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Water Storage (Reservoirs)


Reservoirs located throughout Adelaide’s catchment area act as storage facilities for a number of water supply distribution systems to the City and beyond.


At full capacity they hold almost 200,000 megalitres of water. To find out the current reservoir levels click here.


Country South Australians get their water via one of the large pipelines from the River Murray, from small rural reservoirs or from local dams and ground water bores.




The Barossa Reservoir was built between 1899 and 1902. The dam was an engineering innovation in its time and, on completion, was the largest of its type in Australia.


During the height of construction work 400 men camped on site in tents and rough huts.


The dam site at the Barossa Reservoir has been developed as a picturesque visiting area, popular with tourists.


A unique feature is the unusual acoustic phenomenon created by the shape and location of the dam. Sounds and voices travel along the curved length of the dam wall and this has led to it being named the “Whispering Wall”.


Capacity: 4515 megalitres

Length of wall: 144m

Height of wall: 28.6m

Type of wall: Concrete arch

Area of water spread: 62 hectares



Happy Valley Reservoir


Happy Valley Reservoir was built between 1892 and 1897 at a cost of $1.8 million.


The project involved three major works:

  • Creating an off-stream storage
  • A diversion weir transfers water from the Onkaparinga River to the reservoir
  • Outlet works.

The 500,000 cubic metres of fill that was needed was hauled to the site by small steam locomotives. This was the first time mechanical equipment of this type was used specifically for dam construction in South Australia.


In 2002, a $22 million rehabilitation project was launched at Happy Valley as part of a program designed to meet or exceed national and international guidelines for best practice management of dam structures. The work is expected to be completed in 2004. 


Capacity: 11,500 megalitres

Length of wall: 1155m

Height of wall: 23.6m

Type of wall: Earth with clay core

Area of water spread: 188 hectares



Hope Valley Reservoir


The Hope Valley Reservoir, completed in 1873 at a cost of $100,200, was the second reservoir built in Adelaide.


As well as receiving water from the River Torrens, Hope Valley also receives water diverted by the Gorge Weir but via tunnel and aqueduct rather than pipeline.


The ageing tunnel and aqueducts are to be replaced in 2005-06 to provide greater security of supply and provide more water to satisfy growing demand.


Water from both Kangaroo Creek and Millbrook reservoirs supply water to Hope Valley. In effect, Hope Valley is the service reservoir from which water is distributed and the two larger reservoirs act as supply sources.


In 2001-02 Hope Valley underwent a $9 million rehabilitation project as part of a program designed to meet or exceed national and international guidelines for best practice management of dam structures.


Capacity: 2840 megalitres

Length of wall: 950m

Height of wall: 20.5m

Type of wall: Earth with clay core

Area of water spread: 52 hectares



Kangaroo Creek


Construction of the Kangaroo Creek dam began in 1966 and was completed in 1969 at a cost of $5.3 million.


Water from Kangaroo Creek is released into the River Torrens as required to maintain the level in Hope Valley Reservoir, with the water being diverted at the Gorge Weir.


In 1982-83, as part of the River Torrens Flood Mitigation Scheme, modifications were carried out on Kangaroo Creek to ensure protection against a possible one in 200-year flood.


Capacity: 19,160 megalitres

Length of wall: 131m

Height of wall: 65m

Type of wall: Concrete faced rock fill

Area of water spread: 103 hectares



Little Para


The Little Para Reservoir was built between 1974 and 1977 at a cost of $11.5 million but was not commissioned until January 1979.


It functions largely as a balancing storage for River Murray water, which can be pumped in during winter when other demands on the Mannum-Adelaide Pipeline are low.


The reservoir also has a flood mitigation role. As it is kept deliberately less than full for most of the year it has the capacity to contain flood peaks and release floodwaters at a controlled rate.


Almost 300,000 cubic metres of rock fill was used in the construction of the embankment.


Since 1979 Little Para has only been full twice - in 1981 and 1992.


Capacity: 20,800 megalitres

Length of wall: 225m

Height of wall: 53m

Type of wall: Concrete faced rock fill

Area of water spread: 125 hectares





The construction of the Millbrook Reservoir spanned the years of the First World War from 1914 to 1918.


Millbrook was built to control flows in the upper reaches of the River Torrens and provide a reservoir in the Mount Lofty Ranges with sufficient elevation for gravity to supply the eastern suburbs of Adelaide.


The reservoir is named after the small town of Millbrook which was situated above the site of the dam wall.


Despite stories claiming many of the old buildings of Millbrook still exist beneath the waters, the abandoned buildings in the storage area such as Miss Adey’s Private School and the Millbrook Hotel were all demolished and cleared away before filling.



