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Warragamba Supply Scheme

Item details

Name of item: Warragamba Supply Scheme
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Utilities - Water
Category: Water Supply Reservoir/ Dam
Location: Lat: 33 52 59 S Long: 150 35 47 E
Primary address: Crest Road, Warragamba, NSW 2752
Local govt. area: Multiple LGAs


The Warragamba Supply Scheme curtilage is described in the Warragamba Supply Scheme Conservation Management Plan.
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Crest RoadWarragambaMultiple LGAs  Primary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Water NSWState Government 

Statement of significance:

The Warragamba Supply Scheme, is the largest and most important of the water supply systems to provide a secure water supply to satisfy the demands of industrial, commercial and residential development of metropolitan Sydney. The dam, associated infrastructure and pipelines is one of the largest (possibly largest) of any type of dam in the world constructed specifically for an urban water supply.

The Warragamba Dam foundation and wall drainage systems, and the post-war architectural expression of the crest, lift towers and Valve House collectively continue to be integral elements of an outstanding example of a high, straight concrete gravity wall, which at the time of construction was the highest concrete gravity dam in the world constructed on stone foundations.

The scale of the use of mass concrete in the in the dam wall is unique in New South Wales. The design of the spillway incorporated in the wall and crest gates demonstrate a notable technological advancement and are possibly the only extant examples of their type in Australia.

The means of construction and infrastructure established for the construction of the dam, involved innovative techniques that were used for the first time in Australia, such as the pre-stressed concrete frame of the ice making plant and the use of circulated chilled water to cool the concrete being placed. The techniques also incorporated equipment and fabric from previous Board works and brought together experience gained from these earlier works and overseas models.

The Dam contains in-situ items of post-war era water delivery technologies developed by the Water Board, such as lengths of pipes, emergency roller gate, trashracks and penstocks which in consideration of their scale and integrity are rare examples of their types. The welded mild steel delivery pipeline similarly represents a notable advance in construction technology for the period.

It contains items of machinery and structures which are significant due to their relationship and role they played during the construction period, and which continue to demonstrate the means of construction and operations such as the Upper Tail Tower and remains of the Warragamba Suspension Bridge.

The dam is a regional landmark that has engendered beautification works undertaken from early in the construction phase to post completion of the dam for the use of local and general visiting public.

The picnic areas in particular have strong associations with past management practices of the Water Board and Haviland Park in particular demonstrates the Board’s recognition of the scale and importance of the dam and adoption of a more sophisticated approach to picnic area and park design and layout under the influence of specialist consultants such as Professor Spooner. The grounds of the dam are associated with the local and regional community of Sydney as a longstanding place of passive recreation.
Date significance updated: 02 Sep 09
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.


Designer/Maker: MWS and DB
Builder/Maker: MWS and DB
Construction years: 1942-1960
Physical description: See individual listing sheets
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Overall Good.
Individual items are as per decription on this register.
Date condition updated:21 Jun 07
Modifications and dates: As per individual listing records.
Further information: The Warragamba Supply Scheme covers the LGA's of Wollondilly, Penrith, Fairfield and Blacktown.
Current use: Water supply
Former use: Water supply


Historical notes: Even with the construction of the Upper Nepean Dams and Woronora Dam Sydney's water supply was still seriously deficient, and the situation became so bad toward the end of the 1934 to 1942 drought, that, during the Second World War, there remained only three months supply in the Upper Nepean and Woronora storages. Plans were considered for the emergency transport of water from Newcastle or possibly the Snowy Mountains, and, in the wartime climate, even the relocation of people not engaged in the war effort. Small but vital relief was obtained by building a 15 metre high weir, completed in May 1940, on the Warragamba River (just downstream of the site of the present dam) from which 180 megalitres per day were pumped to Prospect Reservoir.

The solution to the problem was to build a major dam on the Warragamba River some 60 km west of Sydney. Such a dam had been proposed as early as 1867 by Lieut. Woore R.N. of Governor Sir John Young's Special Commission, and again in 1910 by Mr. E.M. de Burgh, but the early proposals were rejected mainly because of the engineering difficulties, especially those associated with large floods.

