Chichester Dam

Chichester Dam picnic area currently closed

Public access to Chichester Dam is temporarily closed while construction work is underway to improve the performance and reliability of our water facilities. We expect to reopen the carpark next to the dam wall (middle section) and upper picnic area after 22 December 2023. The lower car park and picnic area will remain closed. We apologise for any inconvenience.

Constructed between 1915 and 1926, Chichester Dam was the first dedicated drinking water storage system to the Lower Hunter, and to this day is considered one of the most pristine catchments in Australia.

Located at the top of the Williams River catchment, it contributes around 35 per cent of the Lower Hunter’s potable water supply.

Chichester Dam
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

Our current storage levels

Our water levels drop faster than most other major Australian urban centres during hot, dry periods because we have shallow water storages and high evaporation rates.

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 the 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.

Chichester Dam

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 an expert panel to represent the lowest risk of pollution to drinking water.
  • 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 run-off from the area due to the abundant rainfall and the large catchment area. Hence, the dam is filled quickly following medium to heavy rainfall.

How it works

  1. A gravitation main transports water from the dam to the major city reservoirs in Maitland, Cessnock and Newcastle.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Chichester Dam risk assessment report

As part of our commitment as a responsible dam owner, Hunter Water has recently completed a five-yearly risk assessment to inform our 15-yearly safety review for Chichester Dam. Click below to learn more about the assessment and its findings.

Public access

To protect drinking water quality, public access is not permitted onto Chichester Dam or its catchment, but there are three picnic areas within the site that are open to the community.

Chichester Dam picnic area currently closed

Public access to the lower picnic area of Chichester Dam has been closed indefinitely however the upper picnic access areas of the dam remain open. We apologise for any inconvenience.



Facilities available at Chichester Dam include parking, toilets, covered picnic tables and wood-fired barbecues.

Please note: There is currently no supply of firewood for the Chichester Dam picnic areas. Visitors will need to supply their own firewood if planning to use the barbeques.

Private bookings of the Chichester park facilities are not available. All roads within the site are sealed and accessible by coaches. Water supplied on site is untreated and not suitable for drinking.

Park opening hours

The main gate is normally open:

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

Park entry and use of facilities is free. The dam's emergency response alarm is tested at 10 am on a daily basis.


As the dam is a drinking water supply source for the Hunter Region, there are restrictions in place for visitors, including:

  • No dogs, horses or other pets within the picnic area
  • No swimming or entering the waters
  • No boating or fishing
  • No camping or staying overnight. Camping and other accommodation options are available nearby. For more information, refer to the Dungog Visitor Information Centre


The penalties for non-compliance and further information can be found on the Public access to dams and catchments page.

Further information

For further information on the park, please contact our team.