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7 corrections, most recently by jeffbeer - Show corrections

MELBOURNE WATER SUPPLY.

A tiny cascade of crystal ice cold water breaking from a bower of fern trees on the northern side of the Dividing Range is the first and furthest of the thousand mountain springs that supply nearly 400, 000 of the people   of the colony with one of the requisites of life. The silver thread widens, and appropriately becomes the Silver Creek, as other equally idyllic fountains emerge from silent and hidden gullies, and would have still further grown to be a part, first of the King Parrot Creek, next the Goulburn, and finally of the Murray, but just here the engineer and artisan throw a weir of solid masonry across the stream, and the water turns from the course it has fol- lowed for so many centuries to stream through an aqueduct of glistening white granite over cascades natural and artificial, and through reservoirs until Melbourne opens its iron mouth and engulphs it. Whence then ? Denied by con- tact with civilisation, the sewage of every loathsome drain, carrying with it every impurity of a great city, it trickles to the Yarra, and presents the sanitary engineer with another problem. Looking at it in its first stage only, it is a wonderful system. Small perhaps by comparison with the

gigantic aqueducts that brought a river to   ancient Rome, but in its youth and   perfection holding its own in comparison with the beat of the systems that supply modem cities. Perhaps 10 per cent of the consumers of Yan Yean have some vague idea of what has been done up here in the solitude of the ranges that cluster about Mount Disappointment, but to the rest the water supply of Melbourne is very much n matter of brass taps. The typical city man has been pampered into a condition of selfishness, and in effect his sun rises beyond Kew and sets at Williamstown. When the water comes most bountifully it is the bare measure of what is duo to his im- portance, but if occasionally in the summer there is an airy gurgle in the pipe, or a solemn

insufficient drip from the shower, he swears, and is a martyr. If Messrs. Davidson and Le Cren had from mere malice put in an official "spigot,' be could not hold a deeper grudge against them.

The Yan Yean reservoir is the key of the whole system, and appropriately gives it a title which, like very many of the names originating with the aborigines, has been per- verted for the sake of greater euphony.

"Yean Yan "in the language of one of the local tribes meant a haunt of water birds, for the site of the present reservoir was originally a reedy lagoon covering an area of some 800 acres, to which water fowl of all kinds flocked in the breeding season. Swans built their rushy pyramidal nests in thousands amongst the reeds, and as the supply of eggs and young was far in excess of what the local tribes could consume, the aboriginal laws as to the ownership of game and food of all kinds were here, as in the   Bunya Bunya country of Queensland, con- siderably relaxed. So it became a gathering place of the blacks us well as the birds. Though the former have entirely disappeared, the latter still cling to their old customs. The present season----a rainy one-has ex-   tended the reservoir beyond its former limits, and the water, creeping over the swampy ground on the eastern side, presents something of its original appearance, Amongst the rushes both swans and ducks have nested in large numbers, and the young broods are just now paddling about among the rushes with their parents. To the fact of this being a popular meeting place of the tribes is attributed the presence of a strange building on one of the hills near the north-eastern shore of   the reservoir. It is a peculiar mixture of the mediaeval in design, and the modern in the materials used for con- struction, the latter being almost entirely "wattle and dab." With miniature towers at each angle, a flat roof, and parapet, gained by a spiral staircase from the ground floor, it presents all the appearance of a place built for defence against the blacks, and is known as "Bear's Castle." Those who have been

familiar with the locality for over 40 years describe it as presenting very much the same appearance then as now, and its history is somewhat vague. The architect was probably a reader of Mayne Read and Fenimore Cooper, and more familiar with the blockhouse of the Indian frontier fictions than the customs of the Australian abori- gine. Had the blacks' method of fighting made it at all possible that they should attempt to storm such a stronghold, a few men with firearms would, no doubt, have given a very good account of their ammunition, but the native warriors were much more likely to attempt a surprise, if they desired it, when the owner was abroad and unsus- pecting. Cleverly as they might throw their long fighting spears, these could have little effect against opponents ensconced in Bear's Castle. The castle was erected by the late   Mr. Bear, who, it is said, left directions in his will for the keeping of the building in re- pair by his heirs.

The nomenclature of the different points of interest in the ranges is characteristic of localities in which the splitters or the pros- pectors are pioneers. Thus at picturesque   Lorne we find Teddy's Lookout, and in the   most charming corner of the Gippsland   Lakes Jimmy's Point, while here we have Jack's Creek, Smith's Track, and Tommy's Hut, equally vague and inexpressive. It took some considerable time to evict the gangs of splitters who had posses- sion of the range when the scheme for bringing in the waters of the Wallaby and Silver Creeks was first devised. They have   laid their hands heavily upon the heights that overlook Whittlesea valley, and it being   naturally desirable that the condensation of moisture on these high lands should be promoted as widely as possible, all the areas devastated by axe and fire have been re-planted with bluegums   and mountain ash. It is not an infra- quent occurrence to find a peak in the range entirely bare, while a sister point is

thickly clothed in green . The explanation is that the timber on the one spur is gnarled messmate, with a crooked, unkind grain, which makes it not worth cutting, while over the open area once stretched a belt of splendid mountain ash, which, on account of its commercial value, soon went down before the splitter.

