Clive J. Price MBE, BE,
FIE Aust., Hon. FRAPI
The author has been actively engaged in the development and
management of water resources for military, municipal, and
recreational purposes and for hydro-electric development over
the past forty years. Between 1958 and 1972 he was First Assistant
Commissioner, Engineering of the National Capital Development
Commission during which many of the major works,
including Lake Burley Griffin, were undertaken. For the
subsequent ten years he was a Director of consulting engineers,
Maunsell and Partners, also working on major development
projects for Canberra.
ONE of the many definitions of engineering suggests that
it is the application of available resources for the benefit of
man. In the construction of Canberra’s lakes and dams
over the past decades, the Territory’s water resources have
been developed to provide an increasing range of benefits,
initially for the supply of adequate quantities of drinking
water of acceptable standards (Cotter, Corin, Bendora and
Googong Reservoirs), and with Lake Burley Griffin
providing an ornamental setting of great beauty for the
Capital and a recreational facility of inestimable value.
Lake Ginninderra, adjacent to the Belconnen Town
Centre, also provides a pleasant amenity and recreational
facility for residents on a smaller scale as well as providing a
degree of environmental protection for the Murrumbidgee
An assured and adequate water supply and beauty of the
site were factors in the selection of the Canberra area as the
site for the National Capital. Scrivener who inspected the
district in 1909 was impressed by the opportunity it
afforded for ‘storing water for ornamental purposes at
reasonable cost’. In making his choice, Scrivener
unknowingly selected the spot where, in pleistocene time, a
freshwater lake had existed, created when scree from Black
Mountain blocked the channel of the Molonglo River,
damming the water back to a height of about 556 m above
sea level. In his 1909 contour survey, Scrivener showed
four alternative weir sites for the construction of an
ornamental lake with a water level of 556 m. These were the
first schemes for a lake at Canberra and the concepts were
similar in size and shape to the lake as it exists today.
In determining that the future Capital would have
adequate water supplies, Scrivener proposed that the
Capital Territory should include the catchments of the
Molonglo and Queanbeyan Rivers to prevent pollution of
the rivers before they flowed through the city site.
Legislation to create the Territory was passed by the State
and Commonwealth Governments, but the Molonglo and
Queanbeyan River catchments were excluded.
However, the Seat of Government Act which led to the
establishment of the Capital Territory on 1 January 1911
gave the Commonwealth paramount rights over the
Molonglo and Queanbeyan Rivers and their tributaries,
and made the State of NSW responsible for protection of
the river waters from pollution. The new Territory also
included the catchment of the Cotter River and it was to be
on this river that three of Canberra’s four water supply
storages, Cotter, Corin and Bendora were to be constructed.
The wisdom of the ‘ Founding Fathers’ has enabled a
substantial heritage to build up through the lakes and dams
which have emerged as the rivers and streams have been
developed for water supply, for active and passive
recreation, for water quality control, for town centre
cooling and as an integral part of the complex planning of a
National Capital. The significance of Lake Burley Griffin
and its parklands as the centre-piece of Canberra can now
be seen and this, more than any other single feature, has led
to the acceptance by the people of Australia of Canberra as
their National Capital.
Fig. 4.1: A general view of Lake Burley Griffin with the Australian National University and the Royal Canberra Hospital
in the foreground, and the Parliamentary Triangle and Russell Defence Offices in the middle distance.
Lake Burley Griffin
Lake Burley Griffin is about 9 kilometres long, covers a
surface area of 678 ha and varies in width from 300 to 1200
metres. It has about 33 kilometres of landscaped foreshores
which provide access to 314 ha of parkland and 142 ha of
the Eastlake Wetlands, a breeding ground for many species
of water birds. It is a shallow lake with a maximum depth
of almost 18 metres near Scrivener Dam and a mean depth
of nearly 4 metres.
The lake evolved out of the investigations and debates of
earlier years combined with the opportunities to adapt
rapid advances in technology in a favourable political
climate. The National Capital Development Commission,
under the leadership of Commissioner John Overall,
recognising the well of political and public support for the
development of Canberra in the late 1950s, tackled forcefully
the problems remaining from earlier years. The
application of new and sophisticated techniques for dam
and gate design for flood control, and of intensive hydrological
activities led to construction of a dam across the
Molonglo River below Black Mountain in 1963 and the
filling of the Lake in 1964.
Completion of the physical works is not the end of the
story because the maturing of the surrounding landscape in
which 55,000 trees were planted and the introduction of
beaches, picnic areas and other facilities around the lake
shore is a continuing process which will delight the
generations to come. The lake and its landscape lie at the
heart of the National Capital but are also part of an open
space system which provides a variety of recreational
experiences for residents and visitors to Canberra.
The story of the lake’s construction is one of vision and
short-sightedness, of confidence and doubts, and of procrastination
and performance out of which emerged a
water feature consistent with the vision of Scrivener and
the intentions of Walter Burley Griffin.
When the conditions for the competition for the design
of the Capital were announced in 1911, they were
accompanied by a more detailed survey on which Scrivener
had shown the level reached by a flood in 1891. This and
other information prompted most competitors to include a
water feature in their designs.
An engineer, J.A. Smith, was one of the majority of
judges who awarded first prize to Walter Burley Griffin in
1912 for his entry in the Federal Capital Design Competition.
Their decision was subsequently upheld by Mr
King O’Malley, the Minister for Home Affairs. Griffin
had placed the central basin of his lake scheme across the
land axis of his design, with two formal basins at each end
forming his ‘water axis’. Around these three basins and on
these two axes, his main civic design compositions were
arranged. Not content with this limited area, he submitted
another plan ‘rendered on cambric in monotone’, to
indicate the dominant topographical features and their
relationship to the proposed architectural and landscape
This shows the irregular ‘West Lake’ at the same level as
the formal basins, 556m and the balancing ‘East Lake’ set
six metres higher. This was certainly the grandest scheme
submitted, yet it had an appealing simplicity and clarity.
Griffin was a man with remarkable powers of imagination
and a genius of topography. Unable to visit Australia,
he studied a plaster model of the city site to a scale of about
1:5000, provided for the information of competitors in the
British Consulate General in Chicago. From this, he had
grasped, as his rivals and critics had not, the significance of
the Molonglo flood plain.
The basic fact was that right across the middle of the city
site lay a belt of land, averaging 0.8 km in width, which,
despite the Competition conditions’ promise of a
regulating weir at least 23 km above the City, would always be
in danger of flooding. It could not, except with great
difficulty and expense, be built upon.
Two alternatives were possible, either the flood plain
could be treated as a continuous park bordering a shallow
stream, designed to suffer periodical submersion without
damage, or it could be permanently flooded by damming
the river at a point below the City, thus forming a chain of
As to which of these alternatives would be more effective
in uniting the two halves of the city in a scenically dramatic
way, Griffin was in no doubt.
