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.
North East Water
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.