Warragamba DamSydney's largest water supply dam

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Status Open to Public

Visit the Dam

There is currently no public access onto the crest of Warragamba Dam, except for special events. Please refer to the newsroom page for details of special events.

Look out at Warragamba Dam and see the past and future of Sydney’s water supply. Marvel at this engineering masterpiece as it nestles quietly in native bushland. Delve into the history of the dam builders who laboured to create one of the world’s largest domestic water supply dams. Look into the future at the interactive ‘Water for Life’ exhibition. Just a 30 minute drive from Penrith, or one hour from Sydney’s CBD, bring the family and escape the everyday at Warragamba Dam.

Lookout points

View at the Visitor Centre

There are three viewing platforms at the Warragamba Dam Visitor Centre which offer excellent vistas of the upstream dam wall and Lake Burragorang.

Eighteenth Street Warragamba

A few minutes’ drive from the dam through the Warragamba township, the Eighteenth Street Lookout provides a view of the auxiliary spillway and a distant view of Warragamba Dam wall. Open daily from 10am to 5pm.

Burragorang Lookout

Take a 40 minute drive from Warragamba Dam to Burragorang Lookout, managed by National Parks and Wildlife Service, the lookout offers panoramic views of Lake Burragorang.

Things to do

Large Group notifictaion image and link

Opening hours

Dam grounds

8am to 5pm daily
Extended hours, 8am to 6pm, on weekends and public holidays during daylight saving time
Entry is free
No entry is permitted 15 minutes prior to closing time

Visitor Centre

10am to 4pm daily
Closed on Christmas Day and Good Friday
Entry is free

Directions

Warragamba Dam is about 65 kilometres, or a one hour drive, west of the Sydney CBD.

Travelling west on the Western Motorway (M4):

  • Turn left onto the Northern Road and travel to Wallacia
  • Take Silverdale Road and Production Avenue to Warragamba Dam.

Driving from the southern suburbs and Campbelltown:

  • Take the Northern Road
  • Turn left onto Park Road, Luddenham and travel to Wallacia
  • Take Silverdale Road and Production Avenue to Warragamba Dam.

Travelling east on the Western Motorway (M4):

  • Take Mulgoa Road and travel to Wallacia
  • Take Silverdale Road and Production Avenue to Warragamba Dam.

Facilities

  • Drinking water
  • Electric barbeques at nearby Warragamba Recreational Reserve
  • Interpretive signs
  • Parking
  • Picnic shelters
  • Toilets & disabled toilets
  • Viewing areas
  • Visitor centre

Fishing

Restrictions

Restrictions are in place to protect our water supply and ensure that everyone has an enjoyable and safe visit – with penalties up to $44,000 applying:

  • No wood, charcoal or solid fuel barbeques. Penalties of up to $5,500 apply
  • Portable gas barbeques are permitted (except during total fire bans)
  • No fishing, boating or swimming
  • No camping
  • No dogs, horses or other pets
  • No access allowed to restricted and Special Areas
  • No smoking within 10 metres of children’s playgrounds and four metres of shelters, toilets and public buildings
  • Keep to vehicle speed limits and be aware of pedestrians
  • No alcohol
  •  

Recreation Areas at SCA dams will be closed on ALL Total Fire Ban days.

The Warragamba Experience

Top 5 things to see and do

1. Be photographed with the ‘quiet beast’

Stand on one of the viewing platforms and have your photo taken with the ‘quiet beast’. Warragamba Dam’s nickname comes from the fact that three million tonnes of concrete is holding back four Sydney Harbours of water, yet the atmosphere is calm and peaceful. It was an engineering masterpiece of the mid-20th Century – and it still takes your breath away today.

2. Step back in time

Take a self-guided walk around the dam grounds and discover the history of this monumental undertaking. Interpretive signs and heritage items along the way reveal the stories behind the dam’s construction. Pause at the Workers’ Memorial and pay your respect to the 14 dam builders who died during construction.