He wrote in his competition report:
“The main waterway, the Molonglo, is left in its present state
in the lowest and widest regions” ie., below the City . . .
“. . . Next above and at the second of the weir sites suggested in
the invitation program (i.e. at Yarralumla) a dam of very
modest proportions, constructed in connection with one of the
roadway crossings, floods the lower outlying informal lake
(i.e., the West Lake) and the triple internal architectural basins
which bound on three sides the government group for the
reflection of its buildings, and for improvement of humidity
conditions in the heart of the City . . . The most difficult
problem connected with the waterway through the centre of
the site is to minimise its interference with traffic and at the
same time least cut up areas.”
“The circular pools (ie., the East and West Basins) and the
connecting (Central) basin provide three water bodies, each
complete in itself, located in the spaces between the direct lines
of communications from centre to centre. At the same time,
because of their largeness of scale and severe simplicity, they
conform to the architectural character of the centre of the City
with its monumental groups and throngs of busy people.”
Although awarded first prize by the Minister, Griffin’s
design was referred, along with other premiated designs, to
a Departmental Board of experts for advice. The Board, on
which Scrivener served, produced a scheme of its own,
which contained another lake scheme, a near relation of the
entry submitted in the design competition by the Australian
group of Scott, Griffiths, Coulter and Caswell.
When construction of the capital was inaugurated on 20
February 1913, the Board’s scheme was the basis for the
City’s development. Griffin subsequently was appointed
‘Federal Capital Director of Design and Construction’ on
18 October 1913. He then published his Preliminary Plan
which shows the modifications resulting from his
examinations of the site and his discussions with the Board.
He further refined his plan producing a “Schematic”
Plan two years later. This was examined by the Parliamentary
Works Committee in their enquiry into the
Provision of Dams for Ornamental Waters in 1916. This
forced Griffin to defend his scheme against the criticism of
the former members of the Departmental Board and
others. Scrivener, for instance, said “We would not agree
with Mr Griffin. One of the points of contention being the
form of the lake. I regard the artificial form as much less
beautiful than the natural contour. It gets rid of the bays
and indentations that are the principal charms of Sydney
Fig. 4.2: A Griffin plan with East Lake added to show its relation to the present Dairy Flat Road, Pialligo Avenue and the
Airport. This widespread East Lake was to be 6 metres higher than the present Lake Burley Griffin.
Griffin was unshaken in his belief in the formal elements
of his scheme, defending it vigorously from all attack. He
worked out schemes for the treatment of the formal
boulevards that were to surround them, which he claimed
were ‘one of the reasons d’etre of the ornamental waters’.
In spite of Griffin’s impressive stand, the Committee
decided that the formation of East Lake should be indefinitely
postponed, and that the shape of the formal
basins should be modified, decisions which have persisted
to the present day.
Most of the construction work that had occurred up to
1916 had been outside the City Area and therefore beyond
Griffin’s theoretical control, such as the dam on the Cotter
River for the city’s water supply which was completed in
Although Griffin’s revised plan of 1918, with a few
amendments, became the official plan for the National
Capital following the passage of the Seat of Government
(Administration) Act in 1924, there was a number of
significant alternative, though interim, lake proposals
considered over the years. In the main they consisted of
schemes which would allow the progressive development
of the full proposal and consisted of a number of weirs
established to provide “a ribbon of water” between
Yarralumla and the Causeway. The more significant of
these were referred to Parliamentary Standing Committees
on Public Works whose reports provide enlightening
reading and an insight into the difficulties of those earlier
years in assessing the feasibility of measures for flood and
The Owen and Peake Report prepared in 1929 is representative
of the thinking of this intermediate period and
its conclusions drew attention to several hydrological
issues which greatly influenced the decisions on the size
and security of storages. These issues were examined in
more recent studies and with the support of more extensive
data and research were able to be resolved. Thus the
original concept proved practicable. A third ribbon of
water scheme was suggested to replace the West Lake
which had been incorporated in the Canberra Plan in 1933.
The Wilson Report of 1955 brought the full proposals back
into line and with the subsequent appraisals of 1958-1964
led to the present lake.
These earlier schemes were summarised in a memorandum
of April 1956 to the Parliamentary Standing
Committee on Public Works (Metric equivalents have
The Owen and Peake Report of 1929, discussed the first
Ribbon of Water Scheme suggested in 1926, but not approved
by the Public Works Committee. That entailed a weir at
Yarralumla at 548m level, and was to bank up the water only as
far back as Commonwealth Bridge.
Fig. 4.3: Sailing on Lake Burley Griffin. Photo — NCDC.
The Owen and Peake Report suggested that, until the lake
scheme was implemented, some of the objections to the 1926
Ribbon Scheme could be met by adding to the Yarralumla weir
another small weir, at 551 level, near Scott’s Crossing, to back
up the water to the weir already constructed to the 553 level at
the power house. This in turn backs up the water to the
Causeway — the beginning of the former East Lake. This
second ribbon scheme would therefore have made use of the
main Yarralumla dam, the Scott’s Crossing weir, and the
power house weir to provide a continuous ribbon of water
through the city. This scheme was not approved. It would have
been relatively inexpensive, but depended entirely on the
assumption that large control dams could be built on the Upper
Queanbeyan River to provide water for city parks, etc., and
sewerage dilution, as well as for flood control.
Otherwise there would have been risk to the Commonwealth
Bridge in flood times, through backing up by the Yarralumla
The third ribbon of water scheme, substituted for the west lake
on the Canberra Plan of 1953, was a different proposal
altogether. It aimed at placing a low weir at Yarralumla, and
also a large dam at Lennox Crossing to form three main lake
basins, and to use the area surrounding the ribbon for special
gardens and recreation areas. This scheme would be enormously
expensive — much greater than the lakes scheme — and,
making no provision for flood control, would have been
subject to frequent floodings. It was subsequently shown that
the foundations for that weir at Lennox Crossing were most
doubtful in that position, and a dam on the upper reaches of the
Queanbeyan River for flood control would be impractical. A
tremendous amount of water would be needed, covering a vast
area of good country, and even then it would only delay the
peak of the floods for a few hours.
It was stressed in the Owen and Peake Report that because of
lack of data their conclusions were not definite.
The Wilson Report was made after a very careful survey of the
area and all the records, which are now a deal more complete
than in the time of the Owen and Peake Report. Mr Wilson
based his findings on a somewhat different basis to the former
report, but has left no ambiguity about the aims of it and the
probable results. He makes it plain that, in drought years the
lakes could fall by as much as O.84m, but the occasions will be
very few and in 50 per cent of the years there will be no fall at
all. It is shown that the lakes scheme can be successfully
implemented with those limitations, but a dam on the Upper
Queanbeyan would be essential if some of the other requisites,
such as flood control efforts, were to be insisted upon.
