Yan Yean Reservoir

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Yan Yean Reservoir
Whittlesea Yan Yean Reservoir.jpg
The Yan Yean Reservoir with Whittlesea in the foreground
Coordinates 37°33′S 145°08′E / 37.550°S 145.133°E / -37.550; 145.133Coordinates: 37°33′S 145°08′E / 37.550°S 145.133°E / -37.550; 145.133
Type reservoir
Primary inflows Toorourrong Reservoir via aqueduct (off stream storage)
Primary outflows Plenty River
Basin countries Australia
Water volume 30 mio m³ (30,000 ML)
Photograph, lightly coloured, of the Yan Yean Reservoir, Victoria 1859.

Yan Yean Reservoir is the oldest water supply for the city of Melbourne, Australia.[1] At the time of its completion in 1857 it was the largest artificial reservoir in the world.[2][3] It is 30 kilometres (19 mi) north of the city and is built on the Plenty River, a tributary of the Yarra River. An embankment 9.5 metres (31 ft) high holds back 30,000 megalitres (1,100×10^6 cu ft) of water. As of April 21, 2016 the reservoir sits at 78.8% of capacity.[4]

The reservoir is managed by Melbourne Water as part of the water supply system for Melbourne.


Work commenced on 20 December 1853 when Governor Charles La Trobe turned the first sod.[3] Construction took place at the height of the gold rush[5] employing a tent city of 1000 workers returning from the goldfields.[3] The reservoir took four years to construct at a cost of £750,000.[6][7] Other sources estimate the cost of the project to be £1,017,087.[8]

The reservoir was designed by James Blackburn, an English Civil Engineer and former London sanitary inspector who was transported to Tasmania as a convict following charges of embezzlement. After being pardoned he came to Melbourne in 1849.[9]

The water was originally supplied by the Plenty River however the water quality was poor due to stock crossings and pollution from rural towns.[3] The problem was solved by bypassing the Plenty River and diverting water from Wallaby Creek and Silver Creek, both originating in the Great Dividing Range feeding the Goulburn River. This mountain water was captured in the Toorourrong Reservoir system, constructed in 1883–1885, and supplies water to Yan Yean via an aqueduct to this day.[3]

At the time of its completion in 1857 it was the largest artificial reservoir in the world.[2][3] Photographer Fred Kruger was commissioned by the government to provide images of the extensive works for display at the Colonial and Indian Exhibition of 1886.

Recreational Facilities[edit]

Yan Yean Reservoir Park offers picnic areas, bbq facilities, walking tracks and views of the reservoir and surrounding mountains.[10] The wetlands are used by birdwatchers. Species include Musk Duck, Australasian Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, White-faced Heron, Dusky Moorhen, Eurasian Coot, Latham’s Snipe, Musk Lorikeet, Eastern Rosella, Superb Fairy-wren, Red Wattlebird, Grey Butcherbird and Grey Fantail.[11]


  1. ^ Ritchie, E. G. (October 1934), "Melbourne's Water Supply Undertaking", Journal of Institution of Engineers Australia, 6: 379–382, archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-04-05 
  2. ^ a b Clode, Danielle. Continent of curiosities: A journey through Australian natural history. Cambridge University Press. p. 45. ISBN 0-521-86620-0. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Yan Yean history in poster format" (PDF). Melbourne Water - Yan Yean Reservoir. Melbourne water. 
  4. ^ "Melbourne's water storage dam levels, water use - Melbourne Water". www.melbournewater.com.au. Retrieved 2016-04-21. 
  5. ^ R. C. Seeger, ‘The History of Melbourne's Water Supply-Part 1’, Victorian Historical Magazine, vol 19, no 3, June 1942, pp 107-119 and vol 19, no 4, Dec 1942, pp 133-38
  6. ^ R. C. Seeger, ‘The History of Melbourne's Water Supply-Part 2’, Victorian Historical Magazine, vol 22, no 1, June 1947, pp 23-47
  7. ^ Melbourne Water Yan Yean Reservoir fact sheet
  8. ^ "The Yan Yean Reservoir - Illustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872) - 15 Apr 1865". Trove. Retrieved 2016-04-21. 
  9. ^ Harley Preston, 'Blackburn, James (1803–1854)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/blackburn-james-1789/text2019, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 10 June 2015.
  10. ^ http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/yan-yean-reservoir-park
  11. ^ "BirdLife Melbourne - Birding Sites - Yan Yean Reservoir Park". www.birdlifemelbourne.org.au. Retrieved 2016-04-21.