These sections of pipe originally connected the outback mining town of Broken Hill with its the water supply at Umberumberka Creek. They remain significant reminders of just how difficult it has been for the town to find water for both its townsfolk and the silver, lead and zinc mining for which it is famous. In 1883 the Broken Hill Proprietary Company (BHP) founded the town and initially the water came from small dams and wells. The scale of the mineral deposits however in this semi-desert region of Australia meant the town and the mines were soon out of water.
In 1892 a private water company, the Broken Hill Water Supply Company Limited was formed to build a new water supply from the Stephens Creek Reservoir but by 1901 even this was running out of water. To solve this problem a new dam was built at Umberumberka Creek and construction began in June 1903; unfortunately and somewhat surprisingly a flood in 1903 swept away the partially completed dam and works were stopped. In 1907 the project was resurrected and by 1914 the dam and 19 miles of pipeline, of which these appear to be parts, had been completed.
The water was initially pumped from the dam to a balance tank at Blue Anchor Hill and from there gravitation allowed the water to make its way to Broken Hill. This pipeline was primarily of a wooden stave construction eighteen inches in diameter but in some places where the pressure was high a steel pipe was used. The samples here would have been bound in steel wire and coated with pitch and although serviceable they were prone to leaking and required a high level of maintenance.
This object is part of the Royal Australian Historical Society (RAHS) collection which was donated to the Powerhouse Museum in 1981. The Society was formed in 1901 and is the oldest historical society in Australia.
Geoff Barker, Curatorial, 2012
Broken Hill Water Supply Umberumberka Waterworks Submission To Engineering Heritage Australia For An Historical Engineering Marker http://www.engineersaustralia.org.au/sites/default/files/Umberumberka_Nomination.pdf