The Wilson Report made no attempt to provide water for
Sewerage dilution, as the amount required is now so great that
the present river flow would not cope with it, and other
measures will be required. He concluded with the suggestions
that the lakes scheme should be implemented at the 556 level,
and the disadvantages of it accepted for the time being. In the
unlikely event of them proving really objectionable, it will still
be possible to construct the smaller of the dams suggested on
the Queanbeyan River to supplement the flow occasionally.
The point to be remembered is that really, effective flood
control would be impossible and the ribbon scheme from that
aspect alone is most undesirable, but it is essential to carry on
immediately with planning and preparatory works on the
lakes, gardens, and bridges, and this matter must be determined
The question of the aesthetics of retaining west lake in the
scheme was doubted by the chairman of the Planning
Committee, but a large majority of the witnesses in the Senate
Committee’s Inquiry were in favour of it.
Mr Wilson’s conclusion that the lakes scheme should be
implemented at present without the dam on the Queanbeyan
River for drought and flood control, was made with the full
knowledge of the Owen and Peake Report. That report
showed that even with the big dam at Googong, the 1925 flood
would have been controlled for only 12 1/2 hours.
The Senate Inquiry of 1955 led to the establishment in
1957 of the National Capital Development Commission
which quickly recognised the importance of the lake. It
was able to draw on the earlier studies and on the technical
resources and hydrological data available through
Commonwealth departments and authorities. NCDC
studies led to a greater assurance on such issues as the
behaviour of the lake in terms of floods and droughts and
of scour and siltation. Other studies arranged by NCDC
were able to provide satisfactory answers on water quality,
effects of climate and health, hazards of unsightly margins,
of mosquitos and midges and the possible disbenefits from
changes in land uses.
Fig. 4.4: Swimming in the lake is permitted everywhere except in the Central Basin. This is the beach at Black Mt.
Peninsula. Photo — Pieter Arriens for NCDC.
A number of technical papers listed at the end of this
chapter provide further detail on the investigations and
designs for the Scrivener Dam and Lake Burley Griffin. It
is useful however to record a few interesting points relating
to those issues which had plagued the earlier investigations.
Of all the investigations carried out, the hydrological
studies were by far the most significant. The best use had to
be made of the limited information available on weather
and river flows. The question of the availability of water
with or without an upstream storage and the effect of
future flows, particularly in the Parliamentary Triangle,
could not remain unresolved.
The Molonglo River which feeds the ornamental lake in
Canberra with an average annual inflow of 180 cumecs has
three main tributaries which rise to the east, south-east and
south of the City. The catchment with an area of 1810 km2
is subject to the spillover from heavy coastal storms which
have, in recent years, produced flood peaks up to 3,540
cumecs (cubic metres per second).
Following the detailed theoretical analysis of rainfall
patterns and river flows, a river model was constructed
which was used to test the adequacy of the theoretical
findings. It was shown that these theoretical calculations
were extremely accurate and the verification obtained from
the model studies was most reassuring and enabled far
more detailed information to be provided on many aspects.
The usefulness of the main model studies led in later stages
of the design to the development of more specific model
studies, and, in all, some four models were constructed.
The main river model also served as a useful medium for
informing those in authority and the public at large of the
implications of the lake scheme.
Some of the detailed investigations carried out on the
models related to the alignments of the lake shore, the
positioning of the bridges, the details of flood levels and
the behaviour of the flood gates. For example, Kings
Avenue Bridge was resited about 50 metres north of its
original proposed location increasing the useful waterway
from 60 to 80 per cent of available area. The studies also
confirmed that with the proposed gates the lake level of 556
m could be maintained in the central areas for all floods up
to 2,300 cumecs and that at the design discharge of 5,600
cumecs the level of the lakes in the central area would not
exceed 560 m and that such levels would be controlled not
by the lake structure, but by the bar of Black Mountain
The use of the models also allowed studies to be made of
the shore alignment, the design of the energy dissipator,
the handling of floods through the East Lake area and the
potential benefits to be achieved by realigning the main
channel leading to the creation of interesting islands.
At the other end of the hydrological scale careful studies
were made of drought conditions over past years and
allowances made for evaporation, irrigation and leakage. It
was determined that the lake would function quite
satisfactorily within a metre of the 556 m water level
without an upstream storage. By this time the application
of British Standards for dilution of sewerage effluent was
no longer relevant or practicable.
In addition to general ecological studies, specific
investigations related to fogs, fish, the behaviour of aquatic
plants, the likely extent and magnitude of waves, conditions
required to prevent breeding of mosquitoes and other
insects, and matters relating to the use of the lake for a wide
range of recreation activities. These were carried out to
confirm the feasibility and establish the basic criteria for
the design of the lake itself.
The investigations extended in this way over the matters
of geology, the expected rise in the water table, the quality
of the water, the effect of upstream operations, including
discharge of effluents into the Molonglo River and matters
of turbidity, sedimentation and erosion.
This latter field of study probably gave the greatest
concern because the lake was to be a relatively small,
shallow body of water downstream of a large catchment
subject to very high flood discharges, capable of carrying
considerable quantities of sediments. Hydrological science
at the time did not offer a reasonable method of estimating
the proportion of such sediments that would be trapped by
After extensive studies using a number of highly
respected advisers, it was determined that provided satisfactory
precautions were taken in the catchment, the lake
could be expected to function reasonably satisfactorily.
Nevertheless, some floods could deposit substantial
quantities of sediments, particularly in the upper reaches of
the lake. It was impracticable to carry out quantitative
studies of sedimentation in the lake and the design has
therefore endeavoured to make conditions as favourable as
possible for minimum sedimentation.
Under small floods with only one gate down at the dam,
an opening 32 metres wide by 5.2 metres high can allow
large quantities of sediments to pass straight through the
lake. Under any floods above 2,300 cumecs five such gates
would be down.
Bed load traps were provided upstream of the dam and
widespread soil conservation measures were carried out
throughout the ACT portion of the catchment. In
addition, an agreement was made with the State Government
for a large soil conservation programme to be
undertaken in the much greater NSW portion of the
catchment. Much of this programme was well underway
by the time the lake was built. Such programmes of course
make major improvements to property values and hence
landholders paid one third of the costs with the Federal and
State Governments sharing the remainder.
Scrivener dam consists of a concrete gravity section with
five 32 metre x five metre flap gates between two concrete
gravity buttress non-overflow sections of 71 metre total
length, and of earth embankments 184 metres long of
which a total length of 40 metres has a centre concrete
cut-off wall founded on rock and one metre thick.
Maximum structural height of the dam is 36 metres.
Fig. 4.5: Minister for the Interior, J.D. Anthony, invites the Prime Minister Robert Menzies, to inaugurate Lake Burley
Griffin in 1964. Photo — NCDC.
