Western Australia’s Goldfields Water Supply Scheme has been operating for 120 years, with more than a third of the original locking bar pipeline still in use.

The heritage listed scheme, commonly known as the Golden or Goldfields Pipeline, was officially opened at Mount Charlotte, Kalgoorlie, on 24 January 1903, pumping fresh water 566km east from Mundaring Weir to the Eastern Goldfields.

The brainchild of Western Australia’s first Engineer-in-Chief CY O’Connor, the pipeline had a focus on delivering a reliable water supply to the arid Goldfields. It is considered one of Australia’s greatest engineering achievements and was the world’s longest overland pipeline at completion.

Western Australia Heritage Minister, David Templeman, said, “Despite public cynicism, CY O’Connor built the longest freshwater pipeline in the world, a story of engineering tenacity and ambition, which underpinned the development of our great state”.

The 60,000 pipes used in its construction were produced from flat steel sheets formed into semicircles and joined using innovative H-shaped locking-bars along the length of the pipes. 

“The amount of steel used in the pipeline’s construction was greater than that of any other steel structure used elsewhere in the world. It put Western Australia on the global map – never had water been pumped so far or lifted so high,” Mr Templeman said.

The original pumps at the eight steam pumping stations could deliver more than eight billion litres of water per year, and the upgraded scheme now supplies 24.3 billion litres per year, servicing more than 100,000 people across the Goldfields, Central Wheatbelt and parts of the Upper Great Southern.

Kalgoorlie MLA, Ali Kent, said, “The Golden Pipeline is a unique and exceptional technical achievement that began to provide water to the Goldfields at the turn of the century.

“I would like to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of the Water Corporation team in the region who not only operate and maintain the scheme but also encourage people to visit the Goldfields and the popular Golden Pipeline Heritage Trail in this 120th anniversary year.”

To secure the regions’ safe and reliable water supply into the future, Water Corporation will be progressively replacing old sections of above-ground pipe with modern below-ground pipe over the next 50 years, enabling more efficient and cost-effective operation and maintenance. Extensive lengths of the retired sections will be retained for heritage, tourism and operational purposes, following planned community consultation.

To learn more about the pipeline, the Golden Pipeline Heritage Trail offers a unique visitor experience, and the National Trust CY O’Connor Lecture Series on 10 March 2023 – the anniversary of O’Connor’s death – will celebrate the 120th anniversary.

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