treated water storage capacity for Beechworth and was part of a major project to help secure the town’s water supply well into the future.
Beechworth’s Water Supply Today
Today Beechworth’s water supply is sourced from a diversion on Nine Mile Creek and Frenchmans Creek, and a small local catchment of Lake Kerferd on Hurdle Creek.
Water is diverted from Nine Mile Creek to Lake Kerferd, through weir boards and a network of enclosed tunnels and open channels, which serve as a reminder of Beechworth’s strong history of gold mining. There is limited access to the lake, with no fishing or swimming allowed.
The raw water from Lake Kerferd is gravity fed to a 4 megalitre raw water basin located at the water treatment plant. There, treatment consists of coagulation and flocculation, dissolved air flotation and filtration and chlorine disinfection.
From the plant, the treated water moves into the No 1 clear water storage, with a capacity of 92 kilolitres, and then gravitates into a second clear water storage, with a capacity of 1.1 megalitres. The treated water is then gravity fed to the Beechworth high level reticulation, gravity fed to the 1.0 megalitre Mayday Hills tank and then gravity fed to the Beechworth low level reticulation. Silver Creek reticulation is supplied from the No 2 clear water storage with the assistance of a booster pump.
Beechworth’s Sewerage Scheme
A sewerage scheme for Beechworth was first proposed in 1925, however there was no funding available due to a decline in mining activities and it wasn’t until 1965 that the town’s sewerage scheme was approved.
The wastewater collection system was constructed between 1967 and 1970, and used vitrified clay pipes. The full gravity system included conveyance to the wastewater treatment plant.
Beechworth Wastewater Treatment Plant
The Beechworth Wastewater Treatment Plant was constructed in 1968. When the North East Region Water Authority assumed responsibility for Beechworth’s wastewater services in 1997, the plant consisted of lagoon treatment, with effluent being disposed to land during the irrigation season and to surface waters during the rest of the year. The plant would exceed discharge limits for colour and suspended solids, as well as ammonia levels. The Authority identified that considerable upgrading was required to improve the effluent quality by 2001.
In 1999 the Authority constructed a chemical dosing facility for tertiary treatment, which provided improved compliance with discharge licence requirements.
ERA process leads to Licence Amendment for North East Water
Effluent from the Wastewater Treatment Plant is discharged to waterway via its discharge point to La Serena Creek. The lagoon system at Beechworth’s wastewater treatment plant had historically failed to meet with EPA licence compliance, with the effluent containing elevated levels of nitrogen (from ammonia) during the cooler months.
North East Water explored a mechanical plant solution however this was very expensive and not financially viable. North East Water initiated a process called the Ecological Risk Assessment (ERA). The ERA process uses science and a consultative process to understand the effects that stressors (in this instance the discharge) are having on environmental values (in this case the waterway receiving the discharge). The ERA process found that the discharge to the receiving waterway was posing a relatively low risk to the receiving environment.
As a result of the Ecological Risk Assessment, the discharge licence limits were amended and an investment of approximately $6 million for a mechanical plant solution was avoided. The licence amendment was the first to occur in the State.
In 2013, North East Water improved the removal of nitrogen levels with the installation of fixed media “Aquamats”, as well as diffused aeration in Lagoon 4 of the secondary lagoons. The project was at a relatively low cost of $500,000.
Pipeline upgrade for Beechworth’s Sewer System
In March 2017 North East Water consulted with the community to discuss options to increase the capacity of the sewer pipe that runs through the Beechworth Historic Park. The planned changes to the sewer pipe will address an elevated risk of sewer spills during heavy rain events, due to a lack of capacity within the pipeline.
An upgrade of the Beechworth Wastewater Treatment Plant is planned as part of the Beechworth Wastewater system upgrade, which is scheduled to occur within the next four years.
Littered along the Kiewa River, Baranduda was a rural hamlet settled by German farm selectors (by way of South Australia). The pastoral runs were taken up in 1845, and the name Baranduda was derived from an Aboriginal expression meaning – oddly enough – water rat.
Water brought settlers to graze cattle, which led to a prosperous dairy industry, and the well-wooded land at the base of the Baranduda Range saw the introduction of a sawmill, serving Wodonga with timber sleepers for railway construction. It would take 35 years for the population to warrant a school, and a further 32 years before an inter-denominational church would spring up.
Despite its ideal location (near the Murray and the future Hume dam) and attempts by the Albury Wodonga Development Corporation (established in 1974) to create a satellite township with a projected population of 30,000 within 15 years, Baranduda remains a small town and one of the most idyllic hamlets of north east Victoria.
Baranduda is Linked to the Wodonga Reticulation
During the 1999-2000 financial year, the North East Region Water Authority undertook negotiations with the Army, who were seeking upgrades to their water and wastewater systems. Baranduda was linked to a proposed Wodonga wastewater works upgrade and to the Wodonga reticulation, along with Bandiana and Latchford Barracks.
Baranduda’s Water Supply
Today Baranduda’s water supply is from the Murray system. Water is sourced from the Wodonga Creek, an anabranch of the Murray River. Raw water is pumped 5.5 kilometres, from the Wodonga Creek to a 32 megalitre raw water storage situated at the Wodonga water treatment plant.
Water is pumped from the Wodonga water treatment plant into the 10 megalitre low level storage at Baranduda. There, the water is treated with pH correction and booster chlorination. The treated water from the low level storage tank supplies the low level reticulation of Bandiana and Lightwood Drive, Wodonga. Water is also pumped from the 10 megalitre low level storage to the 1.26 megalitre Baranduda high level storage; from there it gravitates to the Baranduda high level reticulation.