However, the old bridge over the Torrens was left intact. During a severe drought in 1955 when the level of the reservoir dropped to a record low, the old bridge became visible for the first time in nearly 40 years.


In the 1970s the nearby small town of Chain of Ponds was also demolished to safeguard against any pollution of the water in the Reservoir.


Water is now released from Millbrook Reservoir back into the Torrens River to supplement water into Kangaroo Creek Reservoir.


Capacity: 16,500 megalitres

Length of wall: 288m

Height of wall: 31m

Type of wall: Earth with clay core

Area of water spread: 178 hectares



Mount Bold


The largest reservoir in South Australia, the construction of Mount Bold Reservoir on the Onkaparinga River System began in 1932 and continued until 1938.


The reservoir is not directly connected to the reticulation system. Water is released as required to maintain an adequate level at the Clarendon Weir. From that point, water is diverted to Happy Valley or to the pumping station which supplies parts of the Mount Lofty Ranges.


Costing $1.1 million to build, Mount Bold supplied its own operating electricity through a small hydro-electric plant from 1938 until 1961.


Mount Bold has since been identified as a future site for a mini-hydro generator.


In 1962 the level of the dam was raised by 6.4 metres to increase the storage capacity of the reservoir by 17,000 megalitres.


Capacity: 46,180 megalitres

Length of wall: 192m

Height of wall: 50.6m

Type of wall: Concrete gravity arch

Area of water spread: 308 hectares





Myponga is a concrete arch dam with a ski-jump spillway which was a four-year project completed in 1962.


There was a lucky escape for one workman during the construction of the pipeline from the dam. The man was working inside the pipe about 150m downstream of the dam when he and the pipe were buried by a rockslide. When the debris was cleared away the worker was found unhurt.


Prior to the construction of the Myponga Water Treatment Plant in 1993 water from Myponga was used to supplement the Happy Valley Reservoir.


Capacity: 26,800 megalitres

Length of wall: 226m

Height of wall: 49m

Type of wall: Concrete arch

Area of water spread: 280 hectares



South Para


The newest and largest of the reservoirs in the South Para System, the reservoir was built in anticipation of rapid expansion of urban and industrial areas.


Construction began in 1949 but was not completed until 1958 due to the large-scale demand on funds and resources during the post-war growth period. South Para cost $6.4 million to build.


One of the key projects which delayed the completion of South Para was the construction of the Mannum-Adelaide Pipeline commissioned in 1955.


Over 5000 trees and shrubs were planted on the western side of the main road between Kersbrook and Williamstown skirting the reservoir between 1955 and 1958.


This reservoir is the second largest in South Australia behind Mount Bold, but because of its size in relation to its catchment area, it will not fill completely more than about once in every five years.


Capacity: 45,330 megalitres

Length of wall: 284m

Height of wall: 44.2m

Type of wall: Rolled fill

Area of water spread: 400 hectares





Additional water for Port Pirie and other northern parts of the Beetaloo distribution system was provided when the five-year project to build the Baroota Reservoir was completed in 1921 at a cost of $310,700.


Situated on a creek of the same name to the north-east of Port Germein, the dam also receives water from the Morgan-Whyalla Pipeline.


While wet weather delayed work for several months at a time during construction, the completion of the work was followed by several dry years. It took until 1932 before there was enough water in Baroota for the spillway to overflow.


In the 1970s a new spillway was constructed.


The Baroota Reservoir lies between the Mount Remarkable National Park and the Telowie Gorge Conservation Park.


Capacity: 6140 megalitres

Length of wall: 301m

Height of wall: 30.5m

Type of wall: Earth with clay core

Area of water spread: 63 hectares





Beetaloo Reservoir is located at Crystal Brook, 19 kilometres east of Port Pirie and was built between 1886 and 1890 to provide a water supply for the Yorke Peninsula. The cost of construction was $331,200.


The mid-1880s was a time of high unemployment in parts of South Australia, especially among stone masons and general labourers, so the original plan was to build the new reservoir out of masonry.


However, after opening seven new quarries in an effort to find suitable stone for the wall, masonry was abandoned in favour of concrete.


In an effort to help the unemployed labourers, the start of the project was rushed to such an extent that the workers and supervisors were already on site before the final drawings had been prepared.


Tragedy struck during construction in 1886 when 65mm of rain with hail “the size of tomatoes” fell on the catchment in the space of two hours. A worker named Wilson trying to cross the swollen creek was swept to his death by the resultant floodwaters.


At the time of construction Beetaloo was the largest concrete dam in the southern hemisphere.


