Chichester Dam

Overview

Chichester Dam at night

Catchment area
199km2
Dam volume
18,356ML (1ML = 1 million litres)
Maximum depth
37 metres
Surface area
180 hectares

Annual rainfall 

1300mm (Upper Chichester)

Areas supplied
Lower Hunter, approx 35% of volume
Land use breakdown of catchment
76% National Park, 17% rural, 7% Hunter Water freehold

Chichester Dam was constructed between 1917 and 1926 as the Hunter’s first dedicated drinking water storage system. Chichester Dam is one of the Hunter’s most important freshwater storage facilities contributing about 35 per cent of the Lower Hunter’s potable water supply.

Located at the top of the Williams River catchment the dam replaced the Walka Water Works at Maitland, which was unable to meet the water demands of a growing industrial region.

Approximately half the flow from Chichester is supplied to Beresfield, Thornton, Maitland and Cessnock, and the balance blends with Grahamstown/Tomago water in the Newcastle/Lake Macquarie supply.

The catchment for Chichester Dam is largely within the Barrington Tops National Park, which is a declared wilderness area. As a result it is one of the most pristine catchments in Australia with large areas unaffected by human activity.

The wall is 254m long and 43m high, and is a ‘cyclopean’ system of interlocking concrete blocks and large boulders, each approximately 230 cubic metres. The wall is anchored to the bedrock below the wall by 93 stressed tendons.

How It Works

The dam holds 18,356 megalitres of water, with an 80 kilometres long gravitation main transporting water from the dam to the major city reservoirs in Maitland, Cessnock and Newcastle.

Water supply from Chichester Dam is used as much as possible due to its reliability and cost. The cost of supplying water from Chichester Dam is the lowest of all Hunter Water’s sources, largely because it feeds into the tank distribution system by gravity.

Water from Chichester Dam is dosed with chlorine at the dam and then transported via a gravity pipe to Dungog, where it is further treated at the Dungog Water Treatment Plant.

Hunter Water extracts water under the Water Act 1912 and must meet strict conditions outlined in the Water Management Licence which came into effect in 1998.

Hunter Water has increased environmental flow releases from Chichester Dam into the Williams River to manage and minimise environmental impacts. These flows help sustain natural ecosystems along the Chichester River.

Hunter Water is committed to managing Chichester Dam for the long-term environmental, social and economic benefit of the people and businesses of the Lower Hunter.

History

Chichester Dam is the oldest water storage facility currently in use within the Hunter and was completed in 1926, although the dam provided its first supply of water to the community in 1923.

Before its construction the Hunter relied on water from the Walka Water Works which drew water from the Hunter River near Maitland. Operations at Walka were interrupted by flood and drought, and the water was considered by many to be too ‘hard’.

A more reliable source with a greater capacity to store water was required for both a growing population and the industrial development of the region, which included the Sulphide Corporation at Cockle Creek (1896) and the BHP Steel Mill at Port Waratah (1915). In 1915 the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works advised the NSW Government that a storage dam be built on the Chichester River. Land was gazetted in 1916 and houses for construction workers were erected at Dusodie.

The workers’ health was improved by the provision of a doctor, reticulated water from the Chichester River, hot and cold showers, and a sanitary service. Dwellings were made for families, while single men slept in barracks of about ten beds each. The men erected their own reading room, dance hall and billiards room for Dusodie’s one thousand residents. In the hill above the dam site, a terrace was excavated to allow concrete making plants.

A nearby sawmill supplied timber, which was hauled on wooden tramlines, while a quarry supplied stone and gravel. Two steamdriven cableways, each spanning 335-metres across the gorge, delivered concrete and materials to the workforce. Sand was transported from Newcastle in steam-powered Sentinel trucks, while horse-drawn vehicles carried pipes and other materials.

Upgrades

As our oldest dam, Chichester has been extensively upgraded and modified to meet changing demands and ensure safety and reliability of supply. Major works include:

  • 1965: spillway lowered by 2.75m to increase flood capacity
  • 1985: dam post-tensioned with cables, spillway relocated to centre of the dam wall and returned to original height
  • 1995: seepage potential reduced under the northern abutment
  • 2003: improved drainage system for foundations installed and the left parapet wall raised to prevent overtopping in major flood.

Picnic Areas

There are three picnic areas within the site all with public toilets, covered picnic tables and wood fired BBQ's - wood is supplied by Hunter Water. Two of the picnic areas, Duncan and Hindley Parks have hot water for making tea and coffee. All roads within the site are sealed. The site is trafficable by Coaches.

View our map.

Chichester Dam Opening Hours and Dog Access

Main gate open times:

  • Monday to Friday 8am - 4pm
  • Saturday to Sunday 8.30am - 4.30pm.

Given the Dam's proximity to the Barrington Tops National Park and the abundant native wildlife within the Dam grounds, dogs will no longer be permitted at Chichester Dam (on or off leash) to assist with protecting the surrounding environment and wildlife.

The Catchment

Chichester Dam is located 80 kilometres north of Newcastle at the south-eastern corner of the World Heritage listed Barrington Tops National Park.

Water from Chichester Dam receives some treatment onsite and is then transported via a gravity pipe to Dungog, where it is further treated at the Dungog Water Treatment Plant. Approximately half of the flow from Chichester is supplied to Maitland, Cessnock and Beresfield areas. The balance gravitates further to Newcastle, where it blends with water from Grahamstown Water Treatment Plant. Because water is fed by gravity from Chichester it requires the lowest energy input of all sources. Water supply from Chichester Dam is used as much as possible for this reason.

The dam is fed by the Wangat River to the north and Chichester River to the north-west.

  • The Wangat River's catchment is entirely vegetated and pristine. There is very little recreational activity in this catchment because of its difficult terrain. The Wangat catchment has been deemed by expert panel to represent the lowest risk of pollution to drinking water.
  • The Chichester River's catchment is partially cleared for agricultural and rural residential land use. Land parcel size is small to medium for a rural area. There has been an increase in holdings of hobby farms and holiday accommodation due to the region's beauty and relative isolation. There is no intensive agriculture in the catchment.

There is high runoff from the area due to the abundant rainfall and the large catchment area.  Hence, the dam is filled quickly following medium to heavy rainfall.