Baranduda Wastewater Treatment Plant
The Baranduda Wastewater Treatment Plant is located approximately 4 kilometres to the east of Baranduda and 11 kilometres south east of Wodonga, on Whyte’s Road, Baranduda.
The plant was constructed in two stages in the 1990s and uses a lagoon based treatment process. The treatment plant consists of a partially mixed aerated lagoon and aspirator, a second smaller lagoon and a large winter storage.
The plant receives domestic wastewater from Baranduda, Kiewa, Tangambalanga, Bandiana, Killara and Bonegilla and has a design capacity to service a population of 19,100. The wastewater is partially treated through a two lagoon system, with aeration in the primary lagoon. From there, the partially treated effluent is pumped from the Baranduda Wastewater Treatment Plant to the Wodonga sewerage reticulation system, where it flows to the West Wodonga Wastewater Treatment Plant and is fully treated there.
A new inlet screen was added in 2014, as well as a primary bypass line, which enabled the desludging of the primary lagoon during the 2015-16 financial year.
Desludging of the Primary Lagoon
The primary lagoon was air dried for two months during 2015-16, with screening of the waste occurring in the last month. 1,500 tonnes of screened biosolids were transported to West Wodonga for stockpiling, with 150 tonnes sent to landfill. The primary lagoon was then brought back online with an upgrade to the aeration to complete the works.
With roughly the same number of residents now as it hosted over a century ago, it’s easy to wonder how Goorambat came to be. But Goorambat still has the two things that brought settlers to it back in 1861 – Good land and good water.
Selectors first took up farms near Broken Creek, forming the first Goorambat European settlement. With great swathes of land and little tree cover to interrupt it, it drew pastoralists (mainly dairy) and agriculturalists, both of which tapped Broken Creek to supply and replenish their farms.
By 1869 Goorambat joined the Shire of Benalla and by 1882 the water supply was under the purview of the Benalla Water Trust. With their assistance, Goorambat was the site of the first successful irrigation weir in northern Victoria. Casey Weir on Broken River (near the junction with Stockyard Creek) was built in 1886 to divert water into Broken Creek for stock and domestic supply further north.
Historically Goorambat’s water was supplied from a diversion weir on Broken Creek.
By the time the Ovens Region Water Authority assumed control of Goorambat’s water supply in 1994, the town’s water supply was from groundwater, as had been the case since 1992. Water was sourced from a groundwater bore, with the water pumped to an elevated tank. From there the water was gravity fed to the township’s reticulation system. At the time the water supply serviced a population of 120 people.
The former supply from a diversion weir on Broken Creek remained an alternative source of supply in the event of an emergency.
In 2013 North East Water began investigating opportunities to increase the quality and reliability of Goorambat’s water supply. This involved looking at options to increase the supply from groundwater, which at the time was from a shallow groundwater bore.
More reliable water supply for Goorambat
The original water supply from a shallow bore was subject to unreliability during periods of drought.
Towards the end of 2017 North East Water completed an 11 kilometre pipeline to link Goorambat to Yarrawonga’s water supply. The pipeline cost $1.5 million and was an extension of the existing pipeline that previously ended in Devenish.
The treated water from Yarrawonga is transferred to the tank at Goorambat, pumped to the water tower and then gravity fed to the reticulation.
The water now supplied to Goorambat is of a higher quality, thanks to the increased treatment processes in place. The new pipeline also provides Goorambat’s residents with a more reliable water supply, with around 70 homes and businesses benefiting, which is a great outcome for the community.
Goorambat’s residents use septic tanks to treat their domestic wastewater.
Much like its neighbours of Oxley, Devenish, Benalla and Milawa, Wangaratta was first identified by Hamilton Hume and William Hovell in the mid-1820s and later put on the map by Major Thomas Mitchell. Originally known only as the Ovens Crossing Place (thanks to the first settler in the area – Thomas Rattray – who established a punt service on the southern side of the Ovens River for passing traffic), Wangaratta grew quickly. Though a handful of pastoralists had been tapping the plentiful water supply for several years, the discovery of gold in the Ovens Valley in 1852 created a sudden influx of miners that the farmers were all too happy to feed.
Within a short ten years, the town had everything from insurance companies to a racecourse. Banks and breweries sat alongside churches for no less than five separate faiths. Much like its neighbouring town of Oxley, water carting became a booming business.
Wangaratta is one of the few towns in North East Victoria that has always experienced a consistently increasing population. And with that came increasingly creative ways to get water to the town.
In December 1994, the water and wastewater functions of the City of Wangaratta were incorporated into the fledgling Ovens Region Water Authority, the precursory authority prior to North East Water.
Though the Ovens Region Water Authority absorbed significant infrastructure already in place in Wangaratta, the city’s unique requirements (a growing population, an inconsistent and occasionally unavailable water source, and a variety of industries) meant that considerable work was to get underway.
With the water system at Wangaratta able to provide 100% compliance with WHO standards for bacteriological quality, immediate attention was turned to the wastewater systems. Wangaratta has two – one for domestic waste, and another for trade waste. In 1996, work began on upgrading the former, with a growing concern that the lagoons (a pond with artificial aeration to promote the biological oxidation) were experiencing considerable deterioration of the embankments due to the high volume of sludge being discharged into it. Unfortunately, the lagoons lacked the aeration process, and the Ovens Region Water Authority set about making those improvements. They also purchased 36ha of land for reuse water, replaced a rising main to the treatment plant, and installed a new sewer connection to Dominance Industries, and in 1999, built a 300ML treated wastewater storage.
