Upper Canal System | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Upper Canal System

Item details

Name of item: Upper Canal System
Type of item: Complex / Group
Group/Collection: Utilities - Water
Category: Water Supply Canal
Primary address: , Mt. Annan/Currans Hill/Catherine Field/Leppington, NSW 2567
Local govt. area: Camden
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
 Mt. Annan/Currans Hill/Catherine Field/LeppingtonCamden  Primary Address

Statement of significance:

An early water supply canal built 1880-1888 and still in use today.
Date significance updated: 03 Sep 02
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.


Construction years: 1880-1888
Physical description: A system of tunnels, aqueducts and open canals collectively known as the Upper Canal, which enabled water diverted through the Nepean Tunnel to flow a distance of 64 kilometres to the major distribution reservoir at Prospect. It has a capacity of 680 megalitres per day, in addition to supplying water to Prospect Reservoir, it also provides supply to a number of localities on route. In addition to the water channels that make up the Upper Canal, there are various structures associated with the function or structure of the Upper Canal, eg culverts, overbridges, footbridges, flumes, plantings, pumping stations, distance markers, airshafts, reservoirs, access gates, keepers' cottages or sites of these cottages, observation posts and rubble piles(from construction of the canal).

The Upper Canal, now managed by the Sydney Catchment Authority, is divided into 11 Maintenance sections, from The Pheasant's Nest to the Prospect Dam. Historically each of these sections had its own section keeper, with a cottage built along the section. Items within Sections 4 - 7 run through the Camden LGA, and are listed below by section. Please refer to the Conservation Management Plan for the Upper Canal by Edward Higginbotham & Assocs (2001) for detailed inventory sheets on the items listed below.

Section 4:
Item 61 - Main Southern Railway: South Headwall of Aqueduct
Item 62 - Main Southern Railway: Aqueduct
Item 63 - Main Southern Railway: North Headwall of Aqueduct
Item 64 - Canal Overbridge
Item 65 - Canal - concrete lined
Item 66 - Former Cottage Site (including an elevated concrete water tank, footing remains, timber shed & remnant plantings)
Item 67 - Timber 1/4 mile marker
Item 68 - Water Tank Stand
Item 69-70 - Flumes
Item 71 - Canal Overbridge
Item 72 - Flume
Item 73 - Stop Board
Item 74 - Keanes Creek Aqueduct
Item 75 - Canal - brick lined
Item 76 - Mt Annan Tunnel
Item 77 - Observation Pillar (sandstone)

Section 5:
Item 1 - Airshaft
Item 2 - Mt Annan Tunnel: Covered Way
Item 3 - Mt Annan Tunnel: Covered Way - North Portal
Item 4 - Access road gate
Item 5-6 - Canal - concrete lined
Item 7-8 - Flumes
Item 9 - Stormwater Channel - masonry lined
Item 10 - Scour valve
Item 11 - Concrete & Timber 1/4 mile Markers
Item 12-14 - Flumes
Item 15 - Canal Overbridge
Item 16 - Avenue of Pines, Kenny Hill
Item 17-21 - Flumes
Item 22 - Canal Overbridge
Item 23 - Brick Culvert
Item 24 - Concrete & Timber 1/4 mile Markers
Item 25 - Offtake Chamber
Item 27 - Brick Culvert
Item 28 - Canal Overbridge, Kenny Hill
Item 29 - Pumping Station (WP 002), Kenny Hill
Item 30 - Remains of Kenny Hill Depot
Item 31 - Plantings around the Kenny Hill Depot
Item 32 - Scour valve, Kenny Hill
Item 33-34 - Canal Overbridges
Item 35 - Kenny Hill Reservoir
Item 36 - Access road gate
Item 37 - Avenue of Pines, Kenny Hill
Item 38 - Brick Culvert
Item 39 - Canal - concrete lined
Item 40-42 - Flumes
Item 43 - Former Camden Tank
Item 44 - Stop board
Item 45 - Flume
Item 46 - Canal Overbridge
Item 47 - Flume
Item 48 - Brick Culvert
Item 49-50 - Flumes
Item 51 - Former cottage site (including remains of paths, footings 7 septic tank, elevated water tank & plantings)
Item 52 - Access road gate
Item 53 - Canal Overbridge
Item 54 - Brick Culvert
Item 55 - Concrete slab
Item 56 - Brick Culvert
Item 57 - Observation Pillar, Badgelly Tunnel
Item 58 - Stop Board
Item 59 - Flume
Item 60 - Canal - masonry lined
Item 61 - Flume
Item 62 - Badgelly Tunnel
Item 63 - Badgelly Tunnel: Air Shaft No. 1
Item 64 - Observation Pillar, Badgelly Tunnel
Item 65 - Plantings, Badgelly Tunnel

