Page 150
Previous/Next Page
Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 3

I Background

II Early European Settlements

III Assessment Of Available Water Resources

IV Water Supplies For Goldmining Development

V Irrigation Development

VI Farm And Stock Water Supplies

VII Urban Water Supplies

VIII Wastewater Management And Treatment

IX Water Quality Management

X Limnological And Water Quality Research

XI New Techniques In Water Resource Planning And Management

XII Legislation

XIII Conclusion

XIV List Of Abbreviations

XV Acknowledgements

XVI Plantations-high Productivity Resources



Contact us
Early European Settlements

Most of the sites for the first European settlements in Australia were selected primarily because they were perceived to have adequate supplies of fresh water -an understandable criterion after that long voyage from England, and with instructions from His Majesty's Government to establish permanent hamlets for the convicts and others on those early ships.

The importance of water quality was recognised early on, in a General Order issued on 14 October 1802 to the inhabitants of early Sydney -

If any person whatever is detected in throwing any filth into the stream of fresh water, cleaning fish, washing, erecting pig-sties near it, or taking water but at the tanks, on conviction before a magistrate, their houses will be taken down and forfeit 5 for each offence to the Orphan Fund.

It referred to the new colony's first water supply, 'the finest spring of water', which had led Captain Arthur Phillip to choose Sydney Cove as the site for his settlement in 1788. Draining an area of less than 73 ha on the western slopes of what is now Hyde Park, the stream was naturally subject to poor flows in dry seasons. Two years after the foundation of the settlement, tanks were cut into the flanking sandstones near the present Spring and Bond Streets, and it became known as the Tank Stream.

This was probably the first conscious example of water technology in Australia. It may be no coincidence that Governor Phillip had farmed a property on the edge of the New Forest as well as being a naval officer, and was therefore much more aware of the basic needs of his charges than the average sea captain of his time.

The settlers of Sydney Cove soon became aware of the harshness of their new environment. Recurrent droughts caused severe shortages of water, and it is remarkable that the Tank Stream served as Sydney's main source of water for almost forty years, being finally abandoned in about 1826. Long before this, however, many settlers had constructed their own wells, and water was also being carted from the Lachlan Swamps in what is now Centennial Park. In 1826 John Busby reported in favour of the Lachlan Swamps as Sydney's next water supply source, and the following year saw the commencement by convicts of a 3.6 km tunnel from Hyde Park to the Swamps -the so-called Busby's Bore. The tunnel was not completed until 1837 -a sad commentary on day labour -but fortunately by 1830 the rocks being penetrated were yielding sufficient groundwater to the tunnel to provide a useful supply.

The first attempt to bore for water in Australia was for the purpose of augmenting Sydney's water supply. The bore was commenced within the walls of Darlinghurst Gaol in 1851, but was abandoned at 23 m depth owing to sabotage.

This brief recital of Sydney's early water supply development could be repeated with minor variations for all the early settlements around Australia. Perth, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane each experienced a similar pattern of over-utilization of resources easily to hand, and the dawning realization that these water resources were of a very different nature from those familiar to the settlers and required a different pattern of development.

People in Bright Sparcs - Busby, John

Previous Page Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering Next Page

© 1988 Print Edition pages 153 - 154, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher