Upper Canal System (Broughton Weir to Prospect Reservoir) | NSW Environment & Heritage

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Upper Canal System (Broughton Weir to Prospect Reservoir)

Item details

Name of item: Upper Canal System (Broughton Weir to Prospect Reservoir)
Other name/s: Upper Nepean Water Catchment, includes Southern Railway Aqueduct
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Utilities - Water
Category: Water Supply Canal
Location: Lat: 0 Long: 0
Primary address: , Appin & Wilton, NSW
Local govt. area: Wollondilly
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
 Appin & WiltonWollondilly  Primary Address
Woronora Plateaux and rural areas between Wilton and AppinAppin & WiltonWollondilly  Alternate Address

Statement of significance:

SHR Number 01375. The Upper Canal System is historically significant as the scheme commenced, and progressively developed from the late 1880's to meet Sydney's Water Supply needs after supply from the Botany Swamps proved to be inadequate. The dams and other works are important examples of early Australian civil engineering and were all "State of Art" for their time. The catchment area and system is considered to provide one of the world's purest sources of water for human consumption.

The Upper Canal is significant as a major component of the Upper Nepean Scheme. As an element of this Scheme, the Canal has functioned as part of Sydney's main water supply system for over 120 years. Apart from maintenance and other improvements, the Upper Canal has changed little.

As part of this System, the Canal is associated with Edward Moriarty, Head of the Harbours and Rivers Branch of the NSW Public Works Department.

The Canal is aesthetically significant, running in a serpentine route through a rural bushland setting as an impressive landscape element with sandstone and concrete-lined edges;

The Canal is significant as it demonstrates the techniques of canal building, and evidence of engineering practice. The Canal as a whole is an excellent example of 19th century hydraulic engineering, including the use of gravity to feed water along the canal. (BCubed Sustainability, 2/2006).

The Upper Nepean Scheme is significant because:
* In its scope and execution, it is a unique and excellent example of the ingenuity of late 19th century hydraulic engineering in Australia, in particular for its design as a gravity-fed water supply system.
* It has functioned as a unique part of the main water supply system for Sydney for over 100 years, and has changed little in its basic principles since the day it was completed.
* It represented the major engineering advance from depending on local water sources to harvesting water in upland catchment areas, storing it in major dams and transporting it the city by means of major canals and pipelines.
* It provides detailed and varied evidence of the engineering construction techniques prior to the revolution inspired by reinforced concrete construction, of the evolution of these techniques (such as the replacement of timber flumes with wrought iron and then concrete flumes), and of the early use of concrete for many engineering purposes in the system.
* The scheme possesses many elements of infrastructure which are of world and national renown in technological and engineering terms.
* Many of the structural elements are unique to the Upper Nepean Scheme.
Date significance updated: 24 Mar 07
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.

Description

Construction years: 1880-1888
Physical description: There are 3 of the 4 major storage DAMS in the systems in Wollondilly Shire. The dams and their main elements are :

. CATARACT DAM (Wall, Value House, Water Board Official Quarters (1910), adjacent gardens, parklands, picnic grounds, pathways and 4 cottages)
. CORDEAUX DAM (Wall, Bywash and Value Houses)
. NEPEAN DAM (Wall, Value Houses)

Within Wollondilly Shire the rest of the system includes :

. DIVERSION WEIRS below the functions of the Nepean with the Cordeaux and Avon rivers (Pheasant's Nest Weir) and at Broughton's Pass ;
. NEPEAN TUNNEL diverting water from the Pheasant's Nest Weir to the Cataract RIver at Broughton's Pass ;
. UPPER CANAL SYSTEM - A system of tunnels, aqueducts and open canals collectively known as the Upper Canal, which enable water diverted through the Nepean Tunnel to flow a distance of 64km to the major distribution reservoir at Prospect. It has a capacity of 680 megalitres per day, and in additon to supplying water to Prospect Reservoir, also provides supply to a number of localities en route. Three of the tunnels : Cataract, and Devines No's 1 and 2 are in Wollondilly Shire.
The canals are lined for the most part with dry rubble masonry, elsewhere with concrete or rubble in cement.

Detailed physical descriptions for each of these elements are contained in National Trust and Water Board Listings.
Further information: An extensive system of Dams, Tunnels, Weirs, Aqueducts, Canals, Reservoirs and Pipelines delivering water from the catchment of the Nepean River to Crown Street Reservoir, a distance of just over 62 1/2 miles (108 km). Devised in 1867 by E.O.Moriarty of the PWD it consists of 24 miles Upper Canal system of open canals interspersed with 13 tunnels and covered sections, 9 wrought iron inverted siphon aqueducts and small brick aqueducts delivering water to Prospect Dam and then to Crown Street Reservoir.
Current use: Water supply canal
Former use: Water supply canal

History

Historical notes: Dam building and the movement of water from the district’s rivers to Sydney has been a major influence on the area since the late 19th century. It began with the construction of the Upper Nepean Canal, taking water from Broughton’s Pass to the Prospect Reservoir. The canal was built between 1880 and 1888 and is part of the Upper Nepean Scheme, Sydney’s fourth water supply. This scheme, first proposed in 1869, harnessed the headwaters of the Nepean River and its tributaries, the Cataract, Cordeaux and Avon Rivers, to ensure a reliable, high-quality water supply for the rapidly growing city.

