A project from the National Trust of WA
A self-guided drive trail between the Perth Hills and Western Australia’s Eastern Goldfields. Go with the Flow. Follow the water to discover more about the audacious goldfields water supply scheme and Engineer CY O’Connor.
“Future generations, I am quite certain will think of us and bless us for our far seeing patriotism, and it will be said of us, as Isaiah said of old, ‘They made a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert”
Percy O’Brien (1865-1951) for over thirty years was responsible for all water supplies on all Western Australian goldfields including the maintenance and operation of the Goldfields Water Supply.
In 1912 the Government established a new department which was to be responsible for all water orientated services outside the Metropolitan area and O’Brien became Engineer Goldfields Area, whose responsibilities included the operation of the Goldfields Water Supply.
The systematic monitoring of flows and leakage losses from the main conduit begun by Reynoldson was continued by O’Brien and his assistant Walter K Weller, who had joined the PWD as a cadet in 1898, and John Parr, GWS District Engineer at Northam. Initially lime dosage was tried at Mundaring Weir – the large below ground concrete tank west of the No 1 Pump Station is a legacy of that initiative. That was not successful so Weller, using a a consultant’s laboratory scale model, designed and supervised the construction of a mechanical deaeration plant to operate on a full scale flow of 6 million gallons per day which commenced successful operation in 1925.
Meanwhile O’Brien and Parr prepared a paper for the Institution of Civil Engineers of the UK setting out the work done in attempting to reduce corrosion from 1903 to 1915 as a full case history. When the paper was read in London in 1917 it caused a minor sensation and the discussion at the meeting and written responses were more extensive than any other paper given to the Institution in the previous twenty years. O’Brien and Parr, to their surprise and delight, were both awarded the ICE’s Stephenson Prize and the Telford Premium prize for their paper, a rare honour never previously bestowed on Australian residents.
By Richard Hartley, author of River of Steel, and Don Young, both of Engineering Heritage WA
Yilgarn History Museum in Southern Cross has cloth notices from around 1900 that were attached to trees at sources of water on the Goldfields Road. They urge travellers not to pollute or exhaust water supplies and are reminders of the scarcity of this life-giving fluid. This example was authorised by Goldfields Water Supply engineer PV O’Brien credited with introducing camel drawn water carts to the Eastern Goldfields.
To prevent pollution of water
Travellers are requested to camp on
The __________ side of this notice
Engineer for Mines Water Supply
Click on any map section or place below to discover The Golden Pipeline.