The dam is founded on quartz porphory which was
covered by alluvium of varying thickness. On exposure of
the foundation under the river itself, a combination of
geological faulting required the use of post-tensioned
cables to tie several blocks of the dam back to the sound
A roadway is provided across the dam to serve as a river
crossing between Woden and the City and Belconnen. It is
also used as a means of gaining access for the maintenance
of the gates.
The size of the design flood, that is the flood which had
to be handled by the structures in the flood plain was
determined at 5,600 cumecs. The structures were also
examined for a flood of 8,500 cumecs in terms of any
possible catastrophic damage arising from this ‘max max’
In calling tenders for the design, manufacture and
erection of the five 32-metre crest gates to pass such floods,
it was necessary to ensure the minimum obstruction to the
passage of debris. The neatness and appearance of the gates
also was considered of great importance. The gates as
erected are fish belly flap gates designed by Rheinstahl
Union Bruckenbau, West Germany. The water load is
carried by the steel skin plate of the fish belly section to six
cross beams. Each of these cross beams is supported by a
hinge, anchored to the concrete dam crest and the four
centre beams are also supported approximately at their half
points by hydraulic jacks.
The main criteria in the control of Lake Burley Griffin is
to keep the water level in the Parliamentary Triangle as
near to 556m as is possible with the gates provided in the
dam. Three one metre X one metre sluice gates have been
installed and can automatically adjust the outflow from the
lake for a range of 150mm change in water level.
By setting the float-operated control equipment for the
first sluice gate at slightly below the desired Top Water
Level, the mean annual inflow of 5.1 cumecs will raise the
water level to RL556. Under steady flow conditions the
sluice gates can pass a discharge of approximately 60
cumecs without allowing the water to rise above 556.
During periods of minor floods the filling of the lake
storage above 556m is expected to enable the sluice gates to
handle floods with peak discharges of less than 100 cumecs.
In some years it will not be necessary to use the flap-gates
for flood discharge at all. The longest recorded period that
flap-gate operation would not have been required was
from December 1925 to March 1929.
The first contract (for the gates) was let in May 1960,
work commenced on the Dam in September 1960 and the
storage commenced to fill in September 1963. Apart from
the unfortunate combination of faulting encountered in the
foundations and from normal troubles experienced in the
installation of such large gates, the construction of the
Dam proceeded well.
The treatment of the lake margins varies according to
their location and has regard to function, hydraulics, cost,
maintenance and the landscape value of particular designs.
The interest and beauty of the lake arises as much from the
variety in the 33km of shoreline and its treatment as from
the area of water itself. Apart from the formal south bank
of the central basin, the shoreline is quite informal and
seeks to provide this interest. There are four main types of
Fig. 4.6: Scrivener Dam which creates Lake Burley Griffin, discharging flood of 1976. Photo-NCDC.
A concrete wall consisting essentially of a low reinforced
concrete retaining wall capped by a coping is provided in
the formal sections of the lake, particularly where
hydraulic conditions require such treatment and the
foundations lend themselves to this type of wall. It is
designed to allow a fall in lake level without an exposure
of the lake bed. The precast coping is capable of
adjustment and has enabled a most satisfactory line to be
achieved on the long straight margin.
In other areas a grouted rock wall has been provided and
is an effective treatment from the point of view of
maintenance and freedom from erosion and has been
extensively used in the upper reaches of the lake where
the burden of the incoming floods have to be withstood.
The third form of edge treatment was the provision of
sand and gravel beaches which are designed to allow
some protection to the subsoil and as a provision for
entry to the lake for recreational purposes.
The fourth type of margin is essentially a natural margin
where there are rock outcrops and steeply sloping stable
shores. The western areas, in particular, have extensive
sections of such foreshores which have been planted for
landscape and stability purposes.
The location of the lake margins generally follows the
556m contour which proved an extremely economical
location. There were several areas of shallow depth or
special functional requirements which have been developed
to provide particular features in the lake. For
example, in the West Lake area near the University, cut
and filling resulted in a larger lake and an interesting island.
Similarly, a balanced programme of earthworks led to the
developments of the boat harbour in East Basin, the
Nerang Pool in an area which was formerly swamp land
and the formation of Yarralumla Bay and Lotus Bay for
boat shelter. To allow a larger triangular sailing course for
races, the ‘finger’ of land at Yarralumla Bay was cut out but
the ‘finger nail’ left was another island (Spinnaker). The
lake has six islands altogether.
Any reference to Lake Burley Griffin would not be
complete without a statement on the design and construction
of the traffic bridges which contribute so much to
the total composition of the central areas. These are discussed
in Chapter One.
Thus it was with the completion of engineering works in
September 1963 that all that was required was a supply of
water — something beyond the powers of Prime Minister
Menzies, Commissioner Overall or the many highly
skilled and enthusiastic professionals who had contributed
so much to the lake’s construction. As the dry season
which had so favoured construction operations continued,
doubts began to emerge that the National Rowing
Championships, scheduled with an abundance of
faith for Lake Burley Griffin 2 May 1964, would become a
modified version of the Todd River Regatta. An alternative
course was being prepared for use on a partly filled lake
when at the end of April 1964 heavy rains fell on the
catchments, the lake filled and the Regatta was held
successfully, though in the midst of some flotsum and
jetsam from the receding flood.
In the years since then, the lake and its parklands have
proved universally popular. Power boats are not permitted,
other than for safety patrols and the coaching of
rowing crews. However on most Saturdays and Sundays in
summer, more than 10,000 people are attracted to the
lakeshore, more than one-third arriving by car at the one
time. The increasing usage of the lake and its foreshores is
generating a demand for more beaches and the provision of
further facilities associated with direct use of the lake, such
as boat sheds, clubhouses, boat launching areas, parking
and other structures and amenities.
The pressure of people in some areas leads to conflicts
between different kinds of uses and users that need to be
resolved by management. There is also increasing demand
for sites for tourist oriented development. As the lake and
the foreshore are a finite resource, it is desirable that
planned uses and facilities are located in accord with its
physical character and environmental capability and that
the management implications of this are recognised.
Swimming in the lake is only prohibited in the formal
Parliamentary area but water quality problems have
occasionally caused closure of the lake for short periods.
Despite the difficulties in controlling the quality of all
inflows, the lake water quality remains mostly acceptable
by swimming water quality criteria.
Continuing careful attention to all aspects of lake
management is vital, particularly as the lake matures.
It is not surprising that following the impact of Lake
Burley Griffin on the Canberra scene, the availability of
water and its maximum beneficial use became an important
factor in the development of Canberra’s new towns. There
was in the mid 1960s a sensitivity to environmental
matters, an awareness of the need to preserve water quality
and a changing lifestyle which placed greater emphasis on
social and recreational matters.
Fig. 4.7: Lake Ginninderra is about one-sixth the size of Lake Burley Griffin. Belconnen Town Centre
is being developed
on its southern foreshores. Photo — NCDC.
