Maroondah Reservoir, source of water for Melburnians

The opening of the Maroondah water supply system on 18 February 1891. Picture: SUPPLIED

By Dongyun Kwon

Maroondah Reservoir in Healesville has played an important role in supplying water for Melburnians for almost a hundred years.

The Maroondah water supply system, originally called the Watts River Scheme, was opened on 18 February 1891.

As population and water demand continued to grow, by 1927 the early system was replaced with a new, larger dam and the Maroondah Reservoir has been supplying water to Melburnians ever since.

Melbourne Water principal heritage advisor Paul Balassone said the Maroondah water supply system was the second water supply system in Melbourne with the Yan Yean Reservoir built in 1857.

“It just basically comprised of a couple of concrete weirs across the Watts River and a network of 66 kilemotres aqueducts all the way down to Preston Reservoir,” he said.

“The Yan Yean was running from north to south and the Maroondah was the first of a series of dams that would be built further to the east.

“The Maroondah Dam was built in 1927, since the aqueducts were already in place, all they did was just build a large dam wall across the Watts River.”

The Maroondah Reservoir is one of the 10 major reservoirs managed by Melbourne Water and one of the six on-stream reservoirs.

“It [being referred to as an on-stream reservoir] means that it’s a dam that was actually built on the river and it harvests water from the surrounding catchment,” Mr Balassone said.

“So the Maroondah continues to play an absolutely crucial role in the long-term strategy and planning for a wide water supply for Melbourne.”

The Maroondah Reservoir system supplies Melbourne with approximately 200 million litres of water per day, flowing via an aqueduct and tunnel system to the Yering Gorge Pumping Station on the Yarra River, near Yarra Glen.

From there it is pumped into Sugarloaf Reservoir where it is then treated and supplied through an intricate network to Melbourne’s northern, western and inner suburbs.

In 2018, the Maroondah water system was added to the Victorian Heritage Register affirming its rightful place in Victoria’s history.

“It was nominated by the community and so when Melbourne Water was informed of the nomination, we were very happy,” Mr Balassone said.

“We worked extensively with Heritage Victoria to run it as an essential infrastructure.”

Mr Balassone said the Maroondah Reservoir has also taken an important part in Melbourne’s social history.

“Generations of Melburnians have actually either worked on construction or management,” he said.

“Not only did it provide employment, but it also helped develop the nearby towns such as Healesville.

“It was also a destination for tourists to go all the way to see this infrastructure and also the Maroondah Reservoir Park is quite iconic.”