Melbourne, in its infancy, was fairly served by the Plenty River, but the rich lands along its course were not long left vacant, and soon it became clear that a stream subject to sewage contamination was out of harmony with the modern ideal both in character and quantity. Mr Davidson, who has surveyed nearly the whole of this wild country, and is as familiar with every range and track as with the streets and squares of Melbourne, looked to the northern watershed for future supplies. Years before, someone had suggested the possibility of tapping the King Parrot Creek, and carrying its waters through a tunnel from the northern to the southern side of the range. This scheme would have   entailed some seven miles of mountain boring, the greater part probably through solid rock, and was always regarded as chimerical. It, however, suggested, no doubt, the plans which have since been carried into effect, and was in so far beneficial. Nature, generally an opponent to be overcome, in all great engineering undertakings, had been so far considerate in this case as to have left a rift in the range, which made it possible to bring in, if not the King Parrot Creek, at least some of its important feeders, these being tapped, of course, at a point just sufficiently above the altitude of this natural break to give the necessary fall, by gravitation, through an open aqueduct. The proposal was dis- cussed, and its feasibility placed beyond doubt, but yet it remained for some years in that stage of suspense to which all large state undertakings are subject, vis, being "under consideration." The   Watts scheme, which presented bigger pos- sibilities, was also being considered, and but for a sudden and unexpected develop- ment the names of the Wallaby and Silver Creek would have been much less familiar than they are at present. It was all at once discovered than Melbourne was rapidly out- growing its means of water supply, and that long before, the Watts River could be brought   in a water famine would be precipitated. The danger presented was so alarming that instant

MELBOURNE WATER SUPPLY - PLAN OF RETICULATION.

action was necessary, and it was decided that the Wallaby waters should be at once secured, and then those of the Silver Creek. The history of these works constructed to   meet an emergency need not be repeated, but beginning at the furthest limit, and taking the work as it stands com- pleted, some figures as to cost and capacity will help to give a better knowledge of the system. Commencing with a mile and a quarter of minor channels for the concen- tration of the springs that feed the Silver Creek, the waters, to the extent of five millions of gallons per day, are diverted from the natural bed, and carried over eight miles of aqueduct to fall into a beautiful pool formed by the weir on the Wallaby Creek.   Issuing on the opposite side of the pool the waters increased to 12 millions of gal- lons daily run over another 5½ miles of glistening aqueduct and tumble down a pre- cipitous hillside - where a number of arti-

ficial cascades have been formed - into the natural bed of Jack's Creek. Another four miles along the stream bed-bed - a most interesting four miles it ¡s-and the waters reach the Toorourong reservoir, which covers an area of 13 acres, and holds 50 millions of gallons. Thence they emerge once more in a larger granite aqueduct, and run for 4¾ miles to the old basalt channel of the Plenty, and into the Yan Yean   reservoir, a total distance of 7½ miles from Toorourong, and-with the exception of the short run down the natural bed of Jack's Creek-over masonry for  

the whole journey. Indeed, the exception is barely worth mentioning, for the fall of the land from the cascades to the foothills is so rapid that the added volume of water thrown into Jack's Creek has cut a bed for itself well down into the limestone A bridle track has been cut along the range from its foot to the cascade, and this is by far the most picturesque stage in a journey to the sources of the Yan Yean. It might appro- priately be called the White Water Valley, for the stream is it turmoil of white foam throughout. Half-way down it leaps over a higher precipice than usual, and this has been named the Minnie Falls. Seen within   a framing of splendid tree ferns, it is a charm- ing bit of natural landscape, to which, in the added volume of water, only artificial aid is given.

It is upon the higher and more recent works that one finds most to admire. Side by side with the aqueduct is a beautifully smooth carriage drive winding into the very heart of the mountains. Here is a narrow band, speaking of civilisation and progress, while from the left looks down the main range, hooded, as it has been for centuries, in gums, while on the right are lesser spurs and valleys, dark green with woods when close at hand, wrapped and lost in a blue mist as the prospect extends. Mile upon mile the surroundings are pristine-red lories cluster-

ing in the gums, the scarlet-crested   gang gangs, in pairs, wheeling and skriek-

ing amongst the tree-tops, black walla-

bies darting for the underwood ; mountain myrtles blooming everywhere, redolent of the odour of the gums, which dominate everything, and occasionally a lyre bird breaking across the bridle tracks. In the evening, a silence so intense and an atmosphere so rare that every whisper is magnified, and a mere zephyr playing upon the pointed leaves makes a low whistling harmony. At night the calling of owls and mopokes, the splashing of a platy- pus in the weir pools, and the rustle of wom- bats. Those new to the ranges pass from   one flank of the mountain to the other with- out being conscious of change. Right on the wildcat spur is the farthest departmental depot, where cow bells are heard in the scrub, and a garden has sprung up us if by magic in the bush. Here is a watchman whose duty it is to ride daily along the aqueducts, axe on saddle, and cut away any trees that may have fallen across the channel.

