The traditional inhabitants of Rutherglen have been subject to some debate over the years, largely as the region would appear to fall on tribal boundaries. The generally accepted understanding is that the Bangerang were the most populous tribe in the surrounding district, with the Wiradjuri tribe to the north of the Murray River.
Lake Moodemere, just a few kilometres west of the town was an important gathering place of Whroo, a branch of the Bangerang people. Aboriginal tribes along the Murray were considered to enjoy a relatively easier life than those in sparser inland areas with the river and dense tracts of bush providing a varied and reliable source of food.
Renowned explorer Major Thomas Mitchell’s promising account of the region in 1836 is thought to be responsible for attracting early settlers to the area. 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 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 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.
Following the merger that led to North East Water, one of the more unique items we 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 engineer to assess the overall condition of the tower and tank and 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. 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.
North East Water
Rutherglen receives it water via the Wahgunyah Water Treatment Plant, where raw water is extracted directly from the Murray River.
Rutherglen also shares 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).