Yeldulknie Reservoir, Eyre Peninsula, South Australia

Yeldulknie Reservoir


One of the biggest problems the early settlers on Eyre Peninsula had to overcome was the lack of surface water. Initially it was their problem only. There was no such thing as government built reservoirs, dams or desalination plants. Each family had to solve their own problems. Rain water was conserved as much as possible. Underground or above ground tanks were constructed, mainly for domestic use whereas stock was watered from, dams, soaks, springs, bores or any other available source. Some farmers living close to the coast would even condense sea water.

With an increase in population the government would provide wells at intervals for travelling stock as it had done years before in the Flinders Ranges and beyond as well as along major stock routes. During 1910 the govenment had promised 'to execute a water scheme to supply the district (around Arno Bay) from the Yeldulknie Creek'. Very little happened though. Apart from making a survey and voting 10,000 as a preliminary for the work, nothing had been done.

However after a few meetings of farmers and other disgruntled people, the government was finally made to do something. It became the first attempt at water conservation on Eyre Peninsula and was at Yeldulknie about 5 kilometres east of Cleve.

This was also the first large water conservation and distribution network on Eyre Peninsula and was constructed to supply a farming area of 155,400 ha with reticulated water. The scheme comprised three very small reservoirs, Yeldulknie, about 25 km north of Arno Bay with a catchment area of just over 35 square kilometres, Ullabidinnie and Ulbana built on three intermittently flowing streams of the same name.

Excavated area in the bank is the remains of the explosives magazine.

Yeldulknie Reservoir was completed in 1912 and had a capacity of 740 mega litres. It involved the building of a 108 metres long and 12.8 metres high concrete retaining wall across Yeldulknie Creek. During its construction a tramway was installed for moving crushed rocks from the nearby quarry to the building site where it was used to manufacture concrete for construction of the wall, with the use of a flying fox. Explosives were used to blast room for the underground pipes to Arno Bay and Verran.

The remaining two reservoirs were completed by 1914. Once the source of the supply was established, distribution mains were progressively extended and in the decade following completion, 240 km of pipelines were laid. When full the reservoir covers an area of 17 hectares.

Wall and historic Wheelhouse.

The three catchment areas for the reservoirs are in country in which little reliance can be placed on regular rains. Evaporation rates are high and over a period of years it was found that the safe annual draw off was only about 91ML. Although the reservoirs were useful they were incapable of meeting the growing demand and it was later necessary to connect this system to the Tod River network via the East Coast Main, constructed in 1930. In November 1954 the district was linked with the Uley Wanilla water supply. However, over the years the water quality has progressively declined as a result of rising salinity, and the reservoirs are no longer used.

As dry as dry can be!!
Even after some heavy rains in June 2009.


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