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.
North East Water
Shortly after North East Water formed, we set about building the a 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 e coli 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, 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.