In the early planning considerations for the new town of
Belconnen, the pattern of neighbourhoods and regions
focusing on the town centre defined the general location
for that centre. In the detailed consideration of the town it
was realised that an opportunity existed, subject to detail
study, for the introduction of a water feature into the
design of the town centre. The concept of a ‘town in a park’
and even ‘the lake in the town’ were not unreal and the
successful completion of Reston in USA though on a
smaller scale encouraged thinking along these lines.
Although the concept was valid, the basic hydrological
data for Ginninderra Creek was lacking and an analysis of
comparable catchments was necessary to define a realistic
lake area and to assess the need and extent of any make-up
By 1967 the Belconnen urban areas were developing
rapidly and already a trunk sewer had been constructed on
an alignment which, under some lake proposals, would be
flooded. Planning of major arterials also would be
influenced by the arrangements of a future lake.
Ginninderra Creek itself rises in the Hall area of the
ACT. It flows for several kilometres in a generally
south-westerly direction crossing the Barton Highway about
6.5km on the Canberra side of Hall. At a point close to the
Belconnen Town Centre, the creek turned sharply in a
northerly direction for about 3 km, then turned again in a
direction generally slightly north of west to flow eventually
into the Murrumbidgee River.
Feasibility reports prepared in 1967 examined the
The feasibility, scale, treatment and cost of a water
feature adjacent to the then proposed Belconnen Town
The establishment of water levels and flood heights
based on the hydrology and land form surrounding the
Creek as a background for development proposals.
Consideration of the ability of Ginninderra Creek to
maintain the lake level and possible sources of
toppingup water if required. Consideration of sedimentation
problems and the appearance of water; and
A study of the capacity of the existing trunk sewer to
safely withstand the loading resulting from lake
The initial considerations related to catchment yield and
make-up requirements. The assessments were made on the
basis of the Jerrabomberra catchments adjusted for the
different rainfall records as provided by Mt Campbell in
the Jerrabomberra catchment which has similar land
characteristics and uses although its soil characteristics are
not comparable. Ginninderra is generally composed of
relatively impervious clay and silty clays while the
Jerrabomberra catchment has soils which are relatively
It was demonstrated that the natural flow of the Creek
would not maintain a full storage at all times with the lake
level at RL578. The maximum draw-down without
topping up with water from an external source was
estimated to be of the order of 0.64m. Such topping up
water could be provided in the early stages of development
by either the use of treated waste water, town supply or
ultimately by water from a dual purpose upstream storage.
In the later years, run off from the catchment in the
Gungahlin area was expected to increase appreciably with
the progressive urbanisation of Gungahlin, thus minimising
or eliminating the need for topping up the lake.
Since its establishment, however urbanisation of
Gungahlin has not proceeded but those parts of Belconnen
in the lake catchment have mostly been urbanised and the
lake has not yet needed topping up.
The full supply level of 578 was adopted after an analysis
of the shoreline slopes around the perimeter for levels of
576 and 578. The shore slope characteristics at both levels
are similar, the higher perimeter provided some 10.5 km of
shoreline compared with 8.4 km at the lower level. The
higher dam was selected as it provides better facilities for
recreation, such as rowing and sailing.
The earth and rock fill dam has therefore been constructed
with a top water level of 578 and an adjacent
culvert spillway. The dam served not only to form Lake
Ginninderra but provides the arterial road linkage between
Belconnen Town Centre and North Belconnen.
The examination of the trunk sewer demonstrated that
with adjustments to vents and manholes its structural
capacity was adequate. However, the use of this pipe as a
main sewer has been progressively reduced with the
further development of the Town Centre and the main
A section of the main however has continued to be used
for the dispersal of the warm water discharge from the
integrated air-conditioning system for the Town Centre.
About two km length of this main has been adapted to this
purpose by the introduction of some 24 dispersing outlets.
The hot water is fully dispersed within some 6m of these
The net cost of constructing Lake Ginninderra was quite
low due to such factors as the need anyhow to carry a major
arterial across the creek on some major structure, and the
augmented land values around the lake.
Lake Ginninderra is a delightful waterscape which is
being enhanced as landscape materialises and development
proceeds. Earlier visions of having areas in which housing
penetrates virtually to the foreshores as occurs on this scale
of water-way elsewhere have been thwarted by the
presently popular desire to preserve all such areas for
public availability. The partially completed Town Centre
has not yet established the quayside effect of the mature
development but the prospect remains and the opportunity
exists in years to come to build on this heritage provided in
Canberra’s water supply storages
The storages for Canberra’s water supply were initially
supplied on the Cotter River. In 1912, construction of the
first dam commenced and when completed in 1915 the 20m
high concrete Cotter Dam had a capacity of 1850 megalitres.
The water was pumped from the dam to a storage
reservoir on Mount Stromlo, where it gravitated to the city
service reservoirs. A pumping scheme was considered to be
more economical than a gravitation one since the loss of
interest over many years on the additional construction
cost of the gravitation scheme would have proved much
greater than the cost of pumping.
The water supply system in the first stage was for a
population of 25,000 which proved more than adequate for
more than 30 years. In 1945, the population of Canberra
was only 13,000. In 1950-51, the dam wall was raised a
further 7.3m to increase the reservoir’s capacity to 4,700
In 1958 to meet the needs of Canberra’s growing
population work began on the 47.2m high Bendora Dam,
the first thin wall, double curvature-type dam built in
This storage on the Cotter River was recommended by
the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works
after considering two sites, the one on the Cotter and the
other at Googong which was favoured technically.
Because the Committee doubted that effective control
could be exercised over the Googong catchment area and
because it considered that the resumption of the whole
Queanbeyan River catchment area for control purposes
would remove the capital cost advantage of the Googong
site, the Committee, on balance, recommended the Upper
Cotter site, stipulating that water should at first be pumped
from the storage but later a gravitation system be
Fig. 4.8 Walter Burley Griffin’s prize-winning plan for Canberra in 1912.
When construction of the Bendora Dam commenced in
1958, Canberra had begun a population explosion and it
was obvious that another dam would be needed soon.
Investigations for a new dam began in 1961 while the
Bendora Dam was being constructed. By 1963 it had been
decided that the third dam, the Corin, should be built on
the Cotter River as soon as possible. The investigations
indicated that the subsequent site should be at Googong
but drew attention to the Upper Murrumbidgee as a future
potential source. For example a tunnel could be built from
the upper Murrumbidgee near Tantangara to lead water
into the Cotter Valley upstream of Corin.
Corin Dam acts as a reserve storage to release water
down river to Bendora Dam for supply to the Canberra
Water Supply system via the gravity main.
