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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Warragamba Dam

I thought I would post a little information about the history of Warramba Dam. I remember visiting Warragamba as a child, and in particular remember driving through the African Lion Safari. Those days are gone now- I'm sure my parents have photos of these visits and of the dam and will have to hunt them down...

I think this is a good site outline the early days of the building of the dam to what the situation is today.

The African Lion Safari operated near Warragamba on the outskirts of Sydney.
Originally opened by Stafford Bullen in 1968, the park attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.

With the growth of Sydney and new suburbs encroaching closer to the park, it eventually closed in 1991.
The park continued to hold animals there that were used in a circus. During 1995 a lioness escaped from the park and killed a dog, the lioness was also killed. As a result of the escape the park was required to upgrade facilities. A bear had also previously escaped and was shot by residents. There are still a number of Water Buffalo roaming the surrounding areas of the park, and they are sometimes seen on the roads at night

Warragamba Dam is an ideal spot for a picnic, barbeque and sightseeing. Facilities are set in natural bushland surrounds and include picnic shelters, shade trees, barbeques and childrens playground. There is also a Visitor Information Centre, which has lots of information on the history of the Dam and it's construction. The Warragamba Dam Viewing Platform is located at the end of Eighteenth St, Warragamba, with views of the Dam and the new auxillary spillway.

The building of Sydney's Warragamba Dam from the 1940s through to its opening in 1960.
is a story told through the eyes of those who were there; the engineers and workers who came from all around Australia and overseas, to live in the new township of Warragamba, built to service one of the largest dam projects in the world.

Ever since white settlement Sydney had lurched from one water crisis to another as city planners, used to the abundance of water in Europe, grappled with the harsher climate of this dry continent. The first water supply for Sydney was the tank stream, which was abandoned in the early 1800s because it had degenerated into an open sewer. Convict labour then built Busby's Bore, a 4km tunnel from the Lachlan Swamps, where Centennial Park now stands, through to Hyde Park in the city. However, again the water soon ran out, and the Botany Swamps Scheme followed soon after.

As the city's population grew, water shortages and restrictions continued to plague the Sydney Water Board, an organisation that was becoming increasingly unpopular among the city's residents. A series of dams in the Nepean area were built between 1907 and 1935 but throughout the 30s and the early 40s, NSW was again in the grip of a drought and planning began in earnest for the Warragamba Dam.

First earmarked as a possible site for a dam in the late 1800s, the Burragorang Valley was seen as the best choice for a project that many believed would be the solution to all the city's water problems. The Warragamba River had a large catchment area and flowed through a narrow gorge that was suitable for damming. Even so, the dam required the latest technology and advances in engineering. When it was completed in 1960 it was seen as a symbol of the city's coming of age and maturity in the post-war years.

More than 100 engineers worked on the dam, either at the head office of the water board in Bathurst St or on site at Warragamba, where a new township was built from scratch, complete with homes, shops, schools, doctors and dentists and other facilities. When the dam was completed in 1960, many of the workers bought their homes from the Water Board and stayed on in the township. Those who still live there retain a sense of pride in the knowledge they were involved in building Warragamba Dam.

Today Sydneysiders are again suffering tough water restrictions in the face of a prolonged drought, and water levels in the dam have reached record lows. Some are now questioning whether Warragamba Dam solved Sydney's water problems or simply took water consciousness out of the city's psyche.