3. Soak up the views

Gaze down upon the dam wall and a small part of Lake Burragorang from the deck of the magnificent visitor centre, perched high on a rocky outcrop. The lake created by the dam stretches back 52 kilometres from the wall. Nearby, Eighteenth Street Lookout provides the best view of the height of the dam wall and auxiliary spillway.

4. Step into the future

Step inside the modern visitor centre and enjoy an even better view of the dam. Take a journey through the water cycle in the ‘Water for Life’ exhibition. Be amazed by the unique ‘drops of wisdom’ interactive table. Don’t miss the children’s activities, and ask our friendly visitor centre staff your questions.

5. Relax with a picnic

Relax with family and friends in the landscaped grounds. Throw down a rug and picnic under a shady tree or use one of our tables or shelter sheds. Drinking water and modern toilet facilities are scattered throughout the grounds. Barbeque facilities and a children’s playground are located at the adjacent Warragamba Recreation Reserve managed by Wollondilly Shire Council, and Warragamba township has cafes and shops for hot drinks and meals.

Exhibitions

Permanent and temporary exhibitions are showcased in the impressive Warragamba Dam Visitor Centre, which perches on a rocky outcrop high above the dam wall.

The centre’s Burragorang Room boasts sweeping views of the lake, children’s activities and video presentations. Friendly visitor centre staff are available to answer your questions.

Permanent exhibition – ‘Water for Life’

‘Water for Life’ is a highlight of any visit to Warragamba Dam. This permanent exhibition tells the story of Sydney’s dams and catchments, and the history and future of Sydney’s water supply.

As you enter the exhibition, look right to check out the latest levels at each of Sydney’s 14 water supply dams, including Warragamba. Then follow the circular path clockwise to trace the journey of your water.

Don’t miss the interactive ‘drops of wisdom’ table where you can get your hands ‘wet’ as you discover some of the unusual facts and myths about the dam and surrounding bushland. (See rare footage of emus doing a mating dance!)

Stop and listen to some stories from the local and migrant workers who built the dam and its township. Watch the audio-visual displays and inspect artefacts from the Indigenous and settler residents of the Burragorang Valley.

Along the way you can trace the history of Sydney’s water supply, from its humble beginnings with the Tank Stream in 1795 to Prospect Reservoir in 1888, through to Warragamba Dam in 1960 and today’s water recycling and climate change planning.

Temporary exhibition – 'Water in the World' (March – October 2014)

An inspiring new exhibition - Water in the World - explores the impact of water on the daily lives of millions of people around the world.

The exhibition aims to help raise awareness of over 768 million people around the world do not have access to safe, clean water.

In many countries women and children spend hours every day collecting water from wherever they can find it, walking on average 10,000 steps a day.

The Sydney Catchment Authority developed the exhibition in partnership with the charity WaterAid. WaterAid focuses on transforming lives by improving access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation in the world’s poorest communities. Since 1981 WaterAid has reached 19.2 million people with safe clean water.

Facts & History

Located about 65 kilometres west of Sydney in a narrow gorge on the Warragamba River, Warragamba Dam is one of the largest domestic water supply dams in the world.

Created by damming Warragamba River and flooding the Burragorang Valley, the storage lake is four times the size of Sydney Harbour and stores around 80 percent of Sydney’s water.

How the dam works

Warragamba Dam supplies water to more than 3.7 million people living in Sydney and the lower Blue Mountains.

The best quality water is selected and drawn through screens on three outlets in the upstream face of the dam. Water flows by gravity through a valve house into two pipelines that feed the raw water to Prospect water filtration plant and via off-takes to smaller filtration plants at Orchard Hills and Warragamba.