However, by the 1940s, engineering knowledge of dam design and construction had advanced to the stage where the scheme was feasible, and, in July 1943 Mr. S.T. Farnsworth, Engineer in Chief of the M.W.S. & D.B. submitted a firm proposal which was approved by the Board in October 1946.

The dam was completed in October 1960, its planning, design and construction having been directed by three distinguished Engineers-in-Chief to the Board:

-Mr. S. T. Farnsworth, B.Sc (Eng) Lond., M.Inst.C.E., to 20 April, 1948 (the date of his death).
-Sir William Hudson, B.Sc(Eng), M.Inst.C.E., May 1948 to July 1949
-Mr. T.B. Nicol C.B.E., B.E., M.INST.C.E., F.I.E., Aust., M.ASCE, July 1949 to completion in October 1960

The Dam is a concrete gravity dam with a height of 137 metres from foundations to crest and creates a lake approximately 50 kilometres long with a surface area at full storage of 7,500 hectares. Supplied by a catchment area of 9050 square kilometres, it quadrupled the previous total storage and safe draft for all of the existing dams. The total operating storage is 2,031,000 megalitres. Water is conveyed to Sydney by two major steel pipelines, one 2.1 metres diameter and the other 3 metres.

At the time of its construction, it was the highest concrete gravity dam in the world on sandstone foundations and its design involved the application of a number of new engineering concepts.

In overall historical perspective, it can now be seen that Warragamba Dam came at the end of an era. In later years, rock fill dams have taken over as the preferred method of construction, and have outstripped the concrete dams both as to height and volume of water stored.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
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)-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation (none)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The Warragamba Supply Scheme has played a fundamental role in providing water to metropolitan Sydney. The dam, pipelines and associated infrastructure continue to predominate the supply to Sydney and is one of the largest of any type of dam in the world built specifically for an urban water supply.

The Warragamba Supply Scheme was constructed over a protracted construction period which was directly affected by periods of government financial stringency as a result of the Second World War. The completion of the Scheme during this period was one of the major public works projects undertaken in the State.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The design and construction of Warragamba Supply Scheme was undertaken by the Construction Branch of the Water Board. The construction of the Dam drew upon the knowledge and experience of a number of the engineers including Stanley T Farnsworth (the first Engineer-in-Chief involved with the Scheme 1937-1948), (Sir) William Hudson (best known for his role in the Snowy Mountains Hydro Electricity Scheme, 1948-1949) and TB Nicol (1949-1961) who saw the project to completion.

The picnic areas and in particular, Haviland Park is associated with S Haviland, former President of the Board, and Professor P Spooner who worked as the Board’s consultant and influenced the 'civic' design of the park. The beautification works undertaken on completion of the dam are also associated with Australian artist Byram Mansell, who completed the ceramic murals which adorn the valve house and annexe and feature aboriginal styled motifs which were popular in the 1960s.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The Warragamba Supply Scheme contains a dam which is an outstanding example of a high, straight concrete gravity dam, the highest in Australia, built on sandstone foundations. The wall itself is an engineering work imbued with a sense of high aesthetic value expressed through its simple, stripped classical detailing, dignified character, crest piers and bridges and curve of the apron spillway set within the narrow gorge of the Warragamba River. Upstream of the dam wall this setting is characterised by the broad expanse of Lake Burragorang bordered by the cleared and green valley sides and natural topography.

Downstream of the dam wall the setting is characterised by forested hillsides and river valley containing constructed elements such as the Emergency Scheme weir, Megarrity’s Creek Bridge and Balance Reservoir which themselves are of aesthetic and technological merit. Collectively these elements form part of a significant and picturesque modified and natural landscape that largely demonstrates technological achievement incorporating new and innovative techniques. The works also demonstrate the Boards philosophy and ingenuity recycling and adapting equipment and fabric from earlier Board works and projects.

