As early as 1918 there was agitation for a water supply scheme in Koo-Wee-Rup and this issue came up periodically with the Koo-Wee-Rup Progress Association. In 1927, the Victorian Railways said that they would be able to use about 14 million gallons of water annually from any water supply scheme (this was in the days of steam trains) which would make a system more viable and so a Committee was formed to push the issue and get rate payer support. Eventually, the Koo-Wee-Rup Water Works Trust was formed and the first meeting was held at the Memorial Hall on Tuesday, March 12 1929. We don’t really know what happened at this meeting as the next edition of the Koo-Wee-Rup Sun reported that the Press was ‘gagged’. According to the Sun, Commissioner William ‘Ernie’ Mills was apparently of the opinion that ‘the public should only be supplied with information that the Trust deems fit’. Ironically it was the rate payer’s representatives on the Trust - Mills, W.K Paterson and William Eason - who voted for the exclusion of the Press, while the Government nominees - Matthew Bennett, M.L.A. and George Burhop - voted against the exclusion of the Press.
The next evidence we can find regarding the workings of the Trust was that the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission had approved the plans for the water scheme and applications for tenders for the work were advertised in the June 27, 1929 Koo-Wee-Rup Sun and the results were announced in the October 24 paper. The tenders were for the construction of Head works, including an elevated reinforced concrete tank and settling basin - awarded to Monier Pipe Construction Co. - tender price was £4985.00; Supply of pumping machinery- McDonald & Co.; Trenching and laying of pipes - G.L Clemson £628.00; Manufacture of cast iron pipes - Monteath & Sons, South Melbourne £1214; Galvanised pipes - John Danks & Son £287; Cartage of pipes - A.J Gilchrist of Koo-Wee-Rup £18 18shillings. The Engineer in Charge was Mr A.C Leith, who was also Secretary of the Society of Engineers.
The Sun reported in their March 6, 1930 edition that the Press gag was lifted and there was a report on the progress of the works. The official opening of the Water Scheme took place on Thursday, May 1 1930. The Opening Ceremony was attended by Mr Matthew Bennett, M.L.A, who was standing in for the Minister of Lands and Water Supply, Mr Bailey; SRWSC Engineer Mr Neville and representatives from the Companies involved in the construction of the scheme and the Victorian Railways. Commissioner W.E. Mills said in his address that the area was going ahead and would continue to forge ahead due to the surrounding rich agricultural land. He also said that old residents would know that land that was worth 5 shillings per foot, ten to fifteen years ago, was now worth £12 per foot. Another benefit of the water supply was that it would make their homes more picturesque and that from a social point of view the water supply would enable the construction of a bowling green and croquet lawn. Mr Bennett, M.L.A., talked about the health benefits of a water supply as streets could be flushed and that would make for cleanliness and health and the water supply was also a protection against fires. Mr Bennett, then turned a tap and allowed water to flow into a street channel and the scheme was declared open.
How did the Scheme work?
Water was obtained from the Bunyip Canal (Main Drain) and was pumped into a concrete settling basin of 160,000 gallons (one gallon is about 4.5 litres) having passed through a filtration process. It was then pumped into a 90 foot (about 27 metres) tower which had an 83,000 gallon capacity. The water was then distributed around the town. In the March 27, 1930 Koo-Wee-Rup Sun there was a notice to owners of properties that pipes had been laid in Station, Moody, Salmon, Henry, Gardiner and Charles Streets; Rossiter and Denhams Roads and Alexander and Sybella Avenues. Householders were required to lay a pipe and stop cock to their properties to be connected to the main pipe. The water rates were set at minimum charge of 30 shillings for a residence and 15 shillings for a vacant block. In the December of 1930 the water consumption since the Scheme started was 800,000 gallons of which the Railways had used 635, 000 gallons. On January 13, 1931 35,000 gallons was consumed in one day.
In the end, Koo-Wee-Rup not only got a reliable water supply but also a landmark construction which is still prominent today.