The Upper Canal is an engineering marvel and is entirely gravity fed. It consists of tunnels, open canals and aqueducts that convey water 62 km from Pheasants Nest to Prospect Reservoir. The canal passes under part of the Mount Annan Botanic Garden via a 686 m tunnel and is mainly cut through natural sandstone bedrock but some sections, especially where it passes through shale, are lined with sandstone, brick or cement. It is believed that sandstone quarried from the north face of Mount Annan was used for this purpose and as capping on the brick aqueduct south of the tunnel. The canal provides water for Camden, Campbelltown and Liverpool, also Wilton, Appin and Douglas Park. Until 1960 when the Warragamba Dam was completed, the Upper Nepean system supplied most of Sydney’s water.
The Upper Canal is significant as a major component of the Upper Nepean Scheme. As an element of this Scheme, the Canal has functioned as part of Sydney's main water supply system for over 120 years. Apart from maintenance and other improvements, the Upper Canal has changed little.

As part of this System, the Canal is associated with Edward Moriarty, Head of the Harbours and Rivers Branch of the NSW Public Works Department.

The Canal is aesthetically significant, running in a serpentine route through a rural bushland setting as an impressive landscape element with sandstone and concrete-lined edges;

The Canal is significant as it demonstrates the techniques of canal building, and evidence of engineering practice. The Canal as a whole is an excellent example of 19th century hydraulic engineering, including the use of gravity to feed water along the canal.
(BCubed Sustainability, 2/2006).

The Upper Nepean Scheme is significant because:
* In its scope and execution, it is a unique and excellent example of the ingenuity of late 19th century hydraulic engineering in Australia, in particular for its design as a gravity-fed water supply system.
* It has functioned as a unique part of the main water supply system for Sydney for over 100 years, and has changed little in its basic principles since the day it was completed.
* It represented the major engineering advance from depending on local water sources to harvesting water in upland catchment areas, storing it in major dams and transporting it the city by means of major canals and pipelines.
* It provides detailed and varied evidence of the engineering construction techniques prior to the revolution inspired by reinforced concrete construction, of the evolution of these techniques (such as the replacement of timber flumes with wrought iron and then concrete flumes), and of the early use of concrete for many engineering purposes in the system.
* The scheme possesses many elements of infrastructure which are of world and national renown in technological and engineering terms.
* Many of the structural elements are unique to the Upper Nepean Scheme.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Utilities-Activities associated with the provision of services, especially on a communal basis (none)-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Utilities-Activities associated with the provision of services, especially on a communal basis Water Supply-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The Upper Nepean Water Supply Canal is of State significance as the only operational example of its type in NSW. The Canals has played an integral role in the supply of potable water to the Sydney basin for more than a century and was an outstanding feat of civil engineering for the period. The canal has further significance at a local level is its construction provided the impetus for increased growth and economic development of the area.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The Upper Nepean Water Supply Canal is of State significance through its association with the MSW&DB and the Department of Public Works and Services who were seminal in solving the problem of Sydney's drinking water problem in the 19th and 20th centuries.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The Upper Nepean Water Supply Canal is of State significance as the only operational example of its type in NSW. It represents civil engineering skills and construction techniques that are not seen elsewhere and is a significant component in the landscape of the Wollondilly.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The Upper Nepean Water Supply Canal is of local signicance as its construction provided the impetus for further growth and economic development in the region. It is associated with a "boom" period in the history of the Wollondilly.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The Upper Nepean Water Supply Canal is of State significance for its ability to provide insights into the construction and working of a 19th century gravity fed water supply system. It is unparalleled in its ability to demonstrate the operation of such a system and is a "working model" of 19th century civil engineering.
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
The Upper Nepean Water Supply Canal is the only operational example of its type in NSW and is therefore considered rare in a State-wide context. It is also rare in a National context.
SHR Criteria g)
[Representativeness]
The Upper Nepean Water Supply Canal is an outstanding example of civil engineering associated with the movement of water from the 19th century.
Integrity/Intactness: The canal is intact for its entire length and has undergone very little change since its construction, other than routine maintenance to keep it operational.
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.

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental Plan A11-13,16,Wi23 Feb 11   
Heritage study  01 Jan 92   

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Macarthur Region Heritage Study1985Various   No
Wollondilly Heritage Study1992WO0008JRC Planning ServicesJRC Yes
Wollondilly Shire Council Heritage Study Review20062690008Andrea OehmAndrea Oehm Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written 2000 Edward Higginbotham & Associates, SCA Heritage and Conservation Register
Written 1985Water Board Diary
Written  Water Board and National Trust Heritage Listings
WrittenAird, W1961The Water Supply, Sewerage & Drainage of Sydney
WrittenAndrea Oehm2006Thematic History Wollondilly Shire Council Heritage Study Review

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: 2690008


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