A word now about the older works. The Yan Yean reservoir to-day extends over   about 1,390 acres of land, and will hold 6,400 millions of gallons. The outlet is over a stone race, and here Mr. Wilson, the resident inspector, measures out to Melbourne its supply. He counts his millions of gallons by quarter inches in depth in the water rush- ing over the race, but, before the management is explained, some further information as to work is necessary. From Yan Yean the water flows in a bluestone aqueduct to the   Pipe Head reservoir, a picturesque pool of

some three million gallons capacity, which serves the purpose of concentrating the water before it for the first time disappears into underground pipes. Next it issues in the Preston reservoir, where there is room for 16 millions of gallons, and for the last time disappears into the four mains-one recently added-which carry it to Melbourne, and dis- charge it into every little artery of that immense system of circulation. There is daily communication between Preston and Yan Yean, Every morning at 9 o'clock, and in very hot weather during the afternoon also, Mr. Wilson is informed by wire as to the depth of the water in the Preston tank, and on that intelligence he regulates the output. If Preston in falling slowly, he refrains from     tinkering the supply, but lets it sink to a cer- tain point, and then adds to the output not alone the actual loss, but the daily average loss also, so that the levels may remain as nearly as possible normal. But, say that Preston is 19ft. to-day mid and to-morrow   he finds that it has fallen to 14ft. This is evidence of an abnormal con- sumption in Melbourne, so up go the Yan Yean flood gates, and as much water as the aqueduct can carry surges along until the strain is once more eased. The consumption fluctuates constantly, and but for careful management exhaustion would be as fre- quent as overflow in the Preston reservoir. The aqueduct from Yan Yean to Preston will carry 34 millions of gallons per diem, the Melbourne pipes 44 millions, the increase

being intended to secure a certain amount of   extra storage within the mains. From the  

weir on the Silvery Creek to, say, Brighton or Gipay Village, the most remote of the suburbs which have regular supplies, the water is carried a distance of 60 miles.

The system, as it stands, is about the best   commercial concern in Australia, and Mr Fitrgibbon, who is so anxious to have it under municipal control, is not the only one cognisant of the fact. Its entire cost was £2,300,000, and the whole of it has been paid   back in water rates with the exception of about £100,000, which will be cleared off during the present financial year. The more rapid the expenditure the more rapid, proportionately has been the return The revenue from water is increasing at the rate of about £16,000 a year, and the   great difficulty has been to keep pace with suburban extensions. Critics say tha t all this should have been foreseen, but if the office of the department had been gifted with such a capacity for looking into the future they would no doubt have at once abandoned such a business as the distribu- tion of water, have retired from the service, and become millionaires as the leading spirits in a land syndicate. The cost of     what may be called the modem works, and which include the construction of nearly 20 miles of aqueduct, two weirs, and a reser- voir, as well as the purchase of land, was in

round figures £190,000.  

The system of distribution after the five  

mains have carried their 44,000,000gal. daily   across the Merri Creek is shown in the plan which appears above. The black lines indi-

cate the mains only, and generally follow the   line of streets and main roads , but the pipes which carry water to every square of build- ings, not to mention separate tenements, would make a network so intricate as to con- fuse rather than assist a comprehension of

the scheme.

The figures which in each case accompany   the name of a street or road indicate the diameter of the pipe passing along that par- ticular thoroughfare. Small circular reser- voirs are shown at Caulfield, Kew, and Coburg, the object of which is to store during the slack hours a supply which will help to compensate the heavy drain during busier periods of the day. During a period of ex- cessive heat the Water Supply department can, by a system of stops and valves, cut off a   portion of the supply from any place where the supply is more than sufficient, and force it on to where there is a scarcity. The last   water famine in the suburbs was attributable to the fact that, although there was suffi- cient water in all the reservoirs to keep the Preston mains full, the drain at the earlier off- take pipes was so great that there was little   hope of getting anything like sufficient pressure either at the remote suburbs or on high levels. With the fifth main recently added the engineer of water supply is, how- ever, able to say that even during the hottest weather he will be able to keep

all pipes wet. It is thought that the  

building " boom" has now so far slackened that the department will in future be able to keep pace with legitimate extension.

In the larger works the substitution of wrought for cast iron pipes now considerably facilitates as well as cheapens the work of the department. One great source of trouble is the want of knowledge on the part of fire- men in dealing properly with plugs and it is accepted almost as a matter of course that after every fire of any magnitude a burst pipe   in the locality of the fire will require to be

repaired

The main shown upon the lower right-hand     corner of the map as following the Point Nepean road is now in course of construction. In connection with the smaller diagram, show- ing what are called the by-pass mains, it may     be explained that the letters A and B on the pipes entering the Preston reservoir from Yan Yean indicate points at which the supply may be shut off when the reservoir is full, and the water thus diverted directly into the Melbourne mains.

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