The availability of a clean, plentiful and easily accessible water supply is something we all take for granted. So it’s hard to imagine life when every drop of water had to be carted or carried to each household.
For most South Australians a clean and reliable water supply is now available at the turn of a tap. But it wasn’t always so.
When European settlers arrived in South Australia in the 1830s, finding reliable water supplies for the new settlement of Adelaide was of critical importance. The River Torrens - stretching from the Adelaide Hills across the plain to the coast - soon became the focus of the colony’s water seeking efforts.
But variable rainfall and inappropriate development took their toll on the River Torrens. In a dry year its flow was unreliable and the lack of a modern sewerage system meant the quality of the water could not always be trusted. In common with most other cities in the mid 19th century, Adelaide was susceptible to outbreaks of water-borne diseases.
The water supply problem was partly resolved with the construction of the now decommissioned Thorndon Park Reservoir in 1860.
By 1872, Hope Valley Reservoir was built to help supply Adelaide’s growing urban areas and by 1977 a further eight reservoirs had been completed to meet metropolitan demand.
Providing water to regional South Australia presented particular challenges, given the vast distances involved and the extremely limited number and nature of natural water sources.
With almost visionary forethought, early engineers conceived, planned and built a number of massive pipelines to transport water from the River Murray to remote regions of the state, opening up the way for settlement. In often harsh conditions, these pioneers laid down arterial waterways, in some instances carting the pipe sections by camel through arid desert areas. Some of the first pipelines in South Australia were made from wood and similar in construction to wine barrels.
But the issue of meeting Adelaide’s ever-growing demand wasn’t solved until the construction of pipelines from the River Murray. The Mannum-Adelaide Pipeline was completed in 1955 and the Murray Bridge-Onkaparinga Pipeline in 1973.
Today our approach is being guided by Water for Good, the State Government's plan to ensure our water future to 2050.