By the time North East Water had assumed control, a new tertiary treatment facility was created to provide a high quality effluent that is both low in phosphorus and other nutrients, prior to discharge to the local waterways. The project removed substantial amounts of nutrients entering receiving waters thus providing significant environmental benefits to the local waterways.
I’ll trade you
In 1996, the trade waste plant was managed by Cleanaway, and although they implemented considerable improvements to the plant’s operations, the colour and total dissolved solids typically found in textile wastes continued to exceed the EPA discharge license limits.
This continued for several years, and by 2009, a business case had been proposed for upgrades to the plant to meet improved environmental outcomes. In 2015, North East Water eventually resumed management of the plant. As of 2018, significant desludging (cleaning) of the lagoons are continuing, as are regular upgrades.
Securing safe drinking water for Wangaratta has always been a priority. This was highlighted in January 2003, when the first of two significant bushfires (the second in 2006) tore through the north east, causing unprecedented turbidity levels in the Ovens River at Wangaratta. Less than a month later, our contingency plans were tested when a severe storm devastated the Buckland catchment, causing major landslips, flooding in the river and depositing a massive load of ash and sediment into the water – transforming the normally pristine river into liquid mud, something the region had ever experienced before. A large ‘slug’ of very dirty water that had entered the Ovens River from the Buckland River was making its way downstream to Wangaratta. Sampling of the water showed astronomical turbidity levels in the Buckland River (normal levels are around 1 or 2 NTU, the water at this time was 120,000 NTU).
North East Water enacted the first stage of the Municipal Emergency Response Plan. Stage 4 water restrictions were applied, and the water treatment plant, overloaded, faced a short-term inability to produce WHO standard water, forcing us to rely solely on storages of treated water within Wangaratta. Following a marathon effort by treatment experts, the plant finally produced WHO standard water but still required residents to keep consumption to a minimum. The episode lasted seven days.
Immediately afterwards, North East Water began work on a master planning program for Wangaratta’s water security. Alongside this 20-year plan, emergency bores were created on Kerr and Faithful Streets. The water treatment plant was upgraded in 2005, which served the community well when the second bushfire occurred in 2006.
By the end of the year, and well into 2007, the region experienced prolonged drought. Touted (at the time) as the worst in history, it included the lowest inflows to the Murray system ever recorded, a record October 2006 consumption, and in another first, blanket water restrictions across the entire region. Most towns reached stage 4 restrictions, and as water reserves depleted, Wangaratta became major a focus. Levels in the Ovens River and Lake Buffalo dropped to alarming lows, prompting Goulburn-Murray Water to begin pumping from the lake to maintain supply to Wangaratta. We further enacted an emergency contingency plan that involved the installation of two additional bores, and works began on a 20ML clear water storage.
Pioneer pastoralists and brothers James and George Rowan – Glenrowan’s namesakes – had two significant issues to contend with in 1848, and neither of those were the Kelly Gang (that would come much later).
The first was 16,000 acres of grazing land and little to no water. The Warby Ranges provided run-off for a small amount of agricultural pursuits by filling what would come to be known as Lake Mokoan. ‘Lake’ was a generous term, though, as the shallowness caused heavy evaporation and the brothers carted water from what was more likely several swamps.
The second was the isolation. By the time the town was declared in 1861, the population was a total of 12. Fortunately, Cobb & Co set up shop a year later and used Glenrowan as a pit stop to change horses and for passengers to eat and have a rest.
It would be the Kelly Gang that put Glenrowan on the map and cement the town in the nation’s mind. In 1880 Glenrowan was the site of the siege of the Kelly gang at Jones Hotel. In the two-day siege that followed, three of the four gang members were killed and Ned Kelly was captured and brought to trial. Glenrowan acquired the reputation of being part of ‘Kelly Country’ and the town’s infamy created a mostly unheard of industry – tourism.
The Ovens Region Water Authority became responsible for Glenrowan’s water supply when the Authority was constituted on 19 December 1994.
In its first year of operation, Ovens Water completed a dedicated rising main from Fifteen Mile Creek to a new water treatment plant that had been substantially completed. This meant that water no longer had to be pumped through the reticulation system. With all water now going through the treatment plant, there was a significant improvement in the quality of the water provided. This was followed by the completion of a new high level storage the following year.
Supply was from Fifteen Mile Creek. Water was diverted from the creek and pumped to the Edwin Scott Basin, which has a capacity of 22 megalitres. From there, water was pumped to the high level storage (with a capacity of 42 ML). Water from the high level storage would pass through the treatment plant, receiving chlorination before it was supplied to the town’s reticulation system.
New Water Supply for Glenrowan
The existing water supply from Fifteen Mile Creek had ongoing quality and quantity issues. There had been increasing outbreaks of blue-green algae in the reservoir and low flows in the creek during dry periods would often result in the need to impose water restrictions.
On 30 May 2011 Glenrowan received a new water supply, following the completion of a 12 kilometre pipeline from Wangaratta. The construction of the pipeline and storage tanks cost $2.25 million and resulted in improvements in the quality and quantity of water being provided. The water is now sourced from the Ovens River and treated at the Wangaratta water treatment plant. From there the water is piped to two new storage tanks at Warby Springs, before being fed into the Glenrowan system. As a result of the new scheme, the Glenrowan community is provided with a much more reliable and higher quality of water supply.
