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”
Water, not gold, was the vital commodity on the goldfields. The most precious resource, needed to sustain life and mining operations.
The richest goldfields in the colony in the 1890s were situated in hot arid regions, actually desert country, with low rainfall and without rivers. Consequently, water governed every aspect of life. It was not only the key to gold development but the commodity essential to sustain life for people as well as the hordes of animals required to maintain supply lines for food and goods, equipment and communication in regions where at first no roads, railways or telegraph lines existed. … it was in the area loosely termed the eastern goldfields that the worst possible conditions for miners occurred. Vera Whittington Gold and Typhoid: two fevers 1988
The lack of water led to the government trying a number of means to supply sufficient and pressure to provide a permanent solution.
… there was scarcely enough water for basic needs let alone for the provision of any semblance of comfort. … the provision of water consumed a great deal of the prospectors’ physical energy and emptied their pockets. In the first place the government appointed caretakers to protect the few wells, soaks and tanks (the term then used for excavated reservoirs) along the routes and to collect fees – essential to conserve supplies. This was not enough. Pressure was brought to bear on the government to make better provision. … a number of tanks were sited in ill-considered localities.
Some failed to catch any water at all. Water famines, recurring annually in the intense heat of summer, reached crisis point time and time again. … diggers had to retreat. More and more water was required as the population increased; as rushes proliferated; as alluvial worked out and mines needed water for processing. Vera Whittington Gold and Typhoid: two fevers 1988
Water may have been life-giving for the prospector and gold production but it could take life when polluted by typhoid. Settlements mushroomed overnight where gold was struck and in unsanitary conditions disease spread rapidly. This then is the context for the construction of the most ambitious water supply scheme in the world at the time.
Click on any map section or place below to discover The Golden Pipeline.