The area around the Yarra River and Port Phillip Bay that is now Melbourne was originally inhabited by the Wurundjeri people. The Wurundjeri is one of the 5 tribes that make up the Kulin nation in Victoria.
The Wurundjeri people had no need for complicated water supply systems. Instead they relied on local rivers and creeks or dug shallow wells.
The first European settlers who arrived in Melbourne in 1803 also relied on local creeks for water. As their settlements grew, it became clear that a water supply system was needed.
Here is a short history of how our water supply system was created.
|1803||The Port Phillip area first settled on the Mornington Peninsula when Colonel David Collins set up a camp at Sullivan's Bay, near Sorrento. The only source of water for almost 400 convicts, marines and free settlers was six wooden barrels sunk in the sand to tap groundwater.|
|1835||The Port Phillip area became more settled after Colonel Collins arrived in Sorrento in 1803. However, it was not until 1835 that John Batman officially founded Melbourne.|
|1840||Five years after its official beginning, Melbourne’s population had already reached 7,000. Water pumps were placed on the north bank of the Yarra River. Men with water carts sold water from door to door, for three shillings a barrel. This was equal to about 30 cents for 550 litres.|
|1850s||Melbourne’s population to grow rapidly during the Victorian gold rush of the 1850s, and Melbourne was transformed into a major city. At the same time many factories and buildings were being developed. These all meant that a water supply system needed to be created for Melbourne.|
|1853||The Board of Commissionaires of Sewers and Water Supply was formed to build Melbourne a reliable water supply system.|
|1857||Yan Yean Reservoir, Melbourne’s first reservoir, was completed. It began to supply water to Melbourne, which by now had a population of 100,000.|
|1891||The Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works was formed and became responsible for Melbourne’s water supply. Melbourne had grown to a city of half a million people. To provide water to this rapidly growing city, especially the eastern suburbs, the Watts River (near Healesville) was tapped. It supplied water to Melbourne, via the Maroondah aqueduct.|
|1910||By 1910 there were 123,227 connections to Melbourne’s water supply system.|
|1920s||In response to growing complaints about water quality and lack of water pressure in Melbourne's eastern suburbs,. Maroondah Reservoir, about 55 kilometres north-east of Melbourne, was completed in 1927. The completion of Maroondah Reservoir, O'Shannassy Reservoir in 1928 and Silvan Reservoir in 1932 saw Melbourne's storages boosted from a capacity of 30,000 million litres to 104,500 million litres.|
|1940||In the very dry summer of 1937/1938, water restrictions were introduced in Melbourne for the first time. The Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works also started planning for the building of a new reservoir to increase Melbourne's water supplies.|
|1946||After delays caused by World War II and another two summers of water restrictions in 1945 and 1946, construction began on the Upper Yarra Reservoir and a major system of pipelines and tunnels to bring more water to Melbourne.|
|1950||Rapid population growth after World War II in Melbourne meant that new supplies of water were urgently needed.|
|1957||The Upper Yarra Reservoir was completed, tripling Melbourne’s total water storage to nearly 300,000 million litres.|
|1960s||Many elements in the water supply system were replaced or renewed.|
|1966||The Victorian Government accepted the plans to build Cardinia and Thomson Reservoirs.|
|1967||Following the severe drought of 1967/68 work started on the building of Cardinia Reservoir. Work also began on diverting part of Thomson River in Gippsland into the Upper Yarra River catchment.|
|1971||Greenvale Reservoir, with a capacity to hold 27,000 million litres of water, was completed. It was built to meet the growing demand for water in Melbourne’s west, especially during the summer.|
|1973||Construction of Cardinia Reservoir was completed. As part of the Victorian Government's 1973 policy that fluoride should be added to all public water supplies, construction began on local fluoridation plants.|
|1975||Yarra Valley Conduit and Silvan-Cardinia Main were built between the Upper Yarra and Silvan reservoirs so that more water could be moved between the two reservoirs. It also allowed water from the Thomson River to be piped to Cardinia Reservoir.|
|1981||The Sugarloaf Reservoir Project, which includeda major pumping station and a water treatment plant was completed. This increased Melbourne's total storage volume by 95,000 million litres.|
|1983||The final stage of the Thomson project completed in May with an extension of the Thomson-Yarra Tunnel and completion of the dam wall. The Thomson is the largest reservoir ever built by the Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works.|
|1984||The 'Don't be a Wally with Water' advertising campaign was launched, aimed at changing people's attitudes to wasting water. Dual flush toilets became compulsory for all new installations.|
|1991||The Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works was merged with a number of smaller urban water authorities to form Melbourne Water.|
|1994||The Victorian Government announced that Melbourne Water was going to be divided into three retail water companies and a wholesale water company.|