Early history

A local Gundungurra Aboriginal creation story tells of two dreamtime spirits Mirragan - a large tiger cat, and his quarry Gurangatch – a part fish part reptile who lived in a lagoon where the Wollondilly and Wingecarribee rivers meet. During a long cross-country battle in the Dreaming (Gunyungalung), the deep gorges of the Burragorang Valley were gouged out. It was this valley that was flooded when Warragamba Dam was built.

The location of the dam was first suggested in 1845. The deep narrow gorge of the Warragamba River, at the exit to Burragorang Valley, was identified as an ideal place for a dam by Polish explorer Count Paul Strzelecki. More than a century and many droughts later, work finally started in 1948 to build a reliable new water supply for Sydney’s growing population. It took 12 years and 1,800 workers to build the dam, which opened in 1960. It was such a major undertaking that a town was built next to the site to house the dam builders.

Why the dam was built

The Warragamba River offered two important advantages as a site for a major dam – a large catchment area, and a river flowing through a narrow gorge. A tall and narrow dam capable of holding a vast amount of water could be built.

A population boom after World War I followed by the worst drought in recorded history, from 1934 to 1942, placed immense pressure on Sydney’s water supply. However, despite the first sketch plans for Warragamba Dam being drawn up in 1867, plans were deferred during the construction of the Upper Nepean dams (1907-35), the Great Depression (1929-32) and World War II (1939-45).

How the dam was built

Warragamba Dam was a major engineering feat of the mid-20th Century. In 1946 the Warragamba River was diverted so excavation for the dam could start. Trees were cleared from the Burragorang Valley, and two temporary (coffer) dams and a tunnel were built to keep the site dry. More than 2.3 million tonnes of sandstone was removed.

Concrete was mixed on site using 305,000 tonnes of cement and 2.5 million tonnes of sand and gravel. The sand and gravel was transported from McCann’s Island in the Nepean River via an aerial ropeway.

The dam was built in a series of large interlocking concrete blocks. Overhead cableways lifted 18 tonne buckets to place the concrete. Ice was mixed with the concrete to control heat generation and prevent cracks. One of the first pre-stressed concrete towers in Australia was built to house the ice-making plant.

To get to the work site from Warragamba township, the dam builders used two suspension bridges, one across Folly Creek, upstream of the dam wall, and the other across the Warragamba Gorge just downstream from the dam. These Folly Creek bridge was removed after the dam was built but the bridge over the gorge was kept and incorporated into the beautification works at the dam. In 2001 it suffered damage in a bushfire and was subsequently demolished.

Later improvements

To meet modern dam safety standards, in the late 1980s the dam wall was strengthened and raised by five metres. In the early 2000s an auxiliary spillway was built to divert floodwaters around the dam in a rare and extreme flood so as to protect the dam and ensure it remains safe in an extreme flood. A deep water pumping station was established in 2006 to allow water to be accessed lower down in the lake during times of drought.

Dam Summary

142
Metres High
Length: 351 metres
2,027,000 ml total operating capacity
4 times larger than Sydney Harbour
Size of lake:
75 km 2
Catchment: 9,051 square kilometres

Dam Wall

Size Measurement
Length 351m
Thickness of base 104m
Width of central spillway 94.5m
Concrete mass 3000000t
Width of auxillary spillway 190m
Length of auxillary spillway 700m

Lake and Catchment

Size Measurement
Area 75km2
Length of lake 52km
Length of foreshores 354km
Maximum depth of reservoir 105m
Catchment area 9,051km2
Annual average rainfall 840mm

Pipelines

Size Measurement
Diameter 2,100/3,000mm
Length 27km each
Capacity ML per day
86.0
Friday 21 November
-0.8
2,219,612 ML
2,581,850 ML
11,596 ML
1,657 ML
-17,284 ML
Friday 21 November
Warragamba Dam
Warragamba
Friday 21 November
87.7
1,778,398
2,027,000
1,882,322
1,815,277
1,791,163
-103,924
-36,879
-12,765
92.9
89.6
88.4
-5.1
-1.8
-0.6