Busby's Bore

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Busby's Bore was Sydney's second water supply. It was built by convict labour and completed in 1837.[1]


By the 1820s, the Tank Stream, Sydney's original water supply, was in dire straits. It was little more than an open sewer and the growing colony was reliant on wells or water carted from the Lachlan Swamps (now Centennial Park).

In 1826, John Busby recommended that water from the Lachlan Swamps be delivered to a reservoir at the Racecourse (now Hyde Park) via a tunnel (or 'bore'). The reservoir was not approved but construction of the tunnel began in September 1827. The Bore was not completed until 1837 but began supplying drinkable water in 1830.

An 1857 sketch of the stand pipe in Hyde Park

The Bore commenced at what is now Busbys Pond, close to the present Lang Rd entrance to Centennial Park and ended in the present Hyde Park near the Oxford Street entrance - a total distance of about 3.5 km. From there, a line of pipe supported on trestles extended to a point near the corner of Park and Elizabeth Streets.

The Bore was built by convict labour, mostly through solid sandstone. It averaged 1.5m high by 1.2m wide, though it varied from 0.9m by 0.9 m to 3.5 m high. The completed Bore delivered about 1.5Ml water per day.

In 1833, pipes were laid to the Port to allow ships to be supplied. Starting in 1844, reticulation pipes were laid, allowing houses to be connected, as well as the establishment of a number of public fountains. In 1854, supply was supplemented with the installation of a small pumping station at the lower end of the swamp, as well as a number of small dams. In 1872, the Bore was cleaned and some irregularities removed, increasing the tunnel flow to about 4.5Ml/day.

Starting in 1859, Busby's Bore was supplemented and later supplanted by water pumped from Botany Swamps.[2] In 1934, part of the Bore under Oxford Street was filled with sand to remove the risk of subsidence under the tram lines.

The Bore remains under the ownership of Sydney Water. It is listed in the Australian National Estate Register and protected by a Permanent Conservation Order.[3]


  • 1827 Work started at Hyde Park.
  • 1830 First water from springs encountered.
  • 1833 Pipes from Hyde Park to supply shipping.
  • 1837 Tunnel completed:1.5 -1.8 megalitres/day to water carts.
  • 1844 General pipe reticulation.
  • 1872 Refurbishment and cleanout of tunnel: 6 megalitres/day.
  • 1890 Superseded by other schemes.
  • 1902 Botanic Gardens supply only.
  • 1934 Oxford Street section backfilled with sand.
  • 2004 Proposal to reactivate Bore to supply city parks and gardens.
  • 2006 State government of New South Wales allocates funds for restoration of the Bore to supply parks of Sydney central business district.[4]


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