CLONBINANE, WHITTLESEA,HUMEVALE, YAN YEAN, DOREEN, MERNDA, SOUTH MORANG, MILL PARK, BUNDOORA, THOMASTOWN, RESERVOIR, PRESTON,THORNBURY, NORTHCOTE and FITZROY NORTH, MITCHELL SHIRE, WHITTLESEA CITY, DAREBIN CITY, YARRA CITY
The Yan Yean Water Supply System was constructed from 1853 as the first large scale engineered water supply system in Victoria. It consists of a series of catchment weirs and reservoirs connected by aqueducts and pipe track which extend from north of the Great Dividing Range to the Merri Creek, 5 kilometres north of the Melbourne Central Business District.
After the establishment of Melbourne in 1835, there were increasing problems with the quality of the water supply as the population increased. Two water supply schemes were considered, but James Blackburn's proposal for a gravity-fed water supply drawn from a reservoir to be constructed near Whittlesea was selected and the Yan Yean Water Supply System was constructed in the years from 1853 to 1857.
The better quality of water supplied to Melbourne reduced the incidence of disease in the first two decades of its operations, but the system was plagued with problems of water quality and quantity. To overcome this, refinements were made during the latter decades of the nineteenth century. These included the 1864 construction of a holding reservoir at Preston to regulate supply pressure of water to the city and prevent stagnation in the pipes overnight, and the northern extension of the system through construction of weirs and aqueducts to harvest Wallaby Creek, Jacks Creek and Silver Creek. The 1886 construction of a second reservoir known as Toorourrong allowed sediment from these sources to settle before water passed to Yan Yean Reservoir along the new 'Clearwater Channel', avoiding a polluted section of the Plenty River.
By the 1890s Melbourne's population had grown significantly and the Maroondah System was constructed to augment supply, joining the Yan Yean pipe track at the Junction Basin. The Yan Yean Water Supply System has been continually in use since it was established, but as a result of the addition of new systems in the twentieth century it now supplies only 3% of Melbourne's water.
The Yan Yean Water Supply System extends from north of the Great Dividing Range to Merri Creek in Northcote, 5 kilometres north of the Melbourne Central Business District. The Yan Yean Water Supply system was constructed from 1853-91 and comprises a range of different components and sections, including (from north to south): Silver Creek and Wallaby Creek weirs and aqueducts, The Cascades, Jacks Creek and Jacks Creek Deviation Channel, Toorourrong Reservoir, Clearwater Channel aqueduct, Yan Yean Reservoir, pipe reserve from Yan Yean to Morang, Pipehead Reservoir, pipe reserve track from South Morang to Preston Reservoir, Preston Reservoir complex, and pipe reserve from Preston Reservoir to Merri Creek.
This whole system lies in the traditional land of the Wurundjeri people.
How is it significant?
The Yan Yean Water Supply System satisfies the following criteria for inclusion in the Victorian Heritage Register:
Criterion A Importance to the course, or pattern, of Victoria's cultural history
Criterion B Possession of uncommon, rare or endangered aspects of Victoria's cultural history
Criterion C Potential to yield information that will contribute to an understanding of Victoria's cultural history
Criterion D Importance in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a class of cultural places and objects
Criterion F Importance in demonstrating a high degree of creative or technical achievement at a particular period.
Criterion H Special association with the life or works of a person, or group of persons, of importance in Victoria's history.
Why is it significant?
The Yan Yean Water Supply is significant at the State level for the following reasons:
The Yan Yean Water Supply System, constructed in the years from 1853, is the oldest surviving water supply system in Victoria and still forms part of Melbourne's water supply today. It pre-dates the Coliban system at Bendigo by 5 years and probably influenced its design as well as those of later systems such as Ballarat. The continuous use of the system for its original purpose is an important part of its significance. It was the first of the major infrastructure projects that later included the development of railways and the Melbourne Sewerage Scheme that were of critical importance in the development of Melbourne (and Victoria) in the wake of the gold rush. For over 30 years it remained the major source of water supply to Melbourne. (Criterion A).
The Yan Yean Water Supply System is a rare example of an early continually-operating, water supply system serving a major urban centre that still operates largely according to its original design. It remains a small but nonetheless important component of the city water supply. It provides rare evidence of the evolution of engineering practices and techniques in the mid to late nineteenth century, and incorporates early technical elements such as in-line pressure reducing valves and engineered cascades to aerate incoming water that are not found in other systems in Victoria or Australia. The Yan Yean Water Supply System also provides detailed and varied evidence of engineering construction techniques prior to the revolution brought by concrete construction, which was used extensively in water supply systems built later in the nineteenth century and in the twentieth century. (Criterion B).
The Yan Yean Water Supply System remains, 150 years after it was completed, a working system where the function and use of many of the original features can still be understood and interpreted. Another notable feature of the Yan Yean Water Supply System is the extent of archaeological remains, which include decommissioned pipes, reservoirs, aqueducts and other infrastructure that have the potential to provide further evidence about the system and how it was constructed and operated. For example, the recent replacement of early cast and wrought iron pipe mains in the pipe reserve between South Morang and Preston has yielded valuable information about nineteenth century construction techniques, including the method of manufacture and installation and repairs and improvements that were made. (Criterion C).
The Yan Yean Water Supply System contains representative examples of most (if not all) of the features associated with nineteenth and early-twentieth century water supply systems including storage and service reservoirs, weirs, pipe mains and reserves, aqueducts, siphons, tunnels and, as such, is one of the best representative examples of a such a system not only in Victoria, but also Australia. As previously noted, it includes features that are rare or possibly unique such as the valve houses and The Cascades. A notable feature is that much of the original infrastructure remains intact and still in use and therefore the way that the system was used and operated can still be understood and interpreted relatively easily. While essentially intact, it has been modified and adapted to improve water supply and quality and to meet changing technical requirements and standards and this provides a fascinating illustration of the evolution of water supply technology over a 150-year period. From the 1880s, the closed catchment of the Yan Yean Reservoir landscape has suffered little human interference, and in the latter part of the 20th century two areas within it were reserved as Reference Areas providing a natural standard for comparison (Criterion D).
The Yan Yean Water Supply System was the first large scale engineered water supply in Victoria and introduced a number of engineering innovations that were to be influential in the design and construction of later systems in Victoria and Australia. Chief amongst these was the concept based on a remote supply fed by gravity rather than machinery to the city and the successful application of British dam construction technologies to Australian conditions. Lessons learnt at Yan Yean were used to make improvements that benefited these later systems. As previously noted, what is notable about the system is that much of the original infrastructure is still in use and has been little modified since it was first constructed. (Criterion F).
The Yan Yean Water Supply System has strong associations with people who were influential in the historic development of Melbourne and Victoria in the nineteenth century including Clement Hodgkinson, Matthew B Jackson, James Brady and Ferdinand Von Mueller. The Yan Yean Water Supply System also has associations with Sir John Monash, engineer, and his Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Co., which built Reservoir No 2 at Preston. Finally, the Yan Yean system led to the creation of the Water Supply Branch of the Public Works Department, which was the first State authority to control the planning, development and management of water supplies in Victoria. It also has strong associations with the Melbourne & Metropolitan Board of Works (MMBW), which managed the system from 1891 to 1991. (Criterion H).