It is not commonly known that there was an earlier
Maroondah Reservoir, which was submerged when the present reservoir was built. It consisted of two linked storage facilities,
the Upper and Lower Watts Weirs, known collectively as the Watts Weir.
On February 19, 1891, about
300 people, including the Governor of Victoria, the Earl of Hopetoun, travelled from Melbourne to Healesville, or the opening
of the original Maroondah Water System.
On that day, the Governor turned on the water from the Watts River system,
at the newly constructed Watts Weir, about 4 km from Healesville..
The event was a grand occasion - Healesville was decorated with fern arches and many local people gathered
to greet the trains which brought officialdom out from Melbourne for the day. There was a procession of horse-drawn carriages,
coaches and assorted wagons!
There were 60 saddle horses, and 27 conveyances.
The route was dry and dusty, and after the opening ceremonies and speeches a luncheon in a large marquee was
organized at nearby Donnelley''s Creek
However, the name of the scheme was subsequently changed from Watts to Maroondah, the name by which local
Aborigines knew the area.
The scheme had its beginnings in the 1879 Water Supply Board recommendation
to the Government that a survey of the River and its tributaries and the practicality of conveying the water to Melbourne
should be undertaken.
Mr. J.H. Davies undertook the survey, his report being furnished on 18 May, 1880.
Water Supply Board recommended that the scheme be undertaken in May, 1885.
Work began in 1886.
William Davidson, Engineer of the Melbourne Water Supply Branch of the Public Works Department, directed the permanent survey
and construction. As well as the initial weirs, later replaced by the Maroondah Reservoir, the scheme called for a 66 km aqueduct
to take the diverted water to Preston reservoir. Of this, 41 km was open concrete channel, ten tunnels and 15 km was in 14
inverted siphons; three tunnels were/are around 1.6 km in length.
The inverted siphons took the water
across various stream valleys along the way including across Watson's Creek.
Some tunnels are still in use today -
others have been replaced by pipelines in recent times.
The adjacent land in the Watts Valley was lush flats and used for grazing.
Parts of the old weirs may occasionally be seen today when the reservoir level is low