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  • 22 sites along CY O'Connor's Golden Pipeline considered for State heritage registration
  • Goldfields Water Supply Scheme heritage proposal open for consultation
  • Public input sought to capture historic record and inform recommendation

A collection of 22 culturally significant heritage sites within Western Australia's 119-year-old Goldfields Water Supply Scheme is being considered for inclusion in the State Register of Heritage Places.

Known to most as the CY O'Connor Pipeline - or the Golden Pipeline - the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme runs for 566 kilometres from the Perth hills to Kalgoorlie and was commissioned in 1896 to deliver water from the Mundaring Weir to the Eastern Goldfields.

At the time of opening in early 1903, the scheme involved construction of a series of steam pumping stations, reservoirs and receiving tanks, and was the longest overland pipeline in the world.

The Heritage Council of Western Australia is seeking community and stakeholder views to help inform its recommendation on whether these 22 identified sites along the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme should be added to the State Register of Heritage Places.
Spanning 17 locations, the sites include all the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme original steam pump station buildings, a selection of staff accommodation, original and second-generation reservoirs and tank sites, and archaeological sites and equipment associated with construction and operation of the pipeline in its 119-year history.

While the pipeline itself was recognised on the National Heritage List in 2011, it is not included as part of the current proposal as some individual components are already on the State Register, some sections have been retired, and other sections are subject to removal and repurposing to ensure continued use.

Places entered on the State Register can be developed to meet contemporary needs or adapted for a new use in a way that respects the heritage values of the place.

To view the draft Register Entry and Assessment Documentation and to make a submission, visit Comments close on September 2, 2022.

Comments attributed to Heritage Minister David Templeman:

"The Goldfields Water Supply Scheme represents one of Western Australia's greatest public engineering feats and we are seeking public input to better understand what its history means to our community.

"The success of this pipeline has left a lasting legacy of innovation and robust public water infrastructure that has underpinned our economic and social development for more than a century - and public consultation is an integral part of understanding what it means to the community.

"The pipeline remains in service today with parts of the system removed or replaced at times to ensure continued use.

"We have identified 22 buildings and former equipment, tanks and reservoirs along the pipeline route that warrant consideration for addition to the State Register of Heritage Places. 

"The Heritage Council is keen to hear from local residents, stakeholders and the wider Western Australian community on the proposal to add this historic collection of places to the State Register, and I look forward to receiving the Council's recommendation in the coming months."

Comments attributed to Water Minister Dave Kelly:

"The pipeline continues to service more than 100,000 people from Mundaring to Kalgoorlie-Boulder and into parts of the Great Southern.

"In conjunction with this proposed registration, Water Corporation is investigating ways to interpret and recognise the heritage significance of the retired sections of the Scheme and how they can benefit their respective communities.

"I encourage anyone with an interest in Western Australia's iconic water supply scheme to have a say on preserving its legacy for future generations." 

Comments attributed to Kalgoorlie MLA Ali Kent:

"The Kalgoorlie-Boulder pipeline is such an iconic piece of infrastructure for our community and I am delighted to hear that it is being considered for inclusion on the State Register of Heritage Places.

"I encourage everyone with an interest in the Golden Pipeline to make their views known to the Heritage Council before September 2."

Goldfields Water Supply Scheme ‘Golden Pipeline’ fact file 

  • Designed and built under the supervision of WA’s first Engineer-in-Chief, Charles Yelverton (CY) O’Connor, to supply fresh water to the arid Goldfields.
  • Constructed between 1898 and 1903 to pump fresh water 566km east from Mundaring Weir to Mount Charlotte Reservoir, Kalgoorlie. 
  • Designed over eight separate sections to overcome the difficulty of pumping water uphill (390m) over such long distances. It included two main reservoirs, the main conduit of the pipeline, eight pumping stations, holding tanks and regulating tanks.
  • Original pipes were made of 30-inch diameter steel and connected using a locking bar system instead of rivets. A coating of tar and bitumen protected the steel from corrosion.
  • The 28 feet (8.5m) long pipes were manufactured in Perth from American and German steel with locking bars and joint rings shipped from England.
  • Pipeline was built, where possible, alongside the route of the railway line to enable the pipes to be easily transported. The 60,000 pipes were laid underground to avoid temperature-related expansion and contraction issues.
  • Officially opened at Mount Charlotte, Kalgoorlie, on 24 January 1903, then the longest freshwater pipeline in the world.
  • In the 1930s, due to corrosion and leakage, the pipes were lined with concrete and re-laid above ground on concrete blocks. Due to political pressure amid the Great Depression, 64km of steel sections were replaced with karri wood pipes to support the timber industry and save costs but all were replaced by 1971 due to leakage, termite damage and dry rot. 
  • Original pumps at the eight pumping stations could deliver 5 million gallons (22.73 million litres) of water per day. 
  • The pipeline is one of the elements of the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme that was included on the National Heritage List in 2011, subject to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999
  • In 2009, the scheme was recognised internationally by the American Society of Civil Engineers as an international Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

Source: Extracts taken from the National Trust of Western Australia ‘The Golden Pipeline’ information sheets.

Constructed between 1898 and 1903, the 566km pipeline was originally laid below ground.

Original pipes were made of 30-inch diameter steel and connected using a locking bar system instead of rivets. A coating of tar and bitumen protected the steel from corrosion.