In drought periods and in the years when the water
supply demand is approaching the safe yield from the
installations on the Cotter River it will be necessary to
operate all of the storages in order to obtain the maximum
yield. This will require Bendora Dam and the Lower
Cotter Dam to be drawn down in the latter part of the
summer and autumn to provide storage availability for rain
falling anywhere on the catchment. If in these critical years
the two lower dams were operated full for optimum
pumping and gravity conditions, any rain falling below
Corin Dam would be lost over the spiliways of the lower
The design and construction of Corin Dam is well
documented in the report on this subject prepared by the
Commonwealth Department of Works. The following
general description of the project is provided for completeness
of the record.
Alternative dam proposals included:—
rock fill dam with central earth core;
concrete multiple arch dam; and
earth fill dam.
The earth and rock fill dam was selected as the most
satisfactory alternative. The complexity of the concrete
multiple-arch dam combined with the uncertainty of the
foundations for this type of structure made this alternative
less acceptable having regard to the assured foundation for
the earth and rock fill alternative. This resulted in a 76.2m
high earth-and-rock-fill structure incorporating a side
channel spillway and an outlet tower leading to the
diversion tunnel. The valves at various heights in the tower
allow draw-off at various reservoir levels.
Particular care was taken during construction to minimise
the pollution of the live storages in the lower
catchment. This applied particularly to the placement of
rock fill. Information, particularly on the performance of
German rock-fill dams, indicated that the initial movement
of this type of dam was considerably reduced by rolling the
rock-fill in layers, as contrasted with those constructed by
dumping methods. It was reported by the Snowy Mountains
Hydro-Electric Authority that the contractors were
favourable toward the technique of rolling rock-fill. It was
realised that sluicing the rock-fill during the placing
process would pollute the river, and this was confirmed by
observation of the construction of the Geehi Dam.
Continued pollution of the Cotter River during the dam
construction would have been most undesirable because it
was the sole source of Canberra’s water supply. It was
decided to roll the rock-fill in layers without sluicing after
the dry and wet strength of the rock was tested and the
quartzite rocks showed only a slight decrease in wet
strength compared to its dry strength.
A side-channel inlet to the spillway chute was chosen to
minimise rock excavation and to ensure reasonable
approach conditions to the spillway crest because of the
oblique flow from the storage toward the spillway crest.
The decision to develop the terminal structure of the
spillway as a ski-jump instead of a stilling basin was a
matter of economics. The disadvantage of the ski-jump is
the pollution of water whilst the scourhole is being
formed. A basic problem of shaping the ski-jump with a
spillway with an uncontrolled crest is to cause the small
discharge to shoot, leaving the resulting scour remote from
the ski-jump structure. This was achieved by superelevating
and stepping the ski-jump, thus concentrating
low flows to the lower step of the ski-jump where it shoots
in a low angle trajectory.
The Cotter catchment is restricted to its use as a water
supply catchment in the absence of full water treatment.
However, at Corin recognition has been given to the
opportunity it provides for the enjoyment of the attractive
scenery and of the bushland comprising the catchment.
Good road access has therefore been provided to the site
across the Dam crest and over the spillway via a bridge to a
turning circle and parking area on the left bank. This has
provided a popular terminal point for tourists visiting the
Brindabella Reserve and the Gibraltar Creek falls.
The construction of the Corin Dam was commenced in
March 1966 and completed in October 1968. Together
with the other Cotter River storages, it will supply a total
Canberra-Queanbeyan population of about 225,000
people. Investigations of possible storage sites for the next
dam began in September 1967 and encompassed a wide
range of possibilities in the region. This report concluded
that the next dam should be built at Googong.
Googong Dam had been contemplated from the time of the
initial nomination of Canberra as the site of the Nation’s
Capital and its investigation has been directed from time to
time with a view to its use for water supply, flood control,
lake provisions and for recreation.
The instruction for the guidance of surveyor C.R.
Scrivener in selecting the site for the National Capital in
1908 gave as a primary requirement “That it include the
catchment area of the water supply for the Capital — such
water supply to be of sufficient magnitude to place the
question of volume at all seasons and purity beyond
Scrivener nominated 2,628 km2 in the catchments of the
Cotter, Queanbeyan and Molonglo Rivers and a request
was made to the NSW Government for the surrender of the
land. But after negotiations only the Cotter catchment area
was included and in respect of the Queanbeyan and
Molonglo Rivers, the Seat of Government Acceptance
Act, 1908 Schedule 1, provides safeguards.
Thus although not a dam in the ACT Googong has
become an integral part of Canberra as a major source of
water supply and progressively as a major recreation
That Googong provided an assured site for a dam is
conveyed by the following extract from an attachment to
the Owen and Peake Report of 1929. (Metric equivalents
have been substituted):
Fig. 4.9: Griffin’s preliminary plan for Canberra showing the three formal Basins of his ‘water axis’and the irregular West
Lake and portion of the East Lake.
The site of the proposed Googong Dam is by River 27
km above the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge and 10km
above the Town of Queanbeyan. It lies between two
steep hills and at the low end of extensive river flats
which will provide a good storage ground. The river bed
level is RL612 or 54m above the deck of Commonwealth
Avenue Bridge. The catchment area above the site is 875
Dr Woolnough has inspected and reported upon the site
and extracts from his report are as follows:
Summarily it may be stated that the site is as nearly ideal
from a geological point of view as it is possible to
imagine. The area is occupied by a thick series of Silurian
sediments and volcanic rocks which are intruded by a
considerable mass of granite of somewhat more recent
date. The sediments are dominantly slatey in character
and no noteworthy outcrops of were seen in
the section examined. The slates being easily eroded,
have caused the formation of a wide open valley in the
neighbourhood of the head station. It is this open valley
which will supply the storage for the proposed water
conservation. The resistance of the massive quartz
porphyries to erosion has caused a sharp constriction in
the channel of the Queanbeyan River at a point downstream
from the wide valley occupied by the slates. This
constriction forms a steep-sided gorge, reduces the cross
section of the stream and renders possible the construction
of a wall of relatively small dimensions.
Furthermore, the solidity of the quartz-porphyries
provides foundations of the utmost stability. There need
be no fear that such foundations will either give way or
leak. The river runs across the ‘grain’ and the foundations
are occupied only by the extremely competent
A scheme for constructing a dam on this site, 30.5m
high, was reported upon by the Parliamentary Standing
Committee in March, 1915. Amongst the objects stated
to be attained by the work was —
To reduce the volume of flood waters of Canberra Plains
during heavy rainfall on the Queanbeyan catchment
area. As seen from its dimensions the dam is designed as
an overshot weir and the capacity of the storage is given
with the water level to the top of the wall, the only flood
relief it could afford would be when a flood occurred
after a long dry period and the reservoir was partly
depleted. The Public Works Committee approved of the
proposal to construct the reservoir, but did not consider
the work ‘urgent or immediately necessary’.
