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This article was written by Akita Olsen.
Don't take your drinking water for granted.
If you head towards the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse down Leeuwin Road from the town of Augusta WA you will come across a sign to the Leeuwin Water Wheel. It's to the right before you reach the lighthouse. There you will see a large water-wheel surrounded by fantastic views of the ocean, rocks and the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park.
The water-wheel sytem was built in 1895 to supply water for the stone masons of the lighthouse (builders were Wishart & Davies) and water to the lighthouse-keepers' cottages. The water is supplied by a natural fall from a spring that exists in marshland approximately 330 metres away, which in turn created a flow over the wheel which revolved and activated a ram pump to deliver water by pipe to the lighthouse area.
It probably delivered about 1 litre (wasting 8 litres) every stroke, but it operated continuously day and night. Because the level of the spring has subsided over the years, the water is now electronically pumped to the end of the Aqueduct. It quickly became encrusted with a coating of limestone and is now frozen in rock. As the water is now pumped electronically you can see how the water flows over each section/filter of the aqueduct and eventually flowing over the stationary wheel creating a lovely waterfall. The lighthouse is still being supplied water from the spring, but through mains pipes now - along with half of the town.
Restoration work was carried out on the waterwheel from October 2001 to December 2001 by Doug Miller, who is a member of the Augusta Historical Society. To maintain the needed levels of water, work was done to alter the aqueduct/flue channel using donated materials from Brian Webster (a businessman who spends his holidays in Augusta - and why not!) and donations from the Lions Club. With this assistance, the Historical Society was able to complete the resoration work at no cost. It is great to see the water flowing and the work has maintained another historical asset in Augusta.
While you are down that way there is a one hour walk called Water Wheel to Skippy Rock which is fairly short walk leading you through beach, rocks and bush. This walk begins at the Leeuwin waterwheel and passes Quarry Bay and Gour Pools and then ends at the Skippy Rock car park. It's around 3 kms, and if no one wants to pick you up at Skippy Rock then it is an hour walk back again. Details and brochures of this walk may be available from local CALM offices and tourist outlets for a nominal fee. It is suggested that if you want to view a lot of running water during your walk the best season would be late winter to spring.
It is funny to have a piece of history just sitting there all alone surronded by rocks and bush - something we shouldn't take for granted, nor the water that comes out of our taps when we turn the handle.
For further details about the water wheel visit the site or contact Augusta's Muesum & Historical Society 9758 1371 (Secretary Kay Craze). Thanks to the Historical Society and Doug Miller for assistance in providing details for this story.
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