Capacity: 3180 megalitres

Length of wall: 210.3m

Height of wall: 33.5m

Type of wall: Curved concrete gravity

Area of water spread: 33 hectares





Bundaleer Reservoir is located 58 kilometres south east of Port Pirie and was built between 1898 and 1903 at a cost of $900,600 to supplement supplies from the Beetaloo Reservoir.


The Bundaleer scheme was designed to provide water for the towns of Snowtown, Redhill, Brinkworth, Narridy, Blythe and Port Wakefield and surrounding districts.


Bundaleer Reservoir is contained by an earthen embankment with water supplied by a concrete lined channel extending from a diversion weir on the Bundaleer Creek.


Construction of the dam was plagued by bad weather and several disasters. Five men were killed and three injured in a cave in, another man was killed during a gunpowder explosion and 51 men were admitted to Jamestown hospital with typhoid fever.


The largest of the three dams in this area (with Baroota and Beetaloo), Bundaleer at one stage had 500 workers living on site in a shanty town boasting butcher shops, a draper, a cricket club and its own police station.


Capacity: 6370 megalitres

Length of wall: 333m

Height of wall: 24.1m

Type of wall: Earth with clay core

Area of water spread: 63 hectares



Blue Lake


The Blue Lake at Mount Gambier is a volcanic crater which contains groundwater from local aquifer systems which seeps into the crater through porous limestone.


The total capacity of water in the lake has been calculated to be 36,000 mega litres, making it the third largest water storage in South Australia. About 10% of the capacity is used each year by the regional City of Mount Gambier. Ground water then recharges the Lake.


Water quality in the lake is very good and has been used for reticulated water supply since the early 1880s.


Today water is supplied to Mount Gambier via three primary pumps on a pontoon floating on the lake’s surface with three secondary pumps to lift water to storage tanks.


The eruption that formed the volcanic crater is believed to have occurred nearly 5000 years ago.



Middle River


Prior to World War II the residents of Kangaroo Island and its largest town, Kingscote, relied mainly on farm dams, rain water tanks and a small water supply scheme established in 1938 for their water.


But the lack of a major, reliable water supply became a major issue following the war, when the Soldier Settlement Scheme settled 170 new families on the Island.


The population on the Island more than doubled between 1948 and 1962, making the need to develop a reliable water supply urgent.


Following an intensive investigation, in 1965 the South Australian Government of the day approved the construction of a dam on the Middle River.


Completed in 1968, the Middle River Reservoir is a thin-walled, prestressed concrete structure which, along with major infrastructure such as roads, cost $1.6 million to build.


Capacity: 470 megalitres

Length of wall: 131m

Height of wall: 20m

Type of wall: Post tensioned concrete gravity

Area of water spread: 11 hectares



Tod River

The extension of railways through Eyre Peninsula and the rapid opening up of the country to settlement created a significant demand for water.


The Tod River is the only stream on Eyre Peninsula providing reliable flows, so an earth embankment dam was built on it between 1918 and 1922 at a cost of $562,000.


In late 1918, three men were killed in a cave-in, while another four died in two separate blasting accidents in 1921. A memorial to all seven men was erected at the picnic area near the embankment in 1982.


Situated 27 kilometres north of Port Lincoln, the reservoir is supplied by concrete channels fed from weirs constructed across the Tod River and its major tributary Pillaworta Creek.


Due to a steady increase in the salinity of the water in Tod a desalination plant is now being considered at the Reservoir.


Capacity: 11,300 megalitres

Length of wall: 351m

Height of wall: 25m

Type of wall: Earth with clay core

Area of water spread: 134 hectares





The Warren Reservoir was constructed between 1914 and 1916 on the South Para River at a cost of $166,000.


The supervisor for the construction project was Mr Edgar Bradley, who at the same time was the resident engineer overseeing the construction of Millbrook Reservoir.


Due to the “remoteness” of the Warren location Mr Bradley, was given a new Model ‘T’ Ford for $444 and had to learn to drive so he could make the 30 kilometre journey to Warren from Millbrook in just one hour.


Before Mr Bradley received his Ford the trip by horse and buggy took two-and-a-half hours!


Capacity: 4790 megalitres

Length of wall: 116.4m

Height of wall: 17m

Type of wall: Concrete gravity

Area of water spread: 105 hectares





Among the many smaller dams and reservoirs spread across South Australia, SA Water has recently completed a multi-million dollar project to cover and line five of the larger facilities as part of the Country Water Quality Improvement Program.


These facilities at Upper and Lower Paskeville, Upper Wakefield, Knotts Hill and Redbanks Reservoirs are now fully enclosed and protected, water loss through seepage and evaporation has been minimised and the reservoirs are providing cleaner water to local customers.


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Copyright © SA Water, 2004 ABN 69 336 525 019 Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 Jun, 2005