The Molonglo Floods Committee in their report of 16
March, 1927, recommended the construction of a dam
with a height of 45.7m the top of the wall being at RL674
and the spillway at RL654. Their suggestion carried the
provision of permanent storage behind the wall to
RL634 and above this level the dam to serve for flood
retardation purposes only. The total capacity of the
storage at the spillway level was taken as 67,800
megalitres and deducting the permanent storage of 11,200
megalitres the capacity available for the storage of flood
water would be 56,600 megalitres which would have
held up to 1925 flood discharge down the Queanbeyan
for 12 1/2 hours. The Molonglo being a shorter river than
the Queanbeyan the peak of the flood on the Molonglo
is generally ahead of the peak on the Queanbeyan, and
the retardation at Googong would allow for subsidence
in the Molonglo before the Queanbeyan waters joined
An attached drawing showed a design of a straight dam
with floods controlled by spillways and sluices.
In an NCDC, report of September 1969 (Canberra
Water Supply — Further Augmentation) a wide range of
potential sources for future supplies to Canberra was
examined including both storage proposals and run-of-river
schemes. These included:
Googong Reservoir, Queanbeyan River
Tennent River on the Gudgenby River
Coree on the Cotter
Pumping from the Murrumbidgee at Tharwa
Extensions of the above Tharwa scheme with 4 alternative
Use of the Goodradigbee River
A Murrumbidgee/Cotter diversion near Tantangara
From all these possible schemes Googong was selected
as having the following advantages:
Some additional storage is desirable before introducing
a run of river scheme.
Value is seen in having storage in two different
catchments each responsive in two different weather
A storage is a valuable safeguard against pollution
due to the die away of bacteria in the stored body of
The Commonwealth has paramount rights over the
water in the Queanbeyan River.
The Googong storage scheme has been most
extensively studied drawing on hydrological records
going back to 1911.
Thus the dam which for so long had waited in the wings
at last became central on the stage.
The design and construction of Googong Dam is well
documented in departmental reports and in a submission
by the contractors for a construction achievement award in
1978. The following outlines the main features of the dam
and records a notable experience during the construction
Googong Dam is located in a short gorge section of the
Queanbeyan River approximately 9 kilometres upstream
of Queanbeyan. The Dam consists of an earth rock fill
embankment protected by an adjacent spillway.
The water level at Googong has been set at RL663m to
provide a reservoir storage of 119 x 106m3. The bulk water
supply distribution system has sufficient flexibility that an
equivalent population of 450,000 persons can be supplied
at unrestricted consumption from the combined Googong
and Cotter systems. Googong also contains additional
storage for maintaining the level of Lake Burley Griffin
during a dry period, and some irrigation and the riparian
requirements downstream of the dam.
The maximum probable flood inflow for the reservoir,
4,530 cumecs was calculated by the hydrometeorological
method using a maximised storm determined by the
Bureau of Meteorology together with a unit hydrograph
derived from a flood in 1925 at the damsite which had a
recurrence interval in the order of 100 years. Flood routing
through the reservoir reduces this to maximum probable
spillway outflow flood of 4,320 cumecs.
The geology of the damsite was first investigated in
detail in 1929 for the possible construction of a concrete
gravity dam. The adits and shafts which formed part of this
investigation were still visible on the site. In 1955
geological investigations of a preliminary nature were carried
out for use in comparison studies between the Googong
and Bendora sites for a dam. In 1962, further investigations
were carried out to select either the Googong or Corin
Fig. 4.10: The partly completed earth and rockfill Googong embankment being overtopped in 1976. The flood rose higher
and carried away the tree in the foreground. Photo — NCDC.
Further geological investigations were carried out in
1970 concurrently with the engineering feasibility studies
for various types and arrangements of dams on the
Googong site. The final design geological investigations
for an earth-rockfill dam with a side spillway incorporating
the rock quarries, followed on from these feasibility
studies and commenced in mid-1972.
In the Googong area the local rock consists of near
vertical beds of dacite with meta-sediment lenses all of
middle Silurian age, known as the Colinton Volcanics,
Granites of Siluro-Devonian age had intruded in the
northern section of the area.
No major fault zone was detected on the dam site,
however, fracture zones and associated deep weathering
exist in the dacite possibly caused by the intrusive effect of
the granite and associated hydrothermal activities.
The embankment is founded mainly on dacite, although
the downstream toe and the higher levels of the left
abutments are on granite. Although the foundation rock is
intensely fractured and jointed, no major zones of high
permeability were revealed by pressure testing in the
diamond drill holes.
Owing to the proximity of a large centre of population,
Queanbeyan, downstream of the dam and the large flood
flows that can occur on the river a detailed study was
carried out for river diversions.
Hydrological studies indicated that flood probabilities
were considerably reduced in the dryer September to
March period of the year. For this reason it was considered
necessary to construct the bulk of the main embankment in
It was considered neither practical nor necessary to
construct a river diversion system without utilizing
possible overtopping of the uncompleted embankment by
large floods. Adequate reinforcement of the downstream
slope was carried out to prevent shallow slips and
unravelling of the surface rockf ill during overtopping.
In October 1976 the partially completed dam was
subjected to a severe flood. The account of this experience
prepared by Thiess Bros. Pty Ltd, the contractors for the
project provides an excellent summary.
As aforesaid, the 6 months period from 1/9/76 to 1/3/77 was
regarded as the “dry” period of the year, of minimum flood
risk, and as such was selected by the designers for the
construction of the “critical section” of the embankment
between RL620 and RL665. It was therefore expected that
weather conditions would be favourable and that after the
successful completion of the first stage embankment construction
on target date, the embankment construction
progress would not be further adversely affected.
As it happened, the 1976 year proved to be an exceptional year.
On the morning of Friday, 15 October, 1976, the Bureau of
Meteorology issued a confidential alert of possible flood
producing rains over the Googong Catchment Area. The
embankment fills were completed at this stage to RL627 in the
core and upstream rockfill sections, the downstream rockfill
section was completed to RL630. The RL630 layer of downstream
slope reinforcement protection was at the time 75 per
cent complete, and the top of the embankment fill was 140m
wide at this point of construction.
Fig. 4.11: NCDC and Departmental observers watching the Googong embankment being overtopped on 16 October 1976.
In the afternoon, after further warning, an instruction was
issued by the Superintending Resident Engineer to put the
Contractor’s workforce on standby for the night and for the
weekend, and to complete the uncompleted 25 per cent of the
downstream slope protection reinforcement if required. The
workforce of approximately 30 men and staff was called Out for
this purpose at 5.00 am on Saturday morning, and worked until
the embankment over-topped, at 10.25 am. The protective
reinforcement had been completed as required by this time.
Prior to that, all construction plant was moved from the low
lying areas and secured, except for two draglines used for
excavation of materials from the sand and gravel deposits of the
site of the dam. Access to these became impossible immediately
after the river started to rise.
