History of Adelaide Plumbing

The History of Adelaide Plumbing

A detailed history of Adelaide’s water network and plumbing advances from the early settlement to the modern world we live in today.

The Early Settlement (1836 – 1860)

When Surveyor-General Colonel William Light settled in Holdfast Bay on the last day of 1836, he was faced with one major problem –  there was no fresh water supply available nearby. The only real source of water for Adelaide was the River Torrens and that became problematic because it was used for all purposes. The river was used for waste disposal, bathing and as a source of drinking water. Adelaide and its inhabitants would soon find out that waste disposal in the River Torrens would have a profound chemical and biological impact on the stream.

The methods of disposing of waste were not glamourous at all. A toilet consisted of a bucket that was housed in a wooden structure known as a ‘pan closet toilet’ or ‘thunderbox’. Flooding and water drying up in the River Torrens also posed another serious risk. The only way for people to obtain water was by rolling it in barrels up the riverbank. By the time it reached Adelaide’s occupants, it was far from pure and because of these factors, intestinal inflammation was widespread. There were many deaths and a new water supply was needed urgently.

In 1856, a commission was inaugurated to solve the city’s water supply and sewerage problems. Whilst the commission began their search for an alternative water supply, they instructed citizens to make and use water filters. These all but ineffective devices were made using jars, slate, washed gravel, sand and washed charcoal. Two years later, a weir was built to supply water to an off-stream reservoir at Thorndon Park. The city was supplied with a cast iron trunk main which ran along Payneham Road to the newly constructed Kent Town Valve House.

A Fully Functioning Water Supply (1860 – 1938)

By the time 1860 hit, water was delivered to Adelaide’s citizens for the first time, but this did not come without problems.  Citizens were warned to open their taps so that air could escape and those that didn’t had their taps blown across the room by the water pressure. In fact, the city’s early water pressure was so strong that the hydraulic pressure could operate a lift. Firefighters even tried to hose down dust from the roads and ended up damaging the surfaces.

Over the next few decades, the supply of water would expand beyond the city. Port Adelaide was supplied from a reservoir constructed on O’Connell street in the city’s north and Glenelg was supplied from South Terrace. By 1881, a fully functioning water-borne sewerage system was also installed and Adelaide was the first city in the country to have one.  As the population of Adelaide grew, more storage reservoirs were commissioned across the land. Even during the Great Depression of 1938, the construction of more reservoirs continued and the largest was commissioned.

The Plumbing Adelaide Evolution (1938- today)

By 1955, Adelaide became the first city in the country to have 75% of its suburbs connected to sewers. The evolution of the state’s water systems provided the opportunity for a lot of plumbing businesses to be established across Adelaide. With the evolution of plumbing technology and the demand for innovative products, toilet cisterns and hot water services were born. South Australian based plumbing company Caroma was the first organisation in the world to manufacture one-piece plastic toilet cisterns. In 1980, they developed the dual-flush toilet which saved 32,000 litres of water per household.

In 1995, Metropolitan Plumbing was born in Adelaide with an aim to provide premier plumbing services. Since then, the company has expanded and has become one of the most recognised and professional emergency plumbing services in Australia. In 2020, Metropolitan’s commitment to customer service was recognised with the Product Review award for the plumbing category across all of Australia. When you search plumber Adelaide, Metropolitan details the extent of its experience in satisfying the city’s emergency and general maintenance plumbing needs.


Published: 18 Jun, 2020

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Metropolitan Plumbing are proud winners of the 2020 Product Review award in the plumbing category. This award highlights our dedication to outstanding customer satisfaction. Product Review provides a platform for real-life experiences. Check out some of our customers' reviews below:
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Required a quote for the repair of my solar hot water system. Rick was very honest and informative. I actually learnt how the system works which gave me the ability to make an informed decision balancing my needs/budget. I will definitely be asking for him for any future callouts. It must be noted that he also practised appropriate social-distancing at all times.

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