A reticulated sewerage system for Glenrowan
In May 2013 contracts were awarded for the construction of Glenrowan’s $3.3 million sewerage project. The project involved transforming the former water treatment plant into a wastewater treatment plant and holding dam. The project used gravity reticulation, with wastewater piped to the new wastewater treatment plant. North East Water made use of the existing infrastructure system of the town’s water pipeline, storage dam and 30 megalitre storage system, which was no longer in use now that the town’s water was supplied through a new pipeline from Wangaratta.
The wastewater scheme was completed in November 2014 at a cost of $4.1 million. Approximately 140 customers connected to the sewerage system, with the system able to accommodate future growth and treat almost double that capacity of wastewater. The plant is the only one in the region to use a Rotating Biological Contractor to treat the wastewater.
The Edwin Scott Basin site used for the wastewater treatment plant was formerly used for raw water storage and transfer to the upper reservoir site for Glenrowan, before the potable water supply from Wangaratta. The raw water dam was converted to a winter storage with installation of an HDPE liner. The dam is also able to be supplemented with raw water to assist the reclaimed irrigation scheme.
The wastewater treatment plant and reuse scheme was constructed by Mawson Constructions of Shepparton, with Alpine Plumbing of Albury carrying out the sewerage reticulation works, and more than two kilometres of pipes laid throughout the town.
The treated wastewater is used for irrigation, stored in a plastic-lined dam and then used for sub-surface irrigation.
The new sewerage scheme ended the use of septic tanks and ensured that the management of Glenrowan’s wastewater was compliant with environmental standards, resulting in significant health and environmental benefits for the town, its residents and tourists.
The first settlers of Chiltern were, in fact, squatters. Taking up land near Black Dog Creek (and assuming the temporary name of the Black Dog township), the number of squatters (and the traffic that passed through) grew enough for a bush inn to be established. Ironically, the settlement later became a police outpost.
A township on Black Dog Creek would be declared in 1851. At least until John Conness discovered gold a little further away, and the town grew up around the miner’s track (what would later be called Conness Street).
At its height the town had an estimated population of up to 20,000 prospectors. But as the gold quickly diminished, so did the population, and by 1865 the town and its 2,200 residents had diversified. Mixed agriculture and vineyards were being developed, two steam-powered sawmills were in effect, and quartz-reef mining replaced gold. Though the population would drop by another 1,000 over the next 20 years, Chiltern was determined to find a way to stick around.
Before Kiewa Murray Region Water Authority was constituted in December 1994, the Rural City of Wodonga was responsible for providing water and wastewater services to Chiltern. By 1995, the Kiewa Murray Water Authority was providing water services to a population of 1,380 and wastewater services to a population of 1,135.
New Water Treatment Plant for Chiltern
During its first year of operation, Kiewa Murray Region Water Authority commissioned a new water treatment plant for Chiltern. The plant had a capacity of 2.5 megalitres a day and cost $.06 million to construct, with two thirds of the cost funded by the Government. The new plant significantly improved the quality of water being supplied to Chiltern customers.
Chiltern’s water supply was from the Barambogie Springs and 33 megalitre Barambogie reservoir, with a service basin and standpipe adjacent to the urban area. Bore water was also available for use, which was pumped to the Barambogie reservoir before being fed into the treatment plant.
A few years later, the North East Region Water Authority established the Chiltern Consultative Committee to look at the overall Chiltern water supply system. This led to a professional study into the local catchment being undertaken, which looked at using the catchment to its full potential. The group looked at the spring and bore water that were used as water sources for the town, to investigate existing security of supply issues. This resulted in the open storage being updated as a roofed tank, to prevent the recontamination of disinfected water that was stored in there. Engineers were also engaged to better understand the supply issues at Chiltern, and to help with future planning.
Chiltern is connected to the Murray System
In April 2009, Chiltern began receiving water from the Murray system, via a new $2.7 million pipeline. The 16 kilometre long pipeline stretches between the Logic Centre inland port at North Barnawartha, to the Chiltern reticulation system, and enables customers in Chiltern to receive water that has been treated at the Wodonga Water Treatment Plant. The addition of the pipeline provides Chiltern with a higher quality and quantity of water, as well as ensuring long-term water security for the Chiltern community. The Barambogie reservoir is no longer in service.
The Chiltern wastewater treatment plant was constructed in 1983. The plant consists of a primary and secondary lagoon, as well as a winter storage.
Chiltern’s wastewater system was developed in 1986 and comprises vitrified clay sewers. There are three main pump stations at Epson Road, Barkly Street and Skerry Street; all flows are pumped through the Skerry Street pump station to the Chiltern wastewater treatment plant.
All treated wastewater is used for agricultural irrigation. While there are two irrigation areas available for reuse at Chiltern, only the one centre pivot irrigation is in use, with plans for reuse expansion over the next few years.
When the region’s most prolific explorers, Hamilton Hume and William Hovell, discovered what would come to be known as the Broken River, they’d clearly run out of names. ‘Swampy River’ was problematic for the first delineated road from Sydney to Melbourne, and was renamed ‘Broken River’ 16 years later when a temporary bridge was constructed (thus ‘breaking’ the river) to allow overland access.
Following the Faithfull Massacre in 1838, a police border post was established, and with that followed settlement. Pastoral overlanders took full advantage of the grazing and pastoral lands along the river, growing wheat, orchards and vines.
Poor penmanship lead to the naming of the town when Edward Grimes, completing the application for the pastoral run, neglected to cross the ‘t’ in ‘Benalta’ (derived from an Aboriginal word meaning ‘water hole’) and Benalla was born.