The embankment was overtopped completely at 10.25 am on
Saturday morning. This first overflow lasted 17.5 hours, and
the maximum depth of flow over the crest in the first peak was
2.5m, which represents an overflow of some 550 cubic metres
per second, and with 220 cubic metres per second of additional
flow through the diversion tunnel this was a flood of
approximately one in one hundred year frequency for the October/
November period of the year.
This first overflow ceased at approximately 4.00 am on Sunday.
The second overflow began at 9.20 am on Sunday 17 October,
and ceased at 1.20 am on Monday the following morning. This
second peak had a maximum depth of 1.5m over the crest,
which represents a flow of some 200 cubic metres per second.
During both peaks, the 5m diameter diversion tunnel was
running full with a flow of 220 cubic metres per second.
Between the overflows, from 2.00 am to 9.20 am, an inspection
showed that the downstream slope protection reinforcement
was still in generally good condition. In a section of the crest, a
channel section of 4m long, 2m wide and 1m deep, had eroded
in the top layer of the reinforced rockfill. Work commenced
immediately to repair it. Also, several sections of rock were
repacked behind the adjacent mesh, and debris caught on the
crest were removed. Also some loosened reinforcing bars were
After the second over-topping, work recommenced on the
repairs to the protective work, debris removal and rock
packing on the face.
Shortly after midday on Monday, 18th October, 1976, a
further 24 hour flood warning was issued and the repair work
had to be accelerated. Immediate steps were taken to ensure
that work would continue through the night. Preparation
commenced for concreting areas of washed out rock on the
downstream rock face. Additional agitator trucks, concrete
pumps, welding sets and lighting generators were hired and
arrangements made for night-time deliveries of cement and
aggregates. The earth drain above the downstream tunnel
portal was converted to a haul road to permit truck access on
the embankment, enabling concreting of cavities in the
downstream embankment face to commence by 3.15 pm on
Monday. From that time, mesh and rebar repairs on the
armour, and concrete repairs to the downstream face continued
non-stop until 6.00 am the following morning. Some 70
sheets of mesh were placed and welded and 154 cubic metres of
concrete placed to damaged sections of the downstream face
during this period. The third overflow did, however, not
Specific requirements for diversions and related embankment
A diversion tunnel of 5m internal diameter together
with inlet and outlet channels to be constructed
through the left abutment (and concrete lined for
later usage in the outlet system).
An upstream coffer dam approximately 12m high
with a crest level RL622m and reinforced
downstream rock slope.
A downstream coffer dam with a crest level lower
than the upstream coffer dam.
Embankment to be protected by steel mesh and bar
reinforcement on the downstream slope to RL6S2m,
which is about 42m above river bed level.
The embankment section consists of an impermeable
earth core protected by filters and enclosed by rock shells
in the conventional manner. The core is non-symmetrical
about the vertical centreline of the embankment, it is
inclined slightly upstream to assist in obtaining acceptable
slope stabilities and core contact with the most economical
section. A slight steepening (1:1.7 from 1:1.8) of the
downstream slope was achieved by this method with its
consequent economies in materials.
A secondary embankment was constructed in a low
saddle approximately 1/2km north east of the main
embankment. This embankment is 13.5m high and 240
Fig. 4.12: Landscaped foreshores of Lake Burley Griffin with Government House (right).
Photo — Pieter Arriens for NCDC.
The spillway incorporates the two quarries for
embankment rockfill. The upper (dacite) quarry forms the
approach channel and the major part of the spillway
excavation. The lower (granite) quarry is incorporated into
the spillway as an energy dissipating basin.
The spillway consists of the quarry approach channel,
concrete crest 124m long, curved in plan, a concrete lined
chute 64m long converging to 62m at the lip, an unlined
channel in rock and quarry dissipating basin.
By February 1978 Googong Dam was a reality and
storage had commenced but as a lake its story had just
Since the time when Googong was first envisaged as a
multi purpose reservoir Canberra has grown from a village
to a Capital of more than 230,000 people. At the same time
despite growing pressures for the conservation of water
supply catchments and storages for that sole purpose,
public pressure has likewise developed throughout the
world for the use of such areas for both water supply and
recreation. This has been demonstrated as being practicable
with adequate water treatment and controls of land
and water use.
The increasing pressure around the world for multiple
use of water storages was acknowledged but Googong
Dam is primarily a terminal city water supply facility in
which the health of the total community must have priority
over demands for further recreational areas made by some
After a careful review of this conflict, the Minister for
the ACT announced a programme of staged development
of recreational facilities with careful monitoring of water
quality. When the dam was opened, road access and picnic
facilities were made available to areas just downstream of
the storage. Construction of roads is also taking place to
parts of the storage, well upstream of the outlet tower,
including the unusual limestone formation called London
Bridge and to the adjacent woolshed and picnic area.
In this dry continent, our National Capital has been
developed in picturesque valleys with a backdrop of
mountains rising to nearly 2000 metres. In times of
drought, many of the streams will cease to flow but this
and future generations now have a heritage of lakes and
dams which should continue down the decades to add
sparkle to the landscape, recreational use for all ages and
provide a water supply of assured quantity and quality for
Selected early reports of the Parliamentary Committee on Public [return]
1915 Storage & Regulating Reservoir, Upper Queanbeyan River (Pantry. Paper 1914-15-16 No. 64)
1916 Dams for Ornamental Waters in Canberra (pp.l914-lS-16 No. 353)
1926 Construction of Dam and Improvements on the Molonglo River, Federal Capital (No. 37)
1956 Canberra Community Hospital A.C.T. (pp.1956 No. 35)
1955 Water Supply Storage System at Canberra A.C.T. (pp.1954-5 No. 52)
1955 Commonwealth Avenue Bridge, Canberra (pp.1954-S No.53)
Memorandum available on Parliamentary library file 54/14-4.
(The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works).
Lake Burley Griffin Australia Paper. Minty A.E. International
Symposium on Man Made Lakes, Their Problems and Environmental
Effects. Tennessee U.S.A. 1971.
River Model, Spillway Model and Dam Design for the Canberra Lake
Scheme. A.J. Condon, B.V. Kearsley and A. Fokkema Journal,
Institution of Engineers Australia, September 1964. [return]
An advisory Report on the Landscape of the Canberra Lake Scheme—
William Holford and Partners for National Capital Development
Belconnen Water Feature — Feasibility Study 1967 for National
Capital Development Commission. Laurie and Montgomerie. [return]
Upper Cotter Arch Dam Design — KG. Harding B.E. Paper No.
1618, Civil Engineering Transactions September 1962 of Institution of
Engineers Australia. [return]
Corin Dam — Design and Construction Report. Commonwealth
Department of Works — Canberra Branch — May 1970. [return]
Googong Dam and Appurtenant Works. Entry for Construction
Award 1978— Thiess Brothers Pty. Limited.