When Margaret Kennedy discovered gold in an isolated central Victorian creek in 1851 she unwittingly gave birth to nineteenth-century Australia’s richest goldfield: Bendigo. But the diggers who rushed to this new Eldorado found that to wash gold from the alluvium they needed a reliable supply of water. This ‘liquid gold’ powered the steam-technology used to exploit the field’s underground quartz reefs.
Central Victoria’s early mining communities also needed clean water to drink. That need was painfully demonstrated in 1866 when a fierce drought wrought sickness and death from waterborne diseases. Mining also came to a standstill, forcing desperate miners to plead for the Victorian Government to save their dying towns.
Water for Gold! documents the fascinating 27-year-long battle to slake Central Victoria’s thirst by building the Coliban System of Waterworks, an engineering marvel that still supplies Bendigo and Castlemaine to this day.