The impact of North East Water’s involvement at this location is still in development, please check back soon.
Despite the common misconception, Hamilton Hume, the first white explorer to discover the Hume River, didn’t name it after himself. Rather, according to Hume himself, the river was named after his father, Andrew, who conveniently shared the same surname. Years later, Captain Charles Sturt would discover the river after travelling down the Murrumbidgee, and, not realising it was the same river that Hume had discovered upstream several years earlier, name it the Murray River. It was an auspicious beginning for one of Australia’s most contentious and valued water supplies.
The expedition of Hume and his fellow explorer William Hovell is itself mired in contention. Hume’s credentials as an explorer were well-established, having already been commissioned by the NSW Governor for several successful expeditions including an inland journey to Lake Bathurst. Hovell, however, was an exceptional navigator, albeit more at sea. By his early 20s, he had an established career at sea commanding a trade ship in South America, and later in Australia as a Captain of coastal and transpacific trading vessels. By the time he and Hume met, he’d taken up farming at his land in Narellan, some 20kms from Hume’s own farm in Appin.
The expedition was originally intended to be funded by the then Governor of NSW, Sir Thomas Brisbane, but when the money dried up, Hume & Hovell financed the expedition almost solely on their own. The government did cough up for some of the supplies, though, including pack saddles, tents, and clothing for Hume & Hovell’s convict servants (some of whom would accompany the duo on the journey, and at least one of whom would later claim ownership of the discovery).
Setting out on 17 October 1824, initially in search of good grazing land, the men discovered a few weeks later what would later be known as the Australian Alps, and the Murray River ten days after that. What occurred next remains unclear, as rivalry and dispute over the importance of their respective roles saw Hume and Hovell in conflict throughout their remaining years, with both men claiming larger roles in the find. Complicating matters further is an 1883 Memorandum of Understanding (written 10 years after Hume’s death and 8 years after Hovell’s) by one of their servants, Thomas Boyd, who threw his own hat into the ring.
“I was the first in the party to see the river,” Boyd wrote. “Being the first white man who ever did cross it. I carried a line, by which the provisions of the party were afterwards towed across in a rough boat constructed by Mr Hume.”
Boyd also went on to cast doubt over Hovell’s navigation skills.
“Mr Hume was the real leader of the party,” he states. “He and Mr Hovell often had long and warm [heated] disputes about the route to be pursued, but Mr Hume’s counsels always eventually prevailed; and I feel sure that without Mr Hume the party would never have reached [their ultimate destination of] Port Phillip or returned safely to the place whence it started.”
While the squabbles over recognition continued back in NSW, word of the all-important discovery of rivers and good grazing land spread. Though it would take another 30-odd years before it was so-named, Wodonga was about to put on the map.
To understand the history of the way water was used in regional Victoria, it helps to provide a glimpse of what life was thought to be like on the Murray River before the arrival of Europeans.
It is believed that Aboriginal settlement on the Murray River occurred around 40,000 years ago. Evidence of Aboriginal occupation of the rivers includes sacred sites and burial sites, ochre mining, rock quarries and scarred trees. It is thought that ocre was used for art and religious ceremonies (including burials), rock was used to make tools, and the bark was removed from trees to make canoes.
The original inhabitants and traditional owners of the Murray River near Albury and Wodonga are the Wiradjuri, Wavereoo and Dhudhuroa people. There are presently more than 40 Aboriginal Nations in the Murray-Darling Basin and at least 10,000 known Aboriginal sites.
Water played a significant role in the lives of the original occupants of the land, providing them with the means to survive as well as a strong spiritual connection to the rivers and floodplains.
The Rainbow Serpent is a common feature of many Aboriginal creation stories. It is believed that the Rainbow Serpent created the rivers, water holes and streams by moving across the land and shaping the landscape with its body. It is believed that the Rainbow Serpent leaves its resting place in nearby water holes and goes into the rivers to cleanse its waters and its people.
The traditional owners of the land had a spiritual connection with water and the land, describing the land as ‘our food, our spirit and identity’.
The river and surrounding land provided Aboriginals with an important source of food, with fish and shellfish believed to be have been the main food source.
Aboriginals used water to trap food – they made nets using the fibres of rushes that grew in the creeks, which were chewed and twisted into shape. These nets were positioned across creeks to trap pelicans, ducks and black swans. Dams were made across creeks by weaving branches between a row of stakes pushed into the bed of the creek; fish would swim into these creeks during flooding and thousands of fish would be trapped when the water subsided. Canoes made from the bark of trees were also used for fishing; a fire would be made from clay and damp reeds inside the canoe, to cook the fish.
 Source: http://aboriginalart.com.au/culture/dreamtime
By the mid-1830s, a steady stream of settlers had landed and a smattering of semi-permanent dwellings and provision stores now littered the Murray’s riverbank. Brothers Charles and Paul Huon established the Wodonga Station in 1836, building a mudbrick homestead and christening it ‘Belvoir’ (which, for a number of years afterwards, was adopted as the name of the town), while settlements also occurred on the other side of the Murray in what would come to be known as Albury.
In 1851, the division of northern and southern New South Wales into two separate States was enacted. The border was proposed as the Murrumbidgee River, well north of Albury, but due to a clerical error, the boundary was fixed at the Murray River. Albury now resided in NSW and Wodonga was now rooted in the newly minted state of Victoria (coincidentally, it was only a matter of days after the separation of NSW and Victoria that gold was discovered in Ballarat, presumably prompting questions from NSW around the timing).
