Walcha history: War puts water scheme on hold

Cooling off: The Apsley River mill hole where a dam was once proposed for an early Walcha water supply scheme.
Cooling off: The Apsley River mill hole where a dam was once proposed for an early Walcha water supply scheme.

The Walcha News of July 29, 1938, reads in part: “After some years of controversy regarding the provision of a Water Supply Scheme for the town the matter was brought to a final decision at Tuesday evening’s meeting of the Municipal Council when the aldermen carried a motion accepting the proposed Apsley River Scheme at a total cost of £26,670. A grant of £5,000 was promised.”

The original plan was to have a dam on the Apsley River quite close to town but it was later decided to have it further upstream. At one point it was suggested that the dam could be built at the mill hole if tests showed a suitable rock foundation there. The Department of Works advised that sufficient water was available from the Apsley and it was safe to use without treatment.

Council appointed a consulting engineering firm to undertake preliminary design work but the onset of the World War II in 1939 saw the project put on hold.

It was not until war’s end that the project was again seriously discussed with a division between those who wished to proceed with the pre-war Apsley scheme and those who believed the town could do better.

A government engineer, Mr Roper, visited Walcha on September 5, 1946 and inspected four sites. One was the previously approved Apsley River Scheme while the others were the Macdonald River at Muluerindie, the Macdonald River further upstream nearer the Cobrabald River and the Ohio Creek below its junction with Bergen-op-Zoom Creek.

The Ohio Creek Scheme was based on a large waterhole with an estimated capacity of 13,000,000 gallons but needed a dam for which there was no suitable location. It did not appeal to council.

At a meeting on March 4, 1947 council decided to proceed with the Muluerindie Scheme, which had an elevated site nearby that could be used for a pumping station together with a rocky area not far downstream where a dam could be constructed.

The water quality was superior to that available from the Apsley and the Macdonald River showed a flow rate of 5,000,000 gallons per day despite it being a dry time when measured by Mr Roper.