Culture and heritage


Metropolitan Water, Sewerage & Drainage Board - letters patent

The predecessor to the Metropolitan Water, Sewerage & Drainage Board (MWSDB) was established in 1880. Its principle functions were to provide Sydney with a supply of fresh water, to operate the city's sewage facilities, and to maintain a stormwater disposal system. The Board was restructured several times during its existence, with various other functions being added or removed over time.

The Board was granted its Arms on 1st March 1965. The blazon is: Arms: Argent gutty, a water bouget and in base two bars wavy Azure on a chief nebuly Gules an escallop Argent between a lion passant and a fleece Or. Crest: On a wreath of the colours in front of a pick and scythe in saltire ensigned with a mural coronet Azure a wheel Argent. Supporters: On the dexter side a figure representing Aquarius proper habited Azure and on the sinister side a figure representing Hygieia proper vested Argent cloaked Azure. Badge: A water bouget Azure encircled by a Serpent devouring its tail head to the dexter Vert. Motto: Serviendo Sanitas

The nebuly partition line of the chief is intended to represent clouds, whence come the drops of rain blazoned "goutty". These, emblazoned in groups of three, represent the Board's three major catchments; the water bouget the Board's works of water supply, emphasising storage; and the two wavy bars the sea to which the water is discharged via the sewerage and stormwater systems. The escallop in the chief derives from the arms of Viscount Sydney, after whom Sydney was named; the lion and the golden fleece are from the arms of New South Wales, as an acknowledgement of the Board's legislative origin.

The crest depicts the nature of the community the Board serves, the wheel representing manufacture or industry, the anchor (blazoned as a pick) the three ports (Sydney, Botany Bay, and Port Kembla), and the scythe the outer rural areas. The mural crown indicates that the board functions like a local government body.

The supporters represent the Board's functions of water supply (Aquarius) and sanitation (Hygeia), and, reversed, are derived from those of the Metropolitan Water Board in London.

Some questions to research:

  1. Were there other statutory bodies delivering specific services in NSW at this time - and if so what are some examples of the symbols and emblems they used?
  2. What might the MWSDB have intended to achieve in obtaining a formal grant of arms rather than using a simple logo?

Image source: Nathanael Hughes, 11th October 2006

Page last updated: 01 September 2012