By 1857, Wodonga had a steam saw mill, an inn, a school and a court house, a stock inspector, a newspaper and for reasons passing understanding, a customs office. Though formally it was a police station that tipped the scales for Wodonga to be declared a township, but it was the North Eastern Railway, completed in 1873 and improving trade and supply routes, that cementing Wodonga with a permanency and accessibility that had, until then, evaded the isolated the town. The Wodonga Herald gushed with excitement.
“The wonted quietude of Wodonga will soon be dispelled, and the dream of a prosperous future realised in all of its phases.”
Originally under the purview of Yackandandah Shire, ratepayers petitioned for their own council, and Wodonga Shire was formed in 1876. Given the fundamental necessity for providing water, the Wodonga Waterworks Trust was constituted in 1897 and tasked with responsibility for Wodonga’s drinking and wastewater. The most pressing issue was the quality of the drinking water. By all reports the water didn’t taste too great. More curiously, it didn’t smell too good, either.
In 1899, Engineer B.A. Smith addressed the issue with the Wodonga and Towong Sentinel on “the question of the smell in the water, of which complaint has naturally been made.” Taking samples from various sources – Castle Creek, the storage reservoir, the service basin and a tap in town – it appeared only the town taps had a noticeable smell. Smith determined that this was due to the tar that lined the water pipes. With a somewhat cavalier attitude, he reported to the Sentinel, “I knew the tar was not thoroughly dry on all the pipes. I was not surprised by this.” Residents, however, probably were.
A further report came in from the Metropolitan Board regarding water quality, pointing out that while the water (in the reservoir in particular) was fit for domestic purposes, it did contain a high number of organisms and floating vegetable matter. The analyst suggested the water be passed through an ‘efficient domestic filter’, which, in 1899, was nothing more than a ‘good piece of flannel tied around the tap’.
The Water Act of 1890 enabled Wodonga to get their hands on £2,500 for their water supply, and another £8,000 in 1899. Combined with rates and charges for water (a complicated but surprisingly equitable equation issued by the Trust), a flush Trust set about increasing infrastructure and the implementation of several key projects, including the House Creek Dam (“Wodonga is at last within measurable distance of obtaining an excellent water supply; no greater boon could possibly be conferred on any community,” exclaimed the Wodonga and Towong Sentinel). The reservoir caretaker, A.G. Wyatt, trumpeted the progress in the quality of the water to a Sentinel journalist in February 1899 (and with the journalist reporting his every word, Wyatt also took the opportunity to make a formal request of the Waterworks Trust: he really, really needed a broom).
While the caretaker in the reservoir with the broom was assuring the public, the health officer in the creek with the beaker was less sure. After taking samples from five different sources, including Castle Creek, he reported to the Sentinel that “no conclusion can be drawn from the analysis [of the water] from a sanitary standpoint.”
It would be some time before a conclusion could be drawn, and even longer before that conclusion was good news.
Following successive years of severe drought in the 1890s, and a record dry year in 1902, it became clear on both sides of the border that a water storage was required to capture the winter flows for the settlements along the Murray.
From the first conference held in Corowa in 1902 to an actual ratified agreement for the regulation and sharing of the Murray waters, 13 years would pass. Distribution and rights to the water, as well as the methods for capturing it, were hotly contested, and it eventually took a Royal Commission with input from NSW, Victoria and South Australia to create a plan. The report was titled ‘Concerning the Conservation and Distribution of the Waters of the Murray and its Tributaries for the Purpose of Irrigation, Navigation and Water Supply’. The short version was ‘The Dam’.
It would take a further 17 years and over a thousand men to build the Hume Dam (named after Hamilton Hume, presumably after losing his namesake of the Murray River). At the time it was the largest dam in the southern hemisphere, designed to hold a staggering 1.5 gigalitres. The dam was designed by engineers E.M. de Burgh (from NSW) and J.S. Dethridge (from Victoria), with NSW workers employed for the concrete gravity section of the build while Victorians were responsible for the main earthen embankment.
Despite what seemed like an equitable split of the job, working conditions and wages on either side of the river varied widely and workers on both sides would often down tools in protest. The temporary town of Ebden was hastily erected to house the sudden number of Victorian workers, while the same occurred for their northern neighbours. Stores, recreational halls, a post office, even a school were built. The resentful animosity between the two towns developed into a healthy rivalry with entry into the Ovens & Murray Football League, with Weir United taking out two consecutive premierships in the only two years they competed.
How they managed to compete at all remains unclear, since, for the most part, the dam was built by hand. The back-breaking manual labour involved saw a wealth of injuries and at least nine recorded deaths. Only two steam cranes were employed for the digging, and the majority of excavation was achieved with little more than picks and shovels and hand-to-hand rock passing. The painstaking work dragged on until November 1936, and with work impacting the usual water supply (thanks, in no small part, to the relocation and subsequent flooding of the town of Bowna), Wodonga needed to start shoring up the waterworks of their own.
The Water Act of 1890 was superseded by the Water Act of 1915, a provision of which enabled local Councils to take out a loan against the State for the provision of water services. Each Waterworks Trust was specifically allocated the amount they could borrow, presumably commensurate with their population (though this is unclear), leaving some Trusts flush with cash (such as Wangaratta, who were cleared for £1,000), and others floundering, such as Murchison, who had to split £23 – or roughly $2,000 in today’s terms – across all their water supply works. It’s also possible that the distribution was decided on an as-needs basis, as Murchison had spent the previous ten years completing construction on the Waranga Dam and were nicely hydrated by the time loans were being offered. It may also explain why Wodonga, with a rapidly inflating population and a seemingly perpetual water supply, were short-changed and excluded from the list entirely (though it’s worth noting that Beechworth Council – or more specifically, it’s Councillors – we’re offered a loan of £1,500, though the Act neglects to specify what the money is to be spent on).
