The story of water in the Goldfields is full of intrigue and engineering tenacity, and is set to gain a new chapter with the approval of Water Corporation’s proposed rehabilitation and replacement scheme for the Golden Pipeline.
The Golden Pipeline, known also as the Goldfields and Agricultural Region Water Supply Scheme (GAWS), holds significant historical and cultural value in WA. The pipeline travels through around 10 local government areas from Mundaring to Kalgoorlie-Boulder.
In the late 1800’s, sourcing fresh water for the Goldfields prospecting communities was a big problem. Rain was unreliable and groundwater was often saline and hard to access. This made the valuable resource as precious as golf and more expensive than whiskey.
Transporting water over vast distances was also very difficult.
Enter, WA’s first Engineer-in-Chief, Charles Yelverton. His proposed solution was simple: he wanted to find a freshwater source and pump the water to the Goldfields. The only problem was the proposed source was over 550 km away in Perth.
Despite public cynicism, O’Connor built the longest pipeline in the world. In 1903, the pipeline opened and for almost 120 years since has been providing fresh water to the area.
Now that the incredible engineering feat is over 100 years old, it needs some serious TLC. Large sections of the pipeline need replacing to ensure the continued reliable supply of water to over 39,000 connected properties.
As the pipeline is so special, Water Corporation is set on protecting the heritage value of the pipeline wherever possible.
Water Corporation received approval in January 2022 under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999 to remove and repurpose above ground sections of Golden Pipeline as it’s gradually replaced. This will be slowly actioned over the coming 50 years.
One of the conditions of the approval is that Water Corporation undertake further consultation with the community, local government and interested stakeholders to inform the preparation of an Interpretation Strategy for the Golden Pipeline.
Modern leak detection and material technologies will allow the pipeline to be laid below ground, coming with the added benefit of better performance, safety and security benefits.
Lots of the current pipeline will still be visible and aboveground, however, having certain sections of the pipeline underground will further protect this vital pipeline from traffic collisions, bushfires, and vandalism.