Section 6:
Item 1 - Badgelly Tunnel: Covered Way - North Portal
Item 2 - Former Cottage site (only historical plantings remain)
Item 3 - Canal - concrete lined
Item 4 - Observation Pillar
Item 5 - Stop Board
Item 6-7 - Flumes
Item 9 - Brick Culvert
Item 11 - Canal Overbridge
Item 12-13 - Brick Culverts
Items 14-15 - Flumes
Item 16 - Scour valve
Item 17 - Brick Culvert
Item 18 - Sandstone box road culvert
Item 19 - Canal - masonry lined
Item 20 - Molles Main Tunnel
Item 21 - Canal - masonry lined
Item 22 - Canal - concrete lined
Item 23 - Off-take
Item 24 - Stop-board
Item 25-26 - Flumes
Item 27 - Brick Culvert
Item 28-29 - Flumes
Item 30 - Canal Overbridge
Item 31 - Access road gates
Item 32 - Flume
Item 33-34 - Brick Culverts
Item 35 - Flume
Item 36 - Former Canal Overbridge
Item 37-39 - Flumes
Item 40 - Brick Culvert
Item 41 - Canal Overbridge
Item 42 - Access road gates
Item 43 - Brick Culvert
Item 44 - Former cottage site (including fibro gable-roofed outside toilet, a weatherboard shed, an elevated water tank, remains of footings & plantings)
Item 45 - Stop board
Item 46-47 - Brick Culverts
Item 48 - Canal overbridge
Item 49 - Access road gates
Item 50 - Flume
Item 51 - Water quality monitoring station
Item 52 - Flume
Item 53 - Brick Culvert
Item 54 - Canal - masonry lined
Item 55 - Box Tunnel: Trash Rack
Item 56 - Box Tunnel

Section 7:
Item 1 - Canal - masonry lined
Item 2-3 - Flumes
Item 4 - Stone culvert
Item 5 - Canal - concrete lined
Item 6 - Ingleburn Dam Precinct: Former Offtake for Ingleburn Dam
Item 7 - Ingleburn Dam Precinct: Stop Board
Item 8 - Ingleburn Dam Precinct: Scour valve
Item 9 - Ingleburn Dam Precinct: Ingleburn Dam
Item 10 - Ingleburn Dam Precinct: Infrastructure (including pump buildings & outlet pipe) - possibly property of Sydney Water
Item 11 - Ingleburn Dam Precinct: Varroville Reservoir R 372, property of Sydney Water
Item 12 - Ingleburn Dam Precinct: Brick Culvert
Item 13 - Ingleburn Dam Precinct: Flume Mounts
Item 14 - Ingleburn Dam Precinct: Former Waste/Overflow Weir, now Offtake Weir for Ingleburn Dam
Item 15-17 - Ingleburn Dam Precinct: Flumes
Item 18 - Ingleburn Dam Precinct: Sluice Gates
Item 19 - Ingleburn Dam Precinct: Plantings & several buildings
Item 20 - Canal Overbridge - One of 2 surviving with timber girder construction
Item 21 - Access road gates
Item 23 - Former Cottage Site
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The canal is in good condition. There is archaeological potential along the length of the canal including adjacent dam precincts, offtakes, monitoring stations, pumping stations and cottage sites
Date condition updated:02 Oct 02
Further information: Refer to detailed surveys/inventories of the Upper Canal & associated structures held by the Sydney Catchment Authority
Current use: Water Supply Canal & associated structures
Former use: Water Supply Canal & associated structures


Historical notes: When the Upper Nepean Scheme was commissioned in 1888, it diverted water (which previously would have flowed down the lower stretches of the Nepean River to Camden and Penrith) into the Upper Canal, by means of which it was conveyed to Prospect Reservoir and thence to Sydney

The Upper Canal was built between 1880-88 after more than a decade of investigation into schemes to provide Sydney's fourth source of water supply.

The Camden Water Supply Works were completed and officially opened in November 1899, rating commencing from 1st January 1900.

"The scheme involved tapping the headwaters of the Nepean River and its tributaries, the Cataract, Cordeax and Avon Rivers.

Comprising a series of aqueducts, tunnels and open canals, the Upper Canal is an integral component of the Nepean Scheme, conveying water 62km from Pheasants Nest to Prospect Resovoir. In fact, it is the backbone of the scheme.

The unique feature of the Upper Canal is that it feeds water to Prospect Resovoir entirely by gravity.

The accuracy to which the gradients were built into this amazing waterway, without today's advanced technology, is a tribute to the great performance of our pioneer engineers, surveyors and construction workers.

Although not completed until 1888, the Upper Nepean scheme was unofficially opened in 1886 as a result of Hudson's Temporary Scheme.

Today the role of the Upper Canal has changed dramatically from its original concept. It was constructed to channel the diverted waters of the Nepean, Cataract, Cordeax and Avon Rivers to a fast expanding Metropolis.

In 1960, with the completion of Warragamba Dam, the Upper Canl became a virtual "feeder main" for the growth areas of Camden, Campbelltown and Liverpool.

Along the Canal's route are reminders of the construction days - campsites, stone ovens...all but reduced to piles of rubble and overgrown with grass."
(Macarthur Advertiser, Wed April 6 1988)

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Industry-Activities associated with the manufacture, production and distribution of goods (none)-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Technology-Activities and processes associated with the knowledge or use of mechanical arts and applied sciences (none)-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Utilities-Activities associated with the provision of services, especially on a communal basis (none)-

Assessment of significance

Integrity/Intactness: The Upper Canal Water Supply retains good integrity and intactness.
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Recommended management:

Conserve and maintain significant fabric.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental Plan I12203 Sep 10   
Heritage study     

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Macarthur Region Heritage Study1986 JRC Planning Services  Yes
The Water Supply, Sew. And Drain. Of Sydney1961 Aird, W.  No
Conservation Management Plan for the Upper Canal2001 Edward Higginbotham & Assocs  No

References, internet links & images


Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Local Government
Database number: 1280006

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