Undeterred and underfunded, The Commissioners of the Wodonga Waterworks Trust put forward an ambitious proposal in the summer of 1922 for a pumping plant at Railway Bridge, a water tower, and new infrastructure to supply more and better quality water to Wodonga. Until this time, Wodonga’s water came primarily from Castle Creek, the quality of which ranged from the generous descriptor of ‘murky’ to the more blunt one of simply ‘green’.
Residents were asked to support the Trust’s new scheme by casting a ‘yes’ vote on Valentine’s Day in 1923. Despite an astonishing price tag of £17,380, residents voted in the affirmative for the proposal by a resounding 12 to 1, with only 30 lonely dissenters casting a ‘no’ vote (presumably made up of those who happily carted their water from other sources). The following day’s Border Morning Mail quotes the Commissioner’s praise of the results, adding matter-of-factly that ratepayers ‘prefer to pay an increased rate for a satisfactory supply of water.’ (it’s worth noting that those four key words – ‘pay an increased rate’ – are curiously absent in the referendum document).
The Commissioner promised the water would be available next summer, and indeed it would be, but in order to achieve that, construction needed to begin on one of Wodonga’s most recognisable landmarks.
The Wodonga Water Tower
Work on the Wodonga Water Tower began in 1923 and was completed, on time, twelve months later. Contractor A.A. Hargrave, who would later also build the Wangaratta Water Tower (twice, in fact, after he was sued when the first one collapsed a year after it was built), was commissioned for the project at a tidy sum of £3,000. At the time it was built, the water tower was the third highest elevated tank in Australia, standing at 33 metres high with a capacity of 341,000 litres (the estimated daily consumption of the town at the time).
The tower was made of seven tons of reinforced concrete. The tower has three floors, each with a window, and the water was supplied by an eight inch pipe via the pumping station at Wodonga Creek (and anabranch of the Murray River). A ball valve was installed at the top of tank which stopped the pump once capacity was reached, though the occasional overflow wasn’t uncommon. School children would often pass underneath it on their way to school hoping to cool off in the summer heat before making their way to class in soggy but decidedly cooler school uniforms.
The entire operation was entrusted to a turncock. The position was held by Ray Foster for 20 years, before it was assumed by Eric Fulford, who remained an employee of the Waterworks Trust until 1978. During their individual tenures, both men were the only employees of the water tower, the entire operation handled by each man pumping the water into the tower and tapping into the water mains for the plumbers.
There was a mark on the outside of the water tower connected to a float on the inside of the water tower to show the water level. Eric used a telescope (see below for a photograph of the actual telescope used) to look at the water level.
The framed telescope has the following text written by W. G Page (Shire and City Engineer in Wodonga from 1965 to 1989):
“This telescope was the means by which the water turncock Mr Eric Fulford determined whether the water tower was particularly full, full or overflowing. Mr Fulford was the only employee on the Trust apart from emergencies. Reservoir in use 1922 to 1962 when the new 13 Megalitre was brought into operation on Huons Hill.”
Occasionally the water tower did overflow – apparently if the water tower was overflowing on a hot summer’s day children walking to school would stand under the overflow from the tower to cool off before school.
The water tower supplied water to residents and businesses in Wodonga until 1959, after which it was drained in 1960.
The framed telescope is now proudly displayed at North East Water’s Regional Headquarters.
The tower was eventually decommissioned in 1959 with the advent of a new 13 megalitre operation on Huon Hill. Its closure also coincided with another new opening, as the residents of Wodonga began to explore the use of water beyond irrigation and drinking.
It’s no coincidence that after a few years of the water tower tapping into Wodonga Creek for the town’s water supply that the idea for a town swimming pool was first floated. Wodonga Creek was a popular swimming hole not only for the town’s youth (estimated at this time to be around 400), but also the armed services, who camped out on the racecourse during the Second World War and commandeered the creek during rare recreational breaks. So popular was the spot that lights were eventually installed for night swimming, a pontoon for the local swimming club, and several ill-considered diving boards hastily built by wedging wooden planks into the rocks on the banks.
After several fatalities at the creek, the Wodonga and Towong Sentinel reported in 1928 that residents had urged the construction of a swimming pool. They were quickly shut down by councillor Jas Flowers, who contended that Wodonga Creek provided “an abundance of clean and wholesome water”.
The town’s drinking water, however, also contained an abundance of children. It be would ten years before this was addressed and an anabranch of the Murray (upstream of the Wodonga stockbridge) was declared an official reserve and public swimming pool. Schools began hosting their swimming carnivals there, and along with new amenities such as dressing rooms and closets, a set of rules were issued, the most enforced of which was the wearing of appropriate swimming attire (with leg length and body coverage exactly proscribed).
Thirty years after it was first suggested, and just as work was winding down at the water tower, construction began on Stanley Street for Wodonga’s first public swimming pool. Wodonga Creek, as a swimming hole, soon fell by the wayside.