The design and finishes of the crest, valve house and Hydro-electric Power Station were prepared by the engineers of the Water Board and demonstrates the clean lines associated with the post-war period, embracing the 'modern' aesthetic and concrete technology used in their construction. The architectural detailing evokes a sense of strength and dignity which is both appropriate and sits well in the context of the steep stone gorge. The decorative ceramics of the valve house and associated annexe also illustrate the popular taste and fashion of the period. The aesthetic character and scale of the dam in this setting is now highlighted by the auxiliary spillway constructed adjacent to the dam.

The grounds associated with the dam, Haviland Park and terraced gardens in particular also demonstrates, in its layout and plantings, popular taste of the 1960s. Despite some alteration, particularly to Haviland Park, these elements generally retain their character and sense of the original layout.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The Dam is recognised by the National Trust of Australia (NSW) as being places which are part of the cultural environment of Australia, which has aesthetic, historical, architectural, archaeological, scientific, social significance for future generations, as well as for the present community of New South Wales.

Haviland Park is recognised by the Heritage Council of NSW as a place which is of significance to New South Wales in relation to its historical, scientific, cultural, social, archaeological, natural and aesthetic values.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The dam wall is an excellent example of gravity dam construction incorporating inspection galleries, contraction joints, and ground surface drainage system which demonstrate the emerging technology of the day. The methods incorporating ice and chilled water to form the mass concrete structure represents major innovations in Australia in terms of dam and general construction technology and provide further insight into inter-war and post war era construction practices.
SHR Criteria f)
The construction technique of mass concrete in the dam wall is a first and last in New South Wales in dam construction on this type and scale that also incorporates the original spillway.
SHR Criteria g)
The dam is representative of a type of gravity dam constructed in New South Wales by the Water Board. Key representative attributes of the Dam’s design and construction include the use mass concrete on sandstone footings, use of a spillway set as part of the gravity wall, valve house and associated buildings designed and finished to a high standard, the use of an array of upstream intakes to regulate the quality of water supply, the internal inspection galleries and drainage system, deflection marks, the foundation and apron drainage system and the contraction joints.

The construction technologies used at Warragamba represents a culmination of the technology and experience associated with dams constructed in New South Wales through to this period. Key representative attributes include the use of rope and cableways, the building of camps and township to house labourers and tradesmen, building of cottages to house salaried staff, the construction of terraced platforms for plant and machinery, mechanisation of concrete production, the construction of purpose built road of access to transport men, supplies and materials to the site, the building of permanent infrastructure such as water supply and the use of electricity to power plant, equipment and township.

The rehabilitation of tracts of land scarred in the construction processes employed at the Dam through beautification works is representative of practices undertaken at other dams throughout New South Wales. Key representative attributes of this practice include utilising the former terraced construction platforms as picnic areas and lookouts, and utilising the former construction roads for vehicular access to the dam site and dam wall.

The practice of ongoing maintenance of the dam wall and pipeline after completion through surveillance provided by staff is representative of procedures undertaken at other dams and weirs constructed in New South Wales. The upgrading of the equipment and ancillary monitoring and operating equipment is representative of modern day safe operating practice.

The provision of public amenity at the Dam is representative of the use of large water supply and irrigation dams in New South Wales as places for recreation by the greater community.
Integrity/Intactness: Overall - Good.
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:

Recommended Management: Manage the place and its components in accordance with the NSW Heritage Office Management Principles and Guidelines for NSW Agencies including the minimum standards of maintenance and repair. Recommended Management: Prepare a maintenance schedule for the item(s) in Maximo. Recommended Management: Undertake environmental impact assessment (EIA) when planning works on the site (refer to SCA's EIA Policy). Prepare a Statement of Heritage Impact and gain S60 or S140 Heritage Office approval prior to undertaking any non-exempt works on the site. Recommended Management: Carry out annual condition inspections and report condition in SCA annual report. Recommended Management: Consult experienced heritage practitioners and the SCA's Planning and Assessment Team during the preparation and execution of works to the place.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage registerWarragamba Supply Scheme458016121 Jun 07   

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenERM2001Warragamba Dam - Heritage and Flora and Fauna Survey
WrittenGraham Brooks and Associates2007Warragamba Supply Scheme Conservation Management Plan
WrittenMorgan, G.2001A Photographic History of Warragamba

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: State Government
Database number: 4580161

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