The Number One Basin
The completion of the No 1 Basin on Huon Hill in 1958 may not have improved the water quality, but it certainly ensured residents got more of it more quickly. The concrete basin, which was essentially an uncovered storage, pumped raw water 3½ kilometres from Wodonga Creek before being distributed to resident’s taps. The process of supplying untreated water to Wodonga continued until the completion of a filtration plant in 1989, despite several attempts to improve things in the year’s in-between.
In 1973, a project was approved by the Wodonga Waterworks Trust to supply the town with filtered water from Lake Hume, and in 1975, Dr Bill Grant proposed introducing fluoridation to the water supply. Both ideas were thwarted by their respective councils. It would be 40 more years – 2005 – before the Department of Health would insist that Wodonga’s drinking water be fluoridated.
Not that money wasn’t being spent. In 1974 alone, over a million dollars was allocated to water and sewerage services. By 1983, however, the operations of the Wodonga Waterworks Trust, along with the Wodonga Sewerage Authority, were absorbed under the authority of Wodonga Council. It would be a short, ten-year venture for the Council, but a single $4 million dollar investment would have a lasting impact on the Wodonga water landscape.
The Filtration Revolution
The Huon Hill Treatment Plant was completed in 1989, bringing with it something Wodonga had yet to experience – filtered water. The improvement in water quality was substantial. Wodonga Creek remained the source supply (sans the frolicking children, now that the pool had been built), and the treatment plant, now able to pump 70 megalitres a day – or roughly 210 times more than the water tower – finally complied with the World Health Organisation’s guidelines.
In 1993, the Council also took over operations of the Chiltern, Barnawatha, Rutherglen, Wahgunyah and Lower Kiewa Valley Water Trusts, instigating a major works program in each centre. Before they had the opportunity to wade in too deeply, however, by Order of the Minister for Natural Resources, the Wodonga water and wastewater operations were abruptly abolished. From the first day in December of 1994, assets, liabilities and infrastructure changed hands to one of the many new Water Authorities that were born that year, the Kiewa Murray Region Water Authority.
Meanwhile to the west, a second Authority absorbed the Bright District, the Benalla Water Board, the Shire of Yarrawonga and the City of Wangaratta to form the Ovens Region Water Authority.
Though the stewardship of the Kiewa Murray Region Water Authority and the Ovens Region Water Authority would be brief (in name, at least), the inroads and upgrades they instigated and initiated would have a long and positive impact on the communities they served.
Kiewa Murray Region Water Authority
Ensuring they maintained momentum and a seamless transition, the Kiewa Murray Region Water Authority absorbed most of Wodonga Council’s staff, with close to 50 employees moving to the new Authority. The Authority also later assumed control of the Kiewa Valley Water Authority, who supplied another 20 employees.
The first issue was were to put them all. Offices were shared with other organisations and businesses before they eventually moved to a single location at the Council on Hovell Street, with branch offices operating out of Rutherglen, Mt Beauty and Tallangatta. These three towns, along with Chiltern and Beechworth, also had works depots, while outside contractors were brought in for Corryong. The operation – and the challenges ahead – loomed large.
With the largest residential footprint in our service area, Wodonga would see its fair share of investment in water and wastewater services, with almost annual upgrades to infrastructure. The pace of this would increase once the Kiewa Murray Region Water Authority combined with the Ovens Region Water Authority in 1999 and the North East Region Water Authority (NERWA) was born.
Big money for a big city
NERWA (later renamed North East Water) hit the ground running. Along with an upgrade to the No. 1 Pump Station, we set about connecting the Bandiana and Bonegilla army barracks to the water and sewerage networks.
North East Water also inherited two wastewater treatment plants, with a plant on Howard Street treating domestic flow and a BNR (?) plant in West Wodonga for industrial flow. With the BNR plant nearing capacity (and an increase in EPA requirements), North East Water determined in 2004 to upgrade West Wodonga and close down the Howard Street site (though we’re skipping ahead here, in 2018, following the required length of time for the site to remain unoccupied, work has begun on converting the Howard Street site to a biodiversity reserve).
The West Wodonga Wastewater Treatment Plant upgrade cost close to $16 million, and as well increasing capacity and efficiencies (resulting in a reduction of no less than 20 tonne of phosphorous output back into the Murray River), the facility also enabled us to explore reuse opportunities (such as supplying reuse water to golf courses and parks, a practice we’re still doing today).
Before the decade was out, Huon Hill would get two new 14ML (that’s 80 times the capacity of the original Wodonga Water Tower) clear water storages, Logic would get connected to the water supply (along with its own 2ML tank), and another clear water storage for McGaffins Hill.
With the vast majority of infrastructure in place, North East Water spent the early part of the next decade on upgrades and improvements. The one exception was a long-needed regional headquarters, housed on the site of the Dunstan Timber Mill.
Tackling climate change
In 2016, North East Water committed to the Victorian government, and the residents of north east Victoria, to reduce its carbon footprint by 42% (and by 100% by 2050). With our West Wodonga Wastewater Treatment Plant one of our largest emitters of carbon, and a series of works were proposed to stem our carbon emissions.
In 2018, the first of these was completed, with the installation of high efficiency blowers (blowers are machines that are used to inject pressurised air in the form of fine bubbles into wastewater to ensure that sufficient oxygen is present for microbes to thrive and convert water into a cleaner product as part of the treatment process – yep, it’s a complicated business here!). The new blowers reduce the amount of power (and therefore carbon) at the plant by a whopping 14%. In 2018, we also began planning for a 2MW solar array that is estimated to produce approximately 4,380,000kWh/annum, enough to not only run the plant entirely on